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'Every minute counts:' New Jaws of Life arrive at Wellington, P.E.I. fire department

Wellington Fire Department safety officer Chris Gallant, left, and secretary treasurer Jason Maddix lift the department's new Jaws of Life equipment. Alison Jenkins/Journal Pioneer
Wellington Fire Department safety officer Chris Gallant, left, and secretary treasurer Jason Maddix lift the department's new Jaws of Life equipment. Alison Jenkins/Journal Pioneer
WELLINGTON, P.E.I. —

A new life-saving rescue tool is now in service in the Evangeline area.

The Wellington Fire Department has purchased modern extrication spreaders, commonly referred to as Jaws of Life.

The new electronic, battery-powered equipment replaces the department's previous set of hydraulic spreaders that were powered by a gasoline engine. At 25 years old, the now-retired tool was getting dated, with parts broken and companies unwilling to make replacement pieces for the older models.

The new equipment cost the department $42,000.

“Technology has changed,” said the department's spokesperson, Desmond Arsenault. “Everything has changed, not just the tools we use.

“The manufacturers are always looking to make a vehicle lighter weight so it’s more fuel-efficient, but (with) stronger metals to protect people in the cabin – which is great for them, but it makes it much more challenging for us," he said.

The equipment is used to pry apart metal that has trapped individuals in a vehicle, or other confined spaces, allowing first responders to get to those in need.

“If a person is trapped in a vehicle … it adds to the risk and the dangers. So, we have to act as fast and safe as we can,” said Arsenault.

“It’s as strong as the other tool, if not stronger in some regards. We’re very confident we made a great choice in going this path.”

Wellington Fire Department's old Jaws of Life equipment is hydraulic and dated, but a
Wellington Fire Department's old Jaws of Life equipment is hydraulic and dated, but a

If departments don't have access to a set of Jaws of Life, it could mean they would have to wait for help from another department or use hand tools.

“It’s almost impossible not to have them. Every minute counts.”

When the Wellington Fire Department went to purchase a replacement set, they had a choice between a new hydraulic kit or the battery-powered tool.

At first, they worried the battery-powered model wouldn’t be strong enough, so the firefighters visited other stations to see what they were using.

The Summerside Fire Department has been using a set of “E-jaws”, as they call them, for around a year-and-a-half, said deputy fire chief Kenny Blanchard.

The city department has used them four times since then.

“They’re convenient, (you can) take (them) into houses and pop doors open.”

The battery lasts 45 minutes on a full charge. If the battery were to die, there is a 110-volt hookup on the fire truck that could supply power.

“Battery technology has come a long way over the years. They work really well,” said Blanchard.

Wellington Fire Department had a training session on the new equipment on Feb. 11.

“It’s as strong as the other tool, if not stronger in some regards,” said Arsenault. “We’re very confident we made a great choice in going this path.”

Twitter: @JournalPEI

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