Tearing and peeling steel is part of the learning experience for firefighters.
The Metchosin fire department hosted a vehicle extrication training expo, Sept. 22 drawing in 17 fire departments from Greater Victoria and across the province. Organized by the B.C. Extrication Society, firefighters learned new techniques and practised old ones using manual and hydraulic tools during the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for firefighters. You get hands-on and the vehicles are set up like actual car crashes,” said Metchosin fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop. “On the road when there is an actual crash is not the time be learning. You need learn the tools before someone’s life is at risk.”
At the event 25 cars, two buses and a limo were sent through the ringer.
“We had eight crashes going on at one time,” Dunlop said.
Of the vehicles was a 1982 Volvo belonging to Metchosin Coun. Bob Gramigna.
“The fire department said that Volvos are very difficult to cut,” said Graminga who was inside the car playing the role of crash victim when firefighters cut into it.
As the crew worked on the car, a medic talked to Graminga. After 22 minutes of work with the steel-ripping Jaws of Life, Gramigna was removed from the car and moved to a back board. Firefighters from Beaver Creek worked on the car.
“It showed my the value of the departments,” Gramigna said.
“It was seamless, just amazing. I hope no one ever gets into an accident, but if you do believe me, you are in good hands. This is one of the highlights of my council career.”
Many of the simulated crashes were designed to prepare firefighters for the worst. Some of the crashes included two cars on top of each other and another had an upside down vehicle with a log skewered through.
“We wanted to make what would be one of those ‘oh my God’ scenes,” Dunlop said.
With several fire departments working together at the session, Dunlop said it helps build camaraderie among the firefighters and prepares them for mutual aid calls.
Colwood firefighter, Lieut. Greg McClelland was one of the instructors and said events such as this allow the firefighters to work in the “golden hour.”
He said the first hour after a crash is crucial and the goal is to get the patient out of the car within 20 minutes so they can get medical attention as quickly as possible.