The Jonesville Volunteer Fire Department purchased new metal-cutting equipment called the “jaws of life” and self-funded half of the cost.
The new equipment consists of two pieces, a cutter and a spreader, primarily for the purpose of helping victims in car crashes escape a burning vehicle.
It replaces the older model the fire department used for the past six years, and can be used to help victims escape burning buildings or more commonly, agricultural equipment, according to Jonesville Fire Chief Dean Adair.
“We have a lot of cases of agricultural accidents, farm accidents,” Adair said. “If someone is entrapped in a piece of equipment, we could pull it apart and pull them out.”
Adair explained that the old hydraulic equipment, which works by pressurizing water through a chamber to produce energy, slowed down the rescue process because it was heavy and had to be connected to the fire truck by hydraulic lines. The new equipment runs on battery.
“We don’t have to have the hydraulic lines to operate it, it’s entirely internal,” Adair said. “That means we can also get the equipment in closer to the problem. If I had to take it into a building, I can take the two new pieces — the spreader and the cutter — and that’s it.”
Adair, who has been the volunteer fire chief in Jonesville for 17 years, explained that the fire department hosted fundraising events over the past year with the specific purpose of purchasing this equipment.
“With departments around here, we have to maintain and keep the technology we have ourselves, because to put that stress on taxpayers to keep replacing the equipment is a burden,” Adair said. “We do a lot of fundraising with our department.”
Fundraising events included the annual cash raffle, a golf outing with the Frank Beck Chevrolet car dealership which raised approximately $3,000. In total, the department fundraised just under $10,700 for both pieces of equipment, which the Jonesville City Council matched to complete the purchase.
Jonesville City Manager Jeff Gray said the fire department reached this agreement with the city when they made the budget proposal last year. Though the equipment was expensive, Adair said Jonesville got it at a discount.
“We knew exactly what we wanted to get and were trying to get the best price for it,” Adair said. “We were fortunate enough with our dealers that they had a demo set.”
The reason for the upgrade, Adair said, was to “keep up with the times.” The new version is not only lighter, but will also cost the city less in maintenance and is more reliable.
“With hydraulic machines, you’re looking at a greater possibility of something going wrong,” Adair said. “Now, because it’s battery-operated, it can still do what it needs to do, and we have a backup battery. In the situations we’re dealing with, we don’t have the option of saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and walking away. It’s important that the equipment works.”
Hillsdale City Fire Chief Scott Hephner said because Jonesville and Hillsdale now have an automatic aid agreement, this new equipment means better fire safety for Hillsdale residents, too. If there is a structural emergency, both Hillsdale and Jonesville fire departments are dispatched.
“By them having that new equipment and showing up at a scene with more people, it just makes everything quicker, whether it’s a rescue, an extrication, a fire,” Hephner said.
Hephner said Hillsdale upgraded to battery-operated cutters and spreaders two years ago, and currently has the equipment installed on three trucks. Before the automatic aid agreement, Hillsdale firefighters may have showed up at a fire with their own jaws equipment, but wouldn’t have enough people to operate the equipment.
“Having more people and more equipment available really makes a difference,” Hephner said.