The Jonesville Fire Department got new battery-operated rescue equipment. | Facebook

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.