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The Jaws of Life

Firefighters get training on saving lives

By Dale James / Selma Times – Journal

Units of the Selma Fire Department converged on Al’s Wrecker Service in Selmont Thursday to hone their skills with the dauntingly named Jaws of Life.

Robert Turner, the owner of Al’s Wrecker Service, donated several junk cars to serve as practice vehicles.

The Jaws of Life is actually a set of hydraulic tools consisting of cutters, spreaders and rams designed to pry open vehicles involved in accidents when a victim may be trapped.

Under the direction of Capt. Timothy Watson, enthusiastic firefighters cut through roofs, pried open doors and otherwise thoroughly mangled the half dozen junk cars at their disposal.

Fighting fires is, in fact, just one of the myriad responsibilities the fire department is charged with performing.

In addition to performing such tasks as rescues and fire safety inspections, firefighters also respond to auto accidents in which there is an entrapment.

Such cases can be particularly stressful for both victims and rescue personnel when serious injury is involved. During such emergencies, seconds can mean lives. It is essential that the victims be extricated as quickly and safely as possible.

The Selma Fire Department is responsible for all vehicle entrapments within the city limits and for three miles beyond, an area normally encompassed by the police jurisdiction.

As an example, Stokes cited a recent request for help the department received from the Valley Grande Volunteer Fire Department, an especially difficult extraction in which a woman was trapped in her car for over an hour before she could be removed from the vehicle safely.

Stokes acknowledged that firefighters can experience high levels of stress when faced with the job of extricating an accident victim who may have suffered severe injuries. But he added that firefighters are trained to keep their attention on the job at hand, and not on the victim.