Springfield firefighters train to save people trapped in stronger cars

Springfield firefighters have trained this week to use new tools that can cut through the stronger metal in modern cars, part of a long-standing partnership with a local towing company.

Maine Towing has provided cars to the division to keep firefighters up to date on the latest methods to safely remove people from cars after crashes.

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Older cars are nothing like ones on the road today, said Gary Shonkwiler from Amkus Rescue Systems, which makes the tools to cut open cars. The stronger metal makes it more difficult to free trapped people.

“There’s metal in the new cars today that the tools made 20 years won’t cut,” Shonkwiler said.

The city’s rescue team is made up of 21 firefighters. They used new tools like a cutter and a spreader over three days this week to practice removing parts of cars placed in various positions like tunneling.

“We are going to have to do that if a car is stuck under a tractor trailer or if it’s been involved up against a bridge or guardrail where you can’t get into the sides of a vehicle,” Shonkwiler said.

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This method involved removing a passenger from the rear of a car, which is rare because the fastest and easiest way is to take off the door or the roof.

Firefighters learned how to cut around the newer higher strength metal, air bag systems and restraint systems to safely gain access to victims.

“We do extractions periodically through the doors and stuff, out the back is something we don’t do often,” said Capt. Charles Alexander with the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division.

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On the first day of training, firefighters practiced what they just learned. A car rolled onto its side in front of the Clark County Juvenile Court on Columbia Street and they had to remove someone.

This refresher is great for all involved said Fred Maine, owner of Maine’s Towing. Tow truck drivers and first responders see each other all the time when accidents occur, he said.

“If we don’t work together, then the public suffers … the towing industry has become a vital asset to the fire departments for extraction,” Maine said. “When there is a serious problem and they need help, we can get there and help them.”

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His company provides cars for training to volunteer fire departments as well. Other towing companies in the area and around the state provide this same service to other departments and divisions, he said.

Maine’s Towing and Springfield firefighters will take part in another joint training later this summer to learn new ways to help each other at accident scenes.

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