April 22, 2021

New fire truck, jaws of life to benefit local emergency personnel

FONTANELLE — Fontanelle Fire and Rescue took possession of battery-operated jaws of life last week and another new fire truck.

Assistant Fire Chief Tyson Sickles said that after they saw Greenfield Fire Department use their battery-operated jaws of life a few times, they felt such a tool would be a benefit to their department. As they looked, the company they went through to buy a new grass unit last fall notified them that the unit they had looked at as a demo was still available on the showroom at an attractive price, so for just under $100,000, Fontanelle got a second new grass unit and the jaws of life they wanted.

The truck the department took possession of in late September is a 2020 Ford F-450, and they’ve used it since then. The most recent truck they’ve taken possession of is almost identical, a 2019 Ford F-350. The 2020 is an extended cab and the 2019 is a regular cab. Other than that, they’re very similar trucks.

Sickles said the battery-operated jaws of life, which will be carried on the most recently delivered grass unit, will aid the department in a lot of ways on scenes of emergencies. The current jaws the department has, which they will also keep as a second pair, are operated by a pump. Hoses have to be strung out and the pump started in order for the jaws to work. New battery-operated jaws run off a battery pack that stays on the truck that Sickles likens to that of a cordless drill. The jaws will be able to be used by one firefighter.

“When you get in a stressful situation like that, if the pump is going to fail, it’s going to be at that time,” Sickles said. “Not having to deal with that, that was the big selling point for us.”

Sickles said the jaws of life aren’t only used in instances of car accidents, they also have a “spreader” attachment that can sometimes be used to lift an obstacle up to 42 inches that someone is trapped under. A spreader can also be used in instances like grain bin rescues.

“Let’s say a kid’s riding a bike down the road, gets hit by a car, and he’s under the car. Rather than putting air bags under it, hooking up a pump, you could technically just put that spreader on the ground, lift that car up 42 inches and pull someone out from under the car,” Sickles said. “We think about that with rollover accidents all the time. If someone’s in a cabless tractor, you can use that to get them out from under the tractor.

The new truck allows the department, which now has a fleet of relatively new vehicles, to not worry so much about spending money on repairs. They can instead focus more on keeping their trucks maintained.

“With having two newer grass rigs, we won’t have near the expenses on repairs that we’ve had. Then, we can spend that money on something else — on new gear, new tools,” Sickles said. “It’s peace of mind for me. One of the trucks we got rid of was a 1973 Ford pickup. When the tones went off, the thought was always in my mind ‘Lord, be with us, and let those pumps start.’ We’ve got nice equipment right now. It’s not to say things can’t fail, but it’s one of my least worries right now.”

Sickles said none of the new equipment the fire department gets would be possible without the support of the City of Fontanelle and its residents.

“We couldn’t do it without the help of the city. They’re great to us and I can’t say thanks to enough to our city and our community,” Sickles said. “Even with donations, we’re fortunate to have a strong community as far as giving donations.”