WFC News

Posted: Sep 5, 2013

Rescue Tools Designed for Today's Response Realities

Chris Mc Loone

The realities of today's fire service staffing issues are not lost on any tool or apparatus manufacturer. As personnel numbers shrink, so have fleets in some cases as many departments have shifted to multipurpose apparatus. Shifting to multipurpose apparatus makes tool mounting more critical than ever because equipment from two rigs is consolidated into one. Organizing it all and making it fit are no easy tasks. Additionally, new vehicle technology has created the need for more powerful tools in some cases, which typically weigh more.

But, beyond apparatus design, equipment manufacturers are tasked with creating equipment that is easily deployable by fewer firefighters at incident scenes. Tools being designed to address reduced staffing include hydraulic rescue tools.

Through the years, hydraulic rescue tool manufacturers have come up with a variety of setups for deploying the tools. One setup is to have the power units mounted on the trucks and the tools connected to reels. When the apparatus would pull up to the rescue scene, the operator would get the generator going, and firefighters would stretch the tools from the truck. Apparatus placement for this setup was key because to get decent power from the tool, the hydraulic line had to be a certain length. Make the line too long, and performance decreases.

Moving to all gas-powered units solves some tool performance problems because departments could spec shorter hydraulic lines. But, atmospheric contaminants like exhaust become an issue for both rescuers and victims.

Some departments have mounted power units and tools on carts. Once on scene, they would essentially have everything they needed to start a rescue on a cart. One person could wheel the cart into position while another firefighter stretched an electric cord for power. The only problem here is getting the carts off the truck easily. You need at least two firefighters. The name of the game these days is to give crews tools they can deploy with a minimum number of firefighters-sometimes only one.

Hydraulic Innovations

First and foremost on the minds of many equipment purchasing committees is how to purchase tools that match the staffing realities of each department. These tools need to be deployable by one firefighter in many cases. It's important to remember that although your department may field enough firefighters generally for vehicle rescues, it needs to be prepared that sometimes the crew won't be what is needed when the truck leaves the firehouse.

Holmatro Inc.'s philosophy for many years has been to address staffing requirements with the tools it designs, according to Fran Dunigan Jr., marketing manager, Holmatro, Inc. "Holmatro's tools have been on the cutting edge of power, while still keeping light weight and portability in mind," he says. "Plus, CORE Technology™ is still helping make rescue operations faster, easier, and safer." Dunigan adds that the auto-return CORE™ coupler eliminates dump valves on Holmatro power units and the need to dedicate staffing to that task. "The single-line CORE hoses are up to 60 percent lighter than traditional twin-line hose and are kink- and snag-free," he states.

The HURST Jaws of Life CombiTool

(1) The HURST Jaws of Life CombiTool SC350E is part of the company's
eDRAULIC hydraulic-electric line of rescue tools that free rescue workers
of power units and heavy hoses, reducing the number of firefighters and
associated setup time needed with traditional tools. (Photo courtesy of
HURST Jaws of Life.)


Holmatro has also recently introduced a way for customers to turn all of their existi

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Posted: Aug 8, 2013

Response to Observations from the Granite Mountain Disaster

Some editorial thoughts from Jim Graue

I read with great interest the message from Tom Harbour. Written in the wake of the tragedy of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots losing their lives, Tom calls on all of us in the fire service to “engage in a difficult and complex discussion about the choices we have made as a society and the table we set for those . . . who willingly insert [them]selves between the flame and lives, homes, and communities” and “chart a new and better course forward, one which always remembers.”

Everyone in the great fire service family, present and past, was impacted by this incident. But as I read Tom’s message, there was an awareness that something was missing. So, I re-read it, slowly and more carefully. Yes, it is missing . . . the word SAFETY, absent! That is an omission that is very difficult to overlook...

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Posted: Aug 8, 2013

Observations Regarding the Granite Mountain Disaster

Some editorial thoughts from Tom Harbour

I have wondered what to offer in the wake of the Granite Mountain disaster.  The tragedy plays over and over in our minds.  We remember where we were.  We remember what we heard.  We remember how our hearts sank, the words we uttered, the prayer we offered.  Just 19 years and one week apart from the similar experience of “it can never happen again” Storm King, the Granite Mountain hotshots are forever etched in the wildland fire psyche.

Now the Granite Mountain memorial and funerals are complete.  With much of the western fire season yet to unfold, we have seen, heard, and read thoughtful commentary about the work we do and the places we do it.  In addition to Granite Mountain, six other souls have perished this year.  The toll in our fire business is far, far too high.  Yet, as I experience my fourty fourth year in this profession, I’m struck by the dark “book ends” of two mass casualty events of our work, Storm King and Yarnell Hill...  

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Posted: Aug 8, 2013

Rhabdomyolysis: The New Fire Service Issue

Are your new recruits at risk for exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER)? Central Pierce Fire and Rescue had two recruits develop ER during recent fire training academies. These individuals were physically fit, one a distance runner and the other a cross-fit enthusiast.  What is ER?  Why did these indivuaduals develop it?  What could we have done to prevent it?  

Acute exertional rhabdomyolysis is a problem encountered by firefighters as a result of extreme or novel physical demands placed on the musculoskeletal system.  When skeletal muscle fibers breakdown, their intracellular contents enter the bloodstream and can clog the kidneys.  This can cause potentially serious side effects and even death...

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Posted: Aug 8, 2013

Live Fire Annual Qualifications & Search Drills

In only four hours, 50 firefighters can receive their required annual live fire drill that includes a search drill.  Departments are able to share the cost of a half day at HAMMER. Sharing the cost between several fire departments keeps prices per student low and keeps departments from depleting staff in their response areas.

HAMMER supplies air packs for those without spare SCBAs; however, for those bringing their own packs, please bring at least one spare cylinder with you. HAMMER provides portable radios, thermo imagers, several jugs of drinking water and air support. HAMMER also will prepare a pre-burn plan, hazard analysis and operate the burn prop. HAMMER operates its burn props under the guidelines of NFPA 1403 standards for live fire training...

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