Fire department shows $1M worth of extrication gear



robin kuniski/for metro calgary


Todd Nabozniak cuts away a door of a car as the Calgary fire department held a vehicle extrication demonstration yesterday. As the automobile industry changes material use and building practices in vehicles, the CFD has had to make changes to keep up with the evolving technology.

"The sooner we can get people out of a vehicle, the better the chances of survival."

Calgarians trapped in their vehicles following collisions can expect to be rescued quicker after the city fire department invested $1 million in new extrication equipment.

Calgary fire department deputy chief of operations Steve Dongworth told reporters the vehicle equipment will allow firefighters to rescue people from collisions faster than before.

“The new vehicle extraction equipment will allow firefighters to remove patients from vehicles within 10 minutes, and the sooner we can get people out of a vehicle, the better the chances of survival,” Dongworth said.

Vehicles with added features help protect motorists in accidents but make it more difficult for fire fighters to extricate, according to vehicle extraction specialist Randy Schmitz of the Calgary fire department.

“Newer vehicles with increased safety features such as side-impact and roof-curtain airbags and reinforced steel pillars make vehicle extractions more complicated and dangerous,” Schmitz said.

According to the department there has been an increase in vehicle collisions due to population and traffic but another problem is cellphone usage while driving.

“There has been a noticeable increase in accidents resulting from cellphone use over the last three to four years. And people are also driving faster for a variety of reasons,” Schmitz said.

Besides replacing rescue vehicles, the department added combination cutter and spreader tools, as well as adding the tools to pumper trucks allowing firefighters to start extricating vehicles sooner.