Firefighters have new tool to save lives - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Firefighters have new tool to save lives

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - For more than 30 years, local firefighters have been using the Jaws of Life to save lives at car accident scenes. Now they have a new tool that helps rescue teams get inside wrecked vehicles faster.

San Diego firefighters gave me a first-hand demonstration last week of the new e-draulic tools.

"The nice thing about e-draulic tools is they don't require a power unit," engineer Josh Milton said. "They have a battery-operated pump."

Milton is talking about the latest addition to Rescue 4's life-saving arsenal -- e-draulic tools. The E is for electric, and "draulic" means they use hydraulic fluid.

"These, we can just pick them up and take them where we want to go," Milton said.

CBS News 8 was on hand during a recent training exercise where in just a matter of minutes, San Diego fire and rescue teams literally tore apart a vehicle using the 40-pound tools.

"The vehicle is stabilized and it's not risky for the firefighters, but it does take a tremendous lot of rescue expertise," San Diego Fire-Rescue Capt. Rocky Delgadillo said.

In the past, firefighters would have to use the old-fashioned Jaws of Life, with power lines and hydraulic hoses strung out all over, significantly slowing down response time and requiring more manpower.

"And it's just a world of difference in our ability to get to the scene quicker and more efficiently," Delgadillo said.

The e-draulic Jaws of Life do have their limitations. They're only good for about 20 cuts per charge. But the average rescue only takes about 8 to 10 cuts, and a replacement battery only takes about five seconds to switch out.

The fire department purchased the rechargable hand tools two months ago, and they have already saved lives.

"We had a car that went into the ocean out in Ocean Beach," Milton said.

Teams quickly cut apart the vehicle and rescued the driver from the water using the tools in the Oceanside rescue operation.

"They did get wet, they were in the salt water and they're still working," Milton said.

In March, firefighters also used e-draulic cutters to rescue a woman who rolled her Jeep off an overpass on the 805 and landed on top of a Toyota.

"I was hanging by the seat belt, apparently, with the car flipped over, and they got me out," accident survivor Kris Hayworth said.

Hayworth doesn't even remember being pulled out, but she's thankful firefighters were there with the e-draulic tools.

"I cannot believe I came out alive," she said. "That was a pretty big Jeep and it's squished."

Once again, that training exercise was last week before the wildfires broke out. Just another example of the great work firefighters do every day.

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