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Firefighters Demonstrate New Vehicle Rescue Tools

The Ventura County, Calif., fire departments received 17 sets of Holmatro extraction tools and other equipment through $562,000 in grants.

(TNS) - Firefighters from several agencies Wednesday demonstrated new tools being used across Ventura County to rescue people trapped in vehicles after crashes.

The Ventura County, Fillmore and Oxnard fire departments this year received 17 sets of Holmatro extraction tools and other equipment through $562,000 in grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ventura County received 11 full sets and five smaller sets, Fillmore received one full set, and Oxnard got vehicle stabilization equipment, officials said during the demonstration at county fire’s Regional Training Center in Camarillo.

Joe Garces, an investigator for the Oxnard Fire Department, said his agency has used the new equipment 48 times this year. He said the new hydraulic cutters and spreaders weigh about half that of the equipment they were using, and firefighters don’t get tired as quickly.

“Heavier tools are unreliable. These are simpler, lighter, quicker,” Garces said. “This helps us do our job properly and safely.”

The sets include hoes and two hydraulic pumps that allow the tools to operate more swiftly, as well as a “combi tool” that has both cutting and spreading capabilities.

County Fire Department Capt. Mike Lindbery said crews train with all kinds of vehicles, including newer models with newer technologies.

As the vehicles evolve, so do the extrication tools, said fire Capt. Hector Garcia.

Because new vehicles are made with stronger metals to protect passengers, the new tools are more powerful and provide more pressure, officials said. In addition, the Holmatro system allows for two tools to be used at a time instead of one, allowing faster operations and patient care.

The tools can also be used during urban search-and-rescue incidents, plane and train crashes and other technical rescues.

“The citizens and visitors of Ventura County are the beneficiaries of these tools,” said county Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Shea.

Firefighters demonstrated on three vehicles: a Jeep on its side, a pickup with a camper on all four wheels and an overturned sedan.

They used the tools to remove roofs, doors and dashboards. In an actual incident, emergency personnel must first stabilize the vehicle to make sure it is not a hazard to them or those trapped inside before being able to rescue and treat the patients, officials said.


©2015 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

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Cindy Waxer is a journalist whose articles have appeared in publications including The Economist, Fortune Small Business,, CIO and Computerworld.