By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Just last week volunteer firefighters were training in auto extrication. Saturday night it appeared they were going to have to use those skills when a car ran off South Main Street at the bridge near Crawford Sports Complex.
City Fire Department Rescue was “toned out” at 7:22 p.m. for a possible rollover crash with entrapment. But, the first unit to arrive on the scene found the car still upright and Emergency Medical Responder Walt Story was able to remove the driver without the need for rescue equipment.
The victim was lucky, according to rescuers. She could have just as easily been trapped considering the vehicle went airborne before crashing into the mud beneath the bridge.
Vehicle crashes with entrapment don’t happen all the time, said Yalobusha Emergency Management Agency Director Frank Hyde. But, when they do proper training is the key to quickly and safely removing the victims. “During emergencies a few wasted seconds can cost lives.”
Around 30 Yalobusha County volunteer firefighters attended the 12-hour, three-night course taught by Lt. Russell McCullar of the Batesville Fire Department, an associate instruction with the Mississippi State Fire Academy.
“We try to have several classes a year depending on how many new volunteers are coming on,” Hyde said. “In this case, we have a lot of people who have never run these tools getting hands-on training. Also, we have people who have been doing this for years getting reacquainted with the equipment.”
The tools to which Hyde refers are the Jaws of Life, a brand name belonging to the Hurst Jaws of Life company. The term refers to several types of hydraulic cutters, spreaders and rams that are used to pry open wrecked vehicles when a victim is trapped. A complete set of Jaws costs between $20,000 and $22,000, Hyde added.
During the training session, the volunteers used the Jaws to tear apart four wrecked autos provided by Self Auto Repair and George’s Garage. The firefighters get a feel for how much effort is required to get into a real automobile.
In the past, rescue calls involving extrications were handled by the Water Valley Fire Department. “Now that we have the volunteer fire departments and so many of them are certified in auto extrication as well as fire fighting, they run these calls, too.”
Last week’s auto extrication class was held at the new Yalobusha County Emergency Management Operations Center located between Water Valley and Coffeeville in a metal building on property donated to the county by Carothers Construction Company.
The approximately 100 foot by 100 foot building will not only house the Operations Center and emergency equipment, it will be also be used for all kinds of fire and rescue training.
“I’m trying to bring everybody together because it takes all the volunteer fire departments to make this thing work,” Hyde said. “All your rescue teams come from the volunteer fire departments. We’re trying to work it where we are all one big happy family.”
Right now the family consists of around 150 volunteers in nine fire departments: Skuna Valley, Clear Springs, Sylva Rena, Velma, Pine Valley, Tillatoba, O’tuckalofa, Oakland, and Coffeeville. “The only paid department we have in the county is the City of Water Valley,” Hyde said.
“We need more volunteers,” he emphasized. “It takes a special person because you are driving your own personal vehicle at your expense. And, you’re sometimes getting up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer can contact Hyde at 473-8411 or they can get in touch with the volunteer department closest to where they live.