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Firefighters working to buy new Jaws

Photo by Rachelle Klemme. Firefighter Brent Johnson shows the cutting component of the Jaws of Life equipment.

The Wadena Fire Department Relief Association is raising funds to purchase new Jaws of Life equipment which firefighters said is crucial to carry out rescues on some newer types of vehicles.

Brent Johnson, secretary of the Relief Association, said the current Jaws equipment is still working well, but outdated and not designed to take apart newer cars that have titanium framing in the chassis.

A letter from the fire department distributed to the city council on Feb. 14 stated that the current cutters, spreaders and power plant are nearly 20 years old.

In 2011, the fire department had 30 calls to service and six of those calls - 20 percent - were for the Jaws of Life.

First Assistant Chief Dale Haman said the current Jaws equipment was top of the line when they first got it two decades ago, but now it is outdated.

The fire department's goal is to raise the $17,000 to purchase the equipment in time to demonstrate it for Fire Prevention Week in October.

New equipment is estimate to cost about $32,000, and $15,000 has been provided by the city.

The Relief Association is a separate fiscal entity from the city and does fundraising for some equipment and other needs of the volunteer fire department that are not covered by the city's budget.

If old Jaws can't chew into new crashed cars, the fire department is hoping people in the area will have the appetite to get a new set.

Currently, the Relief Association is promoting an upcoming fundraiser at the Pizza Ranch on Monday, April 9 from 5-9 p.m.

Johnson said the firefighters themselves would bus tables, wear white dress shirts and take questions from customers, so it is a good chance for people who are curious about the fire department.

People have the choice of buffet, dine in, takeout or delivery. Twenty-five percent of proceeds from food sales, as well as all tips, go to the fire department for the Jaws fundraising effort.

Haman said they have also been applying for grants and will tentatively plan other events in the weeks and months ahead.

When the new Jaws are purchased, Johnson said, they will not throw away the current set of equipment.

Instead, they will move the old Jaws to the north fire hall, so in case of a catastrophe such a train derailment preventing them from crossing the tracks, there would be two Jaws each on different sides of the town.

"We just want to make the fire department better. By just doing that, we're making public safety better," Johnson said.

Haman said that with the new cars, the old Jaws are bound to break at some point in time and or take longer to perform the extraction and take minutes away from the "golden hour" of care after the accident.

If they get the new Jaws in time for the Fire Prevention Week Open House, they plan to demonstrate how the new equipment cuts into a car.