Alan Haskins, formerly of Ash Flat and Chief of the Walnut Ridge Fire Department instructed the class of 28 firefighters from Highland, Hardy, Williford, Center and Ozark Acres.
Highland Fire Chief Stephen Davis said that several people in the area had been asking for a class of this type for quite some time. He said in order for the firefighters to take this class, they first must have completed a preliminary class in introduction to firefighting and personal protective equipment. Stephens said this is the second class of this type that has been taught at the Highland Fire Department in the past two years.
The two day class was a combination of lecture, hands on activities and films that are designed to help the firefighters work with the jaws of life equipment.
Haskins, who is also an adjunct teacher for Black River Technical Center and the Arkansas Fire Academy, said it is important to continue training for this type of equipment due to the changes in automobile technology.
He said the newer hybrid vehicles pose a real threat to firefighters. He explained the cars were designed to run on both electric and gasoline. Stephens said the vehicles run so quietly on a high voltage DC battery that it may be running after an accident and the firefighter may not even know. Haskins said that if a person hits the gas petal on one of these vehicles after a wreck, if the key is in the ignition, it can potentially injure the fireman.
Another major change in auto manufacturers is the frame or uni body design. The metal is much stronger than steel, such as titanium. Haskins said some of the newer jaws of life models are capable of 200,000 pounds of pressure to allow the firefighter to cut through the extremely strong metal.
Davis said it is important to take refresher courses on using the equipment even if one is already certified. All the firefighters who took part in the 16 hour class will receive their certifications from Black River Technical College.
Davis said after the fire department gets moved into their new building they will offer more classes for area firefighters. He also said the volunteer firefighters receive the same training as those who are paid for their services. The chief went on to explain the volunteers receive their training in increments, although it is the same as the paid firemen get at their training at the academy in Camden.
Davis would like to thank the late Jim Causbie, Mark Hambrica and Jeff Morris for their donation of vehicles for the department to practice the extrication techniques taught in the class.