On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Salem middle and high school students got to see an unusual demolition derby.
Not the usual after-school scramble to get out of the parking lot, but an eyeopening demonstration by the Salem Fire Department.
"We are going to tear this truck apart to show you what we have to do to reach passengers trapped after a bad wreck," Salem Fire Chief Heath Everett told students gathered around a dented old pickup donated by Carpenters Metal Recycling in Viola.
"We all have other jobs," said Everett. "We don't like to do this."
That was Everett's way of suggesting students can help his department reduce emergency runs by avoiding impaired, reckless driving.
Firefighters Nick Blanton and Sam Rosito began the demonstration by using a compressor powered cutter and a "jaws of life" device to quickly force open and remove the truck's doors.
After using a small device to shatter and remove the front and back windows, the cutter severed the four posts holding up the vehicle roof, allowing it to be peeled back to give access to the passenger compartment.
The firefighters also demonstrated how they can move a steering wheel over or cut off gas and brake pedals, if necessary, to free people tangled in the wreckage after a bad crash.
While it looked easy, Everett warned firefighters are under a lot of pressure as they try to reach badly hurt, trapped people in minutes.
"Everything we do is dangerous," said Everett. "When you're dealing with a mangled up car, that makes it even tougher."
Students talked excitedly and laughed as firefighters filled the pickup bed with doors, broken windows, and the roof.
"They were impressed with the demolition," said Principal Wayne Guiltner. "They were talking about it all the rest of the day."
But did they get the message that inattentive or dangerous driving come with serious consequences?
"I believe they did," answered Guiltner. "We've done safe driving programs before but this one seemed to grab everyone's attention."
The fire department demonstration was part of Red Ribbon Week, a week of activities which center on educating students about the importance of a drug free lifestyle.
According to the principal, the demonstration emphasized the importance of "making good choices" in life.