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Assistance To Firefighters Grants Success Stories - Cheswick, PA

This page highlights how an AFG grant funded rescue tools and SCBAs to improve its ability to respond to structure fires and motor vehicle accidents. This page is intended for fire departments and nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Service organizations (EMS).

All-Volunteer Fire Department Contains Blaze and Saves Ambulance Station

Harmar Township Volunteer Fire Company 1

CHESWICK, PA -- At a vehicle accident in 2003, Harmar Township firefighters were extricating a victim, and needed to quickly remove the roof of a late-model BMW to do so. But late-model cars are being made stronger than earlier models, and the Hurst tool they used at the time was not powerful enough to cut the vehicle roof posts.

Fortunately, in this instance, rescuers had time to figure out another way to remove the victim without having to remove the vehicle roof.

Command ordered the crew members out and instructed them to enter the structure from the rear. "Without the better, more audible speaker in the face piece, this information may not have been understandable, and the consequences could have been tragic," said Liko.Harmar firefighters use the Hurst tool to open the door of a crumpled vehicle.

The Harmar Township Volunteer Fire Company received a grant from AFG in 2004 to purchase Hurst vehicle rescue tools and SCBAs to improve its ability to respond to structure fires and motor vehicle accidents. Harmar Township is located about 13 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in the southwest quadrant of the State.

In a similar incident in March 2005, the Fire Company was dispatched to a neighboring community to assist with a vehicle accident in which a car had hit a telephone pole head on. The driver was out of the vehicle, but his passenger was pinned inside.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike runs through the Township as well as a major roadway, Route 28, which runs directly in and out of Pittsburgh.

The Township may be small--it covers 5.86 square miles and is home to just over 3,000 people--but its location gives rise to vehicle accidents and other incidents in which the members must rely on their equipment to extricate people and save lives. It averages approximately 185 calls per year.

The new Hurst tool that the Company obtained with the grant is much more powerful than the previous tool and came with a set or airbags capable of lifting 54 tons. "With a more powerful tool, it takes less time to extricate someone from these newer model vehicles, which are much stronger than past vehicles" said Chief Mike Liko.

In November 2004, Harmar firefighters were called to a vehicle accident in which a pickup truck had rear-ended a fuel truck. With the Hurst tool, they were able to pry open the door and extricate the driver using the new Hurst tool spreaders. "Because of the way the metal of the vehicle was pushed up and wrapped around the door and the driver, this would have been no easy task without the Hurst tool," said Liko.
"We had to use the Hurst tool spreaders to remove his door. Once this was accomplished, we used the Hurst tool rams to pry the dashboard off of his lap and to free his feet, which were also pinned down on the floorboard. Then the victim was removed and transported. It took us approximately 10 minutes to perform all of these tasks and remove the victim," said Liko.Harmar Township's Captain Donald M. Trebac (left) and Assistant Chief Rege Scheider (right) train to use the new SCBAs.

The SCBAs they purchased with grant funds contain more breathing air and are much lighter than the previous SCBAs they had been using. The lighter weight has reduced firefighter fatigue. Chief Liko commented, "the audible speaker in the face piece is much clearer with the new SCBAs, and words are easier to understand when talking into a radio while you are inside a burning structure."

To illustrate, in May 2005 the Company was dispatched to provide mutual aid to a neighboring fire department. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke coming from a two-story single-family home, and wearing their SCBAs, they entered the front door.

"At this time, they informed command that they had heavy smoke conditions and that the floor in the room to the right was sagging severely," said Chief Liko.

Command ordered the crew members out and instructed them to enter the structure from the rear. "Without the better, more audible speaker in the face piece, this information may not have been understandable, and the consequences could have been tragic," said Liko.


What they bought:

  • Wellness and Fitness activity - Periodic Physical Exam/Health Screening
Last Updated: 
12/11/2017 - 14:13