STRAFFORD, Mo. (KY3) - Crews from Billings, Fair Grove, Ebenezer and Southern Webster County got their hands on the jaws of life in Strafford, Mo. Saturday.
Firefighters learned to pull apart vehicles with power tools. For some, it was their first time extricating a car. Others were honing their skills.
It was the Vehicle Rescue Technician course through the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute.
Shane Anderson, lead instructor of the course, explained the job of extrication traditionally falls on firefighters. He said it's important to establish a secure scene, keeping the patient as safe as possible.
"We're essentially peeling layers of metal off of people to remove them from that vehicle," Anderson said.
Anderson is also a captain with the Monett Fire Department.
"We don't want to just grab somebody and jerk them out. What we're basically trying to do is stabilize them," he said.
Greg Smith, Battalion Chief with the Strafford Fire Protection District, said fire service has changed. He said, now, his crew is responding to car accidents and medical emergencies more often than fighting fires.
"About 11 percent of our total calls for this year have been motor vehicle accidents. Medical calls are about 61 percent, give or take," Greg said. "Fire calls are seven percent."
In other words, they are much more than just firefighters. They provide medical care before an ambulance arrives. Smith said the Strafford Fire Dirstrict covers 10 miles of interstate.
"With Interstate 44 here, we get our fair share of motor vehicle accidents, some of them can be pretty large scale," he said.
Smith and Anderson have one request for drivers who see crews like theirs helping someone on their worst day.
"Put your phone down. Just stay focused on what you're doing and don't make things worse by causing another accident or hurting one of the responders," Anderson said.
Smith said continuous training is necessary for muscle memory. Some local fire departments, including Strafford, do their own in-house training every year.
Saturday's training in Strafford was paid for through the Missouri Department of Transportation's Division of Fire Safety.
For more information about MU's Fire and Rescue Training institute click HERE