Mexico firefighters watch Tuesday as Capt. Ben Sarle trains using the Jaws of Life extrication tool on a donated vehicle outside the Mexico Fire Department. The department received an anonymous $40,000 grant to buy the equipment, the first it has ever owned. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — Firefighters ripped apart a vehicle Tuesday night during their first training session using the Jaws of Life, the second department in the River Valley to own one.

An anonymous $40,000 grant paid for the hydraulic tool that is used to pry open vehicles and get through doors at fire scenes.

For more than two hours, 13 firefighters received instruction from John Swick of Fire Tech & Safety on how to operate the more than 50-pound tool. After a presentation inside the station, members used it to tear apart a vehicle donated by Andy Dupuis Towing & Salvage of Mexico. Firefighters indicated they had little or no prior training on using extrication tools.

“There’s right ways and wrong ways,” Swick said. “If you guys are doing something wrong, I’ll definitely say stop, think about this.”

The Jaws of Life package includes six batteries, and Swick said, “I’ve never had a battery die in the middle of an extrication from one vehicle.” A single battery has lasted as long as three vehicle extrications, he said.

He encouraged firefighters to watch videos on extrications from newer vehicles.


The equipment was purchased from Fire Tech & Safety of Winthrop, and Vice President Bob Mangin was at the training.

Fire Chief Mat Theriault said full-time firefighter Mike Booker applied for a grant from a foundation, which requested anonymity.

“The grant covers the cost of the equipment, which was a little of $39,000 for a ram, spreader, cutter and six batteries,” he said.

“A lot of people think that every fire department has the Jaws of Life,” he said. “In the River Valley, only Rumford has them.”

Theriault said the Mexico Fire Department will have annual training sessions on the tool.

“They should be all set for the next 10 to 15 years, hopefully,” Swick said.

Training instructor John Swick of Fire Tech & Safety, left, shows Mexico Fire Chief Mat Theriault the Jaws of Life cutting tool Tuesday at the Mexico Fire Department. The department purchased the $40,000 device recently through a grant from a foundation that wished to remain anonymous. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

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