Trainee Dustin St.Jean

Trainee Dustin St.Jean

Fernie fire department gear up for winter

The City of Fernie fire department prepares itself for car extractions this winter with new ice suits and a new jaws of life cutter tool.

Winter is approaching quicker than expected, with snow already forming on the mountaintops last week. With temperatures cooling, the City of Fernie Fire Department is gearing up for another winter season, where car extractions from river to shore are the norm.

This year, the City of Fernie purchased four ice rescue suits and a Holmatro Combi Tool (combination of jaws of life and cutters) for the local fire department. The combined price of the tool and suits was around $11,000, training officer Brendan Morgan said.

“With the winter season coming, we’ve had all our firefighters trained in rescue,” Morgan noted. “What we’ve got now is ice rescue suits.”

The suits, which can be put on and removed in less than 30 seconds, will protect fire fighters from frigid ice temperatures. Morgan noted that each year the fire department receives reports of two to three cars going into the river during the winter months.

He added, “I’d say we [deal with] around 60 to 70 motor vehicle accidents a year. At least 75 per cent of those people don’t have winter tires.”

“Because of the increase in motor vehicle accidents and some of those happening simultaneously because of road conditions, we bought one tool that’s a combination.”

The Holmatro Combi Tool will allow firefighters to pry open doors and cut off roofs when passengers need to be extracted from their vehicle.

Fire department officials are advising locals and visitors to ensure they are using winter tires as they weather cools in the Elk Valley.