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Fire department to conduct extrication exercise

By Staff | Jul 8, 2009

Behind a gated fence along the curved back road where Southeast 26th Street meets Southeast 17th Avenue sits the Cape Coral Fire Department’s haz-mat building.
It is quiet and nestled inconspicuously between condos, single-story homes and other city facilities, a short distance from Fire Station 3 along Everest Parkway.
But Tuesday, the building’s relaxed locale seemed to clash wildly with a white four-door Cadillac resting on its side with the driver’s side doors smashed in.
The unoccupied car sat wrecked in the parking lot, awaiting firefighters to perform an emergency extrication. The extrication is a training exercise which about 8 to 10 firefighters will perform this afternoon.
The exercise simulates real-life scenarios of dangerous accidents, where experience and training make the difference between life and death, using cars donated from and smashed up by local NAPA Preferred Auto Care manager Wes Dale and his wrecker crews.
“With money being tight with the city and everything, we’re volunteering and giving stuff to them to practice and save on their budget,” Dale said.
NAPA donates cars for about one training session every three or four months, depending on demand, that have come to them through prior accidents and arrests and those which have been abandoned to them.
“Rather than just haul them to the junkyard, we give them to these guys and they get to practice,” he said. “It’s teaching them to be safe around the vehicles.”
The trainings, which have taken place for the past several years, entail cutting windshields and seat belts, crushing metal, stabilizing unsturdy vehicles and rescuing dummies which weigh nearly 150 pounds — all while dressed in full rescue gear in the summer heat.
“It may be fun to cut a car because there’s no real person in there, but we train as if there’s a live person in there,” said Cape Coral Fire Department Lt. Hugo Sorensen. “It’s been mostly for the new guys because when they come out they haven’t seen things like this.”
Hugo recalled his first day on duty in 1988, responding to an accident on Palm Tree Boulevard. A vehicle had collided with a palm tree and several children had died in the accident.
“You have to learn fast,” he said.
The extrication training will be held from 1-4 p.m., and will serve as an advanced course for emergency personnel of various skill levels.