Jaws of Life


Tashi Farmilo
Local Journalism Initiative

Fire departments across the Pontiac have made significant strides in upgrading their emergency response capabilities with the acquisition of hydraulic rescue tools, popularly known as “Jaws of Life”. This term, originally coined by Mike Brick, aptly captures the life-saving essence of the technology.

“The Jaws of Life, in essence, are about snatching people from the jaws of death,” Brick famously remarked. Invented by Tim Smith and Mike Brick’s in 1972, The Jaws of Life has evolved into an indispensable tool for rescuing trapped occupants in vehicular accidents. The hydraulic spreader, cutter, and ram are now faster, more efficient, and crucial in emergency situations.

In Campbell’s Bay/Litchfield, the local fire department, under the leadership of Fire Chief Kevin Kluke, recently completed its $65,000, four-component set of Jaws of Life, with the “Ram” as the final piece. “It’s a complete set now, thanks to the relentless efforts of our community and people like Charleen Moore. Her fundraiser was the final push we needed,” Kluke told the Journal.

Moore, a local resident who played a crucial role in the fundraising efforts, shared her thoughts: “Reaching our goal is a huge relief. Knowing our firefighters have the best tools to save lives is incredibly fulfilling. Our community’s support was overwhelming, and it’s heartwarming to see how much we can achieve when we come together for a common cause.” Moore’s online auction raised $13,000 for the cause.

Kluke also highlighted the advancements in the technology: “The new generation tools are a game-changer. They’re battery-operated, quicker, and stronger. It’s about getting to the victims faster and more safely.”

Similarly, the Pontiac North Fire Department, serving the communities of Thorne and Otter Lake, has bolstered its capabilities. “We’ve acquired several tools from neighboring departments, which is a big step towards improving our response time on the highways,” said Lieutenant Randy Richard. Firefighter training is now a priority to maximize the potential of the tools.

In Bristol, the local fire department is gearing up for a significant update to their equipment. Treasurer Ken Bernard revealed plans for obtaining their own set of Jaws of Life. “We haven’t begun fundraising efforts yet, but are brainstorming ideas for an official launch this spring,” he said. The department is considering buying a 2-piece demo set of the equipment, refurbished and with a full factory warranty, for around $35k—a significant savings compared to $45k price for a new set. Bernard explained the set would be sufficient for extrication purposes, with the potential addition of a third piece later on.

Further, Bernard announced that the equipment, once acquired, will be presented to the public. “We plan to take photos, share them on social media, and host a ‘show and tell’ day, inviting local newspapers, CHIP FM, and the general public,” he added. The department has also scheduled a 30-hour training course, where about 15 vehicles from local scrapyards will be used for practice and then returned in their initial weight, albeit no longer intact.

The Shawville-Clarendon Fire Department “is ready for a range of emergencies, from fires to car accidents requiring the Jaws of Life,” said Chief Lee Laframboise, noting continuous training is key.

Lincoln Smith, a firefighter and brother-in-law to Moore, reflected on the significance of these tools: “When someone’s life hangs in the balance, every second and every tool counts. This isn’t just about equipment; it’s about saving lives.”

These developments across the Pontiac region’s fire departments represent a collective stride towards enhanced emergency response capabilities. The evolution of the Jaws of Life from its initial concept to its modern, technologically-advanced iterations is a testament to the ongoing commitment to safety and the power of community support.