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Cottonwood Fire to request new equipment
Written by Greg Ruland   
Thursday, 07 April 2011 00:00

The Cottonwood Fire Department won unanimous approval from Cottonwood City Council to apply for a $10,000 grant that would pay the cost of two new types of extrication equipment.

If purchased, the equipment would increase the department’s level of preparedness for serious traffic accidents and possibly save lives, according to Cottonwood Fire Chief Mike Casson.

Air bags big enough to lift a tractor-trailer off the body of a trapped motorist already in the department’s inventory would be replaced if the grant is approved. The existing bags are approaching the limits of their shelf life, Casson said.

The department purchased the original bags 15 years ago to be prepared for accidents involving dump trucks and other heavy equipment on area highways, Casson said.

The pneumatic bags are inflated using the same air canisters firefighters use for self-contained operations, he said.

A Jan. 5 accident involving a department administrator demonstrated the need for another type of extrication equipment the grant is targeted to buy — a stabilizer assembly.

A stabilizer assembly probably would have come in handy at the scene of the four-car accident on State Route 260 on Jan. 5, Casson said.

Administrative Coordinator Cheryl Miskiel should know. She was one of four people air evacuated from the scene near Del Rio Drive.

Miskiel’s car lay on its side in the middle of the highway with Miskiel trapped in the driver’s seat. Just before, she watched another car cut across traffic. She said she remembers nothing of the collision, but recalls waking up feeling trapped in her seat.

“I was restrained and it was very tight and I was wiggling and trying to wiggle in my seat because I was uncomfortable,” Miskiel said. “I knew that something had happened — something terrible.”

“I don’t remember anything — going up in the air and landing on a truck and rolling. When I came to, I was driver-side down on the roadway strapped into my seat,” she said.

She was concerned but calm, she said, trusting in the professionalism of the firefighters she works with. When firefighters arrived, most did not immediately recognize the woman they were treating, she said.

A stabilizer assembly in that situation could have been used to anchor Miskiel’s car, Casson said.

“When you get a vehicle that is partially turned over, or tilted on a ledge, or down an overhang or cliff, you can stabilize that vehicle by attaching this assembly unit,” Casson said.

It assembles in the form of a tripod and uses gravity and counterweights to anchor a vehicle in place.

“It stabilizes it in that precarious situation while you go in to extricate people,” he said.

Cutbacks in state funding for local fire departments made it necessary to apply for a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, he said.

“We are becoming a destination wine-tasting tourist center,” Casson told council. “The junction of state highways 89A and 260 generates a great volume of traffic in the community.”

With a nearby cement plant and construction activity throughout the area, Cottonwood also experiences hundreds of large vehicles passing through the community daily, he said.

“We respond to 150 to 200 rescue-vehicle accidents each year, as well as assisting our neighboring communities,” Casson said. “Dealing with this volume of activity … the need for additional extrication equipment is critical.”

The department should hear back on its application within 60 days.


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