MAGNA, Utah (ABC 4 News) - You've probably heard the phrase “The Jaws of Life.” Fire fighters use them everyday to rescue drivers trapped in their cars after a horrific crash. But what does that mean? What tools do they use to rip a part a car to save someone's life? In an ABC 4 special assignment, Brian Carlson takes you inside the Jaws of Life.
They smash, they break, they rip and destroy, but when someone's life is on the line, the Jaws of Life - save lives.
"These tools are invaluable, we wouldn't be able to do the job without them," said Capt. Mike Burrow, Unified Fire Heavy Rescue 121.
Back in May, Salt Lake area rescue crews used the Jaws of Life to free a father and his daughter trapped in their van after it crashed into a TRAX train. Fire fighters relied on them again to rescue another person in Magna.
Crews said they need them every day.
"We have a wreck somewhere, somebody is pulling somebody out of a car like this," said Burrow.
So, what are they? Fire fighters with Unified's Heavy Rescue 121 teamed up with Pull-N-Save in Magna to give ABC 4 a firsthand demonstration.
"The big tools that we use are the spreaders and the cutters… they'll exert 10,000 lbs of force… we can either spread metal to tear it apart or make holes... we can cut posts, we can cut hinges, steering columns, brake pedals… I don't think there's anything on a passenger vehicle that they won't cut or spread," said Burrows.
You might think crews use these tools to pulls crash victims out, but it's actually to move twisted metal out of their way.
"The purpose of this is to remove the car from the person rather than remove the person out of the car," Burrows said.
So how fast can crews rip a part a car to save someone's life? ABC 4’s Brian Carlson suited up with protective gear, and stepped inside a smashed car to find out.
First up - crews broke the glass, and sawed open the windshield.
Then, they went to work tearing and cutting him out of the car.
"It's kind of a weird feeling having all of this go on all around you," said Brian Carlson, ABC 4 Reporter.
After only nine minutes crews had cleared the car from all around him.
"I'm amazed you had guys smashing glass all around me, they're cutting posts and beams off and never once did I feel like the car was going to collapse on me," said Carlson.
In fact they made it look so easy; he wanted to give it a try. But after Carlson struggled just to handle the heavy tools -
'It ain't easy," said Carlson.
For now, Carlson thought it best to leave it to the experts.
The next time you find yourself is in need, they'll be there with the Jaws of Life to save yours.
"I'm in this business to help people," said Burrow.