New Jaws of Life for fire department

ALPENA – The Alpena Fire Department has had a new set of Jaws of Life on the top of its list of needs in the city’s capital improvement plan since 2011, but the money to purchase the tool has never been made available – until Monday.

Thanks to a $16,000 grant from AAA Michigan, a $3,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Northeast Michigan and $162 from All Saints Catholic School, a majority of the cost of the $25,023 Jaws was raised and will be ordered July 1. The city will only have to pay $5,861.

Alpena Fire Chief Bill Forbush said he was disappointed the first few times Alpena Municipal Council didn’t approve the purchase because the need for a modern Jaws of Life was needed so badly. He said last year he was instructed to find other sources of funding, so a committee was formed to help find financial partners and to find the best tool for the money available. Forbush said Rob Edmonds, Andy Marceau, Dean Rivard, Jim Stachlewitz and Mike Torok were on the committee and did most of the legwork involved in making the new acquisition a reality.

Forbush said the current Jaws of Life was made in the 1980s and designed to extract crash victims from that era of automobile. He said new vehicles are made of stronger steel and loaded with reinforced technology that the old hydraulic tool has a tough time prying apart.

“The old ones simply aren’t capable of cutting or spreading the boron or enforced steel. It’s too hard and it isn’t what they designed to do,” Forbush said. “If there is a wreck and it involves a new vehicle, chances are we aren’t going to be able to rescue that person as effectively as we want. Some extractions can take more than an hour, a new set of Jaws of Life and cut that to mere minutes.”

Forbush said manufacturers of the device each had an opportunity to demonstrate their product and committee members got some hands-on time with each model as well. Forbush said he thought it was important to have his employees decide what the right tool to purchase was.

“I may have my own personal preferences from what I have seen at trade shows and conferences, but I’m not the one that is going to be out there using the tool,” Forbush said. “I want the guys who will be using it to be able to chose which one they want. A number of local vendors helped us out by bringing in wrecked cars and it was great, because the guys on the committee got hands-on experience on all of the tools and could see how they felt, how heavy they were and how responsive and fast each was. then they made the recommendation.”

Forbush said he appreciates the support he has received and the contributions made toward the new device. He said he is especially proud of All Saints for what it did to help. He said as a token of thanks, some firefighters visited the school and showed students how the old Jaws of Life works.

“I think it was so special the children did this for us,” Forbush said. “After finding out about our need in the paper they started a penny drive and raised $162. We went down to the school and did an assembly, and showed the old Jaws and tore apart a car and showed them how we deal with victims and rescue. It was awesome.”

Forbush said the Jaws of Life will be used when needed via mutual aid in areas that do not have a modern set of Jaws currently.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at