Firefighters gift the Jaws of Life

·6 min read

CODROY VALLEY — Christmas came early for the Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Department (CVVFD) in the form of equipment gifted to them from across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The North Sydney Volunteer Fire Department (NSVFD) was looking for someone to donate equipment to when fate led them to this province’s Southwest Coast. Chief Lloyd MacIntosh with NSVFD said one of his members had a chance meeting with a member from Codroy Valley.

“Chief Brian (Osmond) had a member that visited North Sydney Fire; one of our members and her became friends and she came to visit one night for training. The way she explained things to us was that Codroy Valley didn’t have a lot of money and a whole lot of resources to do some things, and we were the beneficiaries of better fortune. We had some extra tools and some things we were declaring surplus and, from what we understood in talking to Brian, they would’ve had a good use for them and that’s what brings us here today,” said McIntosh. “We had enough extra sets – this would’ve been the fourth set of tools we had – and really, it’s overkill. So why have it sitting around, wasting time and wasting money? So we thought, let's make good use of it. We thought, ‘Is there anybody in Cape Breton who could use it?’ and we thought, ‘No, they are well-equipped, and they have enough stuff,’ and it was good fortune – Mckayla came around at the right time. It was perfect timing and this is a perfect fit for us.”

Mckayla Keeping was in Nova Scotia for training with Marine Atlantic, and she said it was by chance that a member of their fire department was in the same training.

“He took me over to their station in North Sydney. He took me around their station and it was pretty cool, and he invited me out for a night of training one night,” said Keeping. “They were asking things that we had, what we didn’t have, and I told them we don’t have a whole lot. I said if we need anything we have to fundraise for it and the Jaws of Life, we have to wait for it for 45 minutes from Port Aux Basques.”

Keeping was told the department was looking for someone to donate spare equipment to, so she called Chief Osmond.

“Before I even left to come home, I got in contact with Brian, and they were getting the Jaws of Life. I found out through my friend, Adam, that all of this was coming. Nobody knew. This was one big surprise, but I knew the whole time we were getting all this stuff here and they were going to surprise the fire department with it, and stuff that, in all my years as a firefighter, I don’t think we would ever see what we have now. It’s just amazing.”

The original plan was to donate a smaller surplus tool with a power unit, but plans quickly changed.

“We thought it was about half of what we needed to do the job, so we thought we’d dig further. We ended up having some more stuff become surplus, so we said, ‘let’s just give them the whole thing'. So we gave them the whole kit and caboodle,” said McIntosh. “We didn’t know what Codroy had and we wanted it to be as much of a surprise as we could. We didn’t really tell Brian how much we were bringing or ask questions about what he had or didn’t have, so we laid it out for ourselves as if we were doing this. What would we need to do this job or what would we need to do an extrication? So we laid out the pieces, parts, and everything needed to go with it between highway signs and walking and cribbing, hand tools, everything that needs to go with the whole kit to do the job.”

Chief Brian Osmond of CVVFD said the connection Mckayla made in North Sydney brought everyone together, and this was a much-needed addition for the department.

“The only Jaws of Life that was in our area before this was Port Aux Basques and after that, I think it was in St. Georges, give or take, the next one. So we had to rely on St. George’s or Port Aux Basques depending on who was closer, so this is going to make our jobs a lot easier.”

Osmond said they will rely on Port Aux Basques until they are comfortable enough to use the equipment.

“When we are, it makes our job and Port Aux Basques' jobs a lot easier. Now we have two Jaws of Life in our area, and you never know when you’ll be at a scene where you need more than one. You may need two, and then we can do the job with everybody else. It makes our job easier in the area, not just in the Codroy Valley, for the whole area.”

Osmond said there is no set number on the firefighters who will be trained to use the Jaws of Life.

“We’re going to train as many as we can. It’s not something you can say you will train 25 people for or 10 people for, because nobody knows until the first accident where you’ve got to use it,” said Osmond. “Practicing today with the trucks and the car, that's the easy part. If you get a body in there yelling and screaming, they could say that specific job is not for them,and that’s understandable. We will train enough that we can feel comfortable that we have the right amount for a crew.”

Keeping is very excited to get started training with the Jaws of Life.

“This is a huge deal for our fire department. The things that we are able to do now that we never would’ve been able to do before; the lives we can probably save with this is just amazing.”

McIntosh said the plan for himself and the three others who travelled with him to deliver the equipment is that they will leave the CVVFD with all the necessary training they need to be successful.

“The idea and the hope when we leave here is that we come here with the equipment – we brought all the equipment, enough to do the job – and then we can do the training. We are certified and authorized to do the training anyway, and we hope that the only thing they will need to add when we finish is experience.”

Osmond said he couldn’t be more thankful for the incredible generosity of the NSVFD.

“On behalf of the Codroy Valley (Volunteer Fire Department) and the community of the Codroy Valley, I would personally like to thank North Sydney’s Fire Department for doing what they’re doing for us to improve our ability to protect our community members and the community at large.”

Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News