Small contributions can make a big difference
Imagine that you’re driving along a rural Nebraska road when you see an oncoming vehicle veering into your lane. You attempt to avoid the car, but as you steer off the road you lose control and your vehicle rolls. Pinned in the car, you can only hope that help comes along with the tools needed to free you from the vehicle so you can receive medical attention.
These are the situations rural fire departments are faced with every day. And with more than 30 years of involvement on the board of the Gordon Rural Fire Department, Tri-State Director and Northwest Rural Public Power District (NRPPD) Director Gary Fuchser is well aware of the tools it takes for fire protection and EMS to respond to situations like this across the two million acres they cover in Northwest Nebraska. So when the need arose for more modern technology to help these first responders do their job, Fuchser saw a way he could help.
The fire department had been using an older version of the Jaws of Life – the tools used to cut and spread metal to extract people from vehicles damaged in serious auto accidents. After 20 years of use, the department’s tools weren’t meeting their fire fighters' needs. They ran off a generator and hydraulic pump, and the operator of the tools could only use one tool at a time. The aging tools combined with the newer vehicles on the road meant the department couldn’t extricate people as quickly as they needed. Delaying a response to calls is especially a concern when time is of the essence.
The solution was to purchase new Jaws of Life—battery-powered and more powerful and versatile than the old ones—but that added up to around $28,000, no small sum for a rural fire department. “It’s a big item, and they’ve got a small budget,” said Fuchser.
As a member of our Board of Directors, representing NRPPD in Hay Springs, Nebraska, Fuchser can direct donations from Tri-State to a community organization or charity. For 2018, those dollars went to the Gordon Rural Fire Department. This contribution seeded an effort that, along with fundraisers and drawings the department coordinated, helped make the purchase of new technology possible.
“The community really stepped up,” said Fire Chief Richard Haller. And it’s fortunate they did, considering the day after the new Jaws of Life arrived, they were used to extricate a person involved in a head-on collision.
“He probably wouldn’t have made it if he hadn’t gotten to the hospital quickly,” said Fuchser. “Radios, tools, pumps, all the department needs – there’s payoff in lives saved and property saved.”