Firefighters practice ripping wrecked cars apart

EUGENE, Ore. - The yard at B&R Auto Wrecking was full of glass, car parts and firefighters this weekend.

Over 60 firefighters gathered for extrication training, where they practiced scenarios of getting victims out badly mangled vehicles.

The trainees got to cut up, rip apart and destroy over 150 vehicles.

The sheer number of cars they had to practice on surprised some.

"Every once in a while we get a car or two that we get to work with, but this allows us to do scenarios that we don't ever get to practice," said Michael Valoppi of the Cloverdale Rural Fire Protection District.

Valoppi said he's excited to get back home so he can teach what he learned to those who weren't able to make it this weekend.

The availability of vehicles to rip apart wasn't the only plus to this training.

Trainees also got the chance to practice special scenarios, like cars piled on one another at odd angles.

"Just being able to have the cars stacked on top of each other, tunneling through like this, I've never done this before," said Casey Henley of Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue. "I don't know if I'll ever get to do this kind of exercise unless I'm here."

Organizers said this kind of new and different training saves lives because it prepares trainees on how to react in possibly deadly situations.

This is the sixth year Rich Hill, Deputy Chief for Goshen Fire Department has organized the event.

He said he keeps putting it together because car technology is always improving.

"Totally not even the same cars. The metal is different, and that's basically the bottom line is that the metal is a lot stronger in newer cars than it is in older cars," he said.

As vehicles change, he wants firefighters to have the knowledge to adapt. All too often when many small fire departments do get the rare chance to cut up cars, they're generally working on much older models.

"When we train, the vehicle is usually one, two, three decades old," said Henley from Nehalem. "Working with new cars is a totally different thing, you need to have a totally different strategy."

Those strategies are what Hill hopes the firefighters will use to help rescue people in the future.

"That's what the class is about," he said. "How to get people out of cars."