Watertown Fire Department troubleshoots problems with life-saving tools

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The Watertown Fire Department is troubleshooting problems it’s having with some of its life-saving tools.

Fire Chief Matt Timerman spoke to the city council on Monday night and explained how some of the batteries for their portable tools aren’t keeping a full charge, saying it’s a problem when responding to calls for help.

“We had one car accident where all of our batteries weren’t fully charged and we weren’t able to use the tools at all which definitely got our attention,” said Timerman.

Tools include portable “jaws of life” that help free someone trapped in a vehicle.

Timerman says on some occasions, the batteries will be plugged in for several hours but won’t be 100 percent charged.

“That trouble is eventually they will get down to the point where they are below the threshold voltage needed to run the tool and at that point the tool is no longer functional,” he said.

Not knowing if the batteries will be charged, Timerman says crews take extra time out of their shift to make sure they will be functional as the manufacturer, Hearst, looks for ways to fix the problem.

These portable tools were put on the road in 2021 in a smaller rescue truck after the department’s heavy rescue truck was curbed and auctioned off.

The truck’s hydraulics were used to power the old jaws of life.

Council member Lisa Ruggiero was the only council person at that time who voted to not get rid of the truck.

She says hearing Timerman’s concerns made her think, I told you so

“I’ve always been very pro-public safety and that is why I really wanted to make sure that the city had a rescue truck again to be able to respond to these calls,” she said.

Council member Sarah Compo Pierce says she’s concerned that the tools aren’t working as they should, but she still stands by her decision to take the heavy rescue truck off the road.

“We were told at the time before that decision was made that this was the type of tool that most fire departments were moving toward. It was more efficient. It was a better tool to use,” she said.

Timerman says city residents shouldn’t be worried that they won’t have any of these tools on hand because their daily battery checks have made it easier to find a problem before they leave the station and they have adapters that can be plugged into a power supply to make the tools work.