Grant funds Vail rescue tool |

Grant funds Vail rescue tool

The Vail Fire Department gives a demonstration to supporters using the jaws of life and a new cutting tool the received recently due to donations Wednesday in Vaii.
Justin Q. McCarty |

Four facts

What: A new “rescue tool” for cutting apart cars.

Who has it? The Vail Fire Department.

Why is it needed? To cut through stronger steel used in modern cars.

Who paid for it? Fireman’s Fund Insurance, through the Neil - Garing Insurance agency in Glenwood Springs.

VAIL — Cars have never been more safe than they are today. It’s hard to believe there’s a downside to that fact, but safer, stronger cars can be harder for rescuers to cut apart at accident scenes.

The Vail Fire Department responds to accidents on Vail Pass, so its crews find frequent need for “jaws of life” tools. The older tools are increasingly useless in accidents involving newer, stronger cars.

“The new steel will just bend the blades in the old ones,” Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller said.

To help solve the need for better equipment, a local agent for a national insurance company provided grant money — $5,800 worth — to buy a new rescue tool for the department.

The grant was part of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company’s Heritage Program, which takes a portion of the company’s profits and funnels it back toward grants to local fire departments and other agencies. The company’s grants are allocated to agents and are based on the amount of business those agents write in their communities.

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Karen Walter, of Fireman’s Fund, said the grants are an evolution of a company program that began not long after the company was founded in the 1860s. That program first provided money to widows and orphans of fallen firefighters. But after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the company changed the program to provide grants to agencies.

“We wanted to be more engaged with agents and communities,” Walter said.

John Neil, one of the partners in Neil-Garing Insurance of Glenwood Springs, said his agency writes a lot of Fireman’s Fund policies in Vail and the valley, and decided that this year’s grant money would go to Vail’s fire department.

The grant for the new tool has already been put to good use. Miller said the department has had the equipment for just a couple of months and has already used it several times.

He also told the group gathered on a rainy Wednesday afternoon how much the department appreciates the grant.

“We’re a town department,” Miller said. “To buy this, we’d have had to add it to our annual budget request.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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