Metro firefighters learn about cars’ hidden dangers during extrication training

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STILWELL, Kan. -- Saving victims trapped inside a car is the number one goal at crash scenes. But firefighters freeing passengers from those wrecks face dangers too.

An electric vehicle involved in a crash in Indianapolis last year exploded as firefighters were preparing to rescue the victims. Investigators blamed the vehicle's lithium ion batteries.

“With the new hybrids and all the electrical cars we have to watch out for ourselves if we try to get the patient out with airbags," Kansas City Fire Captain Byrd said.

But a trainer with Holmatro Rescue Equipment said it’s not just electric vehicles firefighters have to watch out for.

“Everyone be aware on these new vehicles this piece can come flying off," Joann Tyler said during training Wednesday night at CARSTAR in Stilwell as a firefighter cut into the post near the windshield.

She also cautioned firefighters about cylinders that control things like airbags and restraint systems. They can be in different spots in newer vehicles.

“They are hidden throughout the vehicle," Tyler said. "They can be embedded in the seats; they can be embedded in headliner of the vehicle."

Firefighters from Kansas City, Shawnee, Lee's Summit, Liberty, Pleasant Valley, Birmingham, Riverside, North Kansas City, Grandview, Lenexa, Falls City and Warrensburg learned techniques that can save them valuable seconds in an emergency. The program is called First Responder Emergency Extrication, or F.R.E.E.

“A lot of the department's dont have the funding to be able to send people to training for us to be able to come in do these it makes me feel great," Tyler said.

State Farm donated the newer flood damaged vehicles for training. The National Auto Body Council and Holmatro team on the F.R.E.E. program across the country.