Skagway fire fighters show off their award and “Jaws of Life” tools before attacking all the junked cars at the staging area. JB

SFD wins state Rescue of the Year award for saving railroad workers

The Skagway Fire Department recently was the recipient of the Alaska Rescue of the Year Award that is annually bestowed upon a fire department for outstanding efforts that contributed to saving a life by using the (Hurst) Jaws of Life.
The department received the award for its rescue of victims from a work train derailment on Sept. 3. A Carcross man died in the accident, but rescue personnel from Skagway, Carcross, Tagish and Whitehorse were able to save the lives of three other rail workers.
The award was started nationally in the mid 1970s and is awarded by the Hurst vendor in each state. Initially if a department takes part in an extraordinary rescue using Hurst tools they can be entered into the program provided their entry meets with all the criteria, said a SFD press release.
“This year I entered the Skagway Fire Department into the program regarding the efforts that were taken to free trapped individuals from the recent train accident on the White Pass railway near Log Cabin,” said Fire Chief Mark Kirko.
“Our rescue personnel used all of our department’s Hurst tools during the six-hour extrication efforts to free the individuals from the train wreckage.”
The award was handed out during the annual fall firefighters conference held in Fairbanks. The department that receives the state award is then entered into a national award program and eventually one department in the nation is recognized nationally for their life saving efforts. Skagway’s entry will be reviewed by a national committee from the Hurst Corp. If it wins, all members involved will be invited to a national ceremony in their honor and will receive national awards. Hurst also awards the national winner with thousands of dollars in rescue tools.
The crew also needed a “saws-all” to get through the thicker sections of steel in Engine 114, Kirko said. Recently, fire rescue personnel honed their skills on a variety of discarded vehicles at the city staging area before they were piled on the scrap metal pile. See photos below.

Left, a Hurst ram tool is used to push the front end dash area of a vehicle away from an imaginary driver whose ankles are pinned, and right, the crew cuts the A post in a van before hauling away the top (below). JB