Volkswagen donated three of its passenger sedans to the Chicago Fire Department Training Division to help rescue teams learn how to get into the vehicles after they’ve crashed.
At a demonstration Thursday, fire rescue squads annihilated one of the brand new vehicles with the hydraulic Jaws of Life from Hurst Tools. A firefighter walked up and smashed the passenger window, sending shattered glass to the ground. As the firefighters ripped apart the door, the hinges popped and the metal began to bend. Within 20 minutes, the entire roof was torn back leaving the interior exposed.
The three donated Passats were among 188 donated to fire training academies all over the nation. The brand new modern vehicles represent the sturdy and safety-enhanced cars on the road today, officials said.
Commander Richard Rosado of the Chicago Fire Department stressed the importance of getting new cars to train with, because as companies develop their cars to be stronger, firefighters must be able to respond just as quickly and efficiently as they do with older models.
“We get most of our training cars from the junk yards,” he said. “They’re old models and don’t compare to the strength of the new cars that we deal with on the road today.”
Not only are the junkyard cars out of date, they can also be hazardous for training purposes. The vehicles come to the station loaded with junk and garbage and the firefighters have to be cautious of harmful objects like needles.
Rosado said the Chicago Fire Department sees up to four or five pin-ins a day where extrication from the Jaws of Life is needed. Due to the frequency in which this tool is used, practicing rescues is dependent on new vehicles where the hinges and steel that protect the people in an accident are much stronger today than in makes and models in years past.
Tom Keefe, a spokesman for Volkswagen, said the steel in its cars is some of the strongest on the road.
“The steel is so strong that they can’t just cut through it,” he said. “They literally have to crush the door hinges until they’re small enough to pop out of place.”
Joe Parnell, another Volkswagen representative, watched from the crowd as the door and roof were ripped off. He joked that it wasn’t easy to watch, but it was for a good cause.
“It’ll really help the firefighters learn and prepare for emergencies,” he said. “We’re thankful for the dedication of our first responders and we want to help out in every community.”
Hannah Cole contributed to this story