SASKATOON -- Fire Department Prince Albert Fire Department has bought new heavy rescue equipment to improve the fire department’s ability to rescue people from accidents involving heavy vehicles and loaded trailers.

“We realized that there was a gap in our service delivery which was the heavy rescue aspect of vehicle rescue,” said Fire Chief Kris Olsen.

Olsen says there’s been an 86 per cent increase in vehicle crash calls from 2018 to 2019. The department responded to 141 in 2019, 76 in 2018 and 59 in 2017.

As of Wednesday, the department had attended 122 accident calls, a rate set to meet last year’s number, Olsen said.

All Prince Albert fire fighters will participate in two days of training to learn how to operate the new Paratech hydraulic lift tools. They are used with airbags braced on timber cribbing to lift heavy loads at the scene of an accident.

“The equipment that we had just wasn’t able to handle those loads,” said acting Fire Captain Duane Neudorf.

The new equipment will help fire fighters safely stabilize heavy equipment such as tractor-trailer units, farm machinery and coach buses up to 160,000 pounds. A passenger vehicle weighs between 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, says Neudorf.

“Incidents that brought awareness to us to take a look at our heavy rescue were accidents like the Humboldt Broncos crash and more recently we had a log truck had an incident on highway 55. Also, we look at Saskatoon were they had an incident with three semis,” said Neudorf.

The equipment can also help clean up oil and gas spills, or extricate people from vehicles.

The heavy rescue equipment cost about $10,000.