Firefighters upgrade equipment thanks to hefty donation

Assistant Chief Pat McGuire and Captain Ryan Foley with Canaan Fire Company’s new battery-powered extrication tools.

Riley Klein

Firefighters upgrade equipment thanks to hefty donation

NORTH CANAAN — Canaan Fire Company purchased new extrication tools thanks to Ben Wolhfert’s generosity.

Wolhfert donated $15,000 to the volunteer fire crew in 2023. Months of diligent research and multiple product demos later, the firehouse has upgraded equipment.

Chief Mike Foley, Assistant Chief Pat McGuire, and Captain Ryan Foley stopped by Wolhfert’s home on Tuesday, May 14, to thank him for the contribution.

The new battery-powered tools are made by Holmatro and serve a critical, often life-saving purpose for rescue teams. Otherwise known as the jaws of life, extrication tools are used to cut, pry and spread open metal surfaces, most commonly in car wrecks.

The two tools work together with one operating as the “cutter” and the other as the “spreader.” Captain Foley said the ease of use with the new models offers “really quick deployment” when responding to emergencies.

“It’s replacing a portable hydraulic pump with hoses, and actually these have more cutting and spreading power,” he said.

“It’s amazing how much faster they are, and obviously more powerful,” said Assistant Chief McGuire, adding that “the battery on them lasts approximately 45 minutes” while in use.

A former member of the Canaan Fire Company from 1989 to 1994, Wolhfert was excited to see the new tools when the firefighters came by his house. The tool being replaced was in operation when Wolhfert was on the crew.

“Holy $#!& these things have changed,” remarked Wolhfert. “I’m so happy I got that for you guys. Those are gonna save some lives.”

Wohlfert said he spent a lot of time at the firehouse as a child when his father was on the crew. His grandfather was assistant chief of Canaan Fire Co. in the 1970s, so firefighting runs in the family.

He said the inspiration to donate funds for new extrication tools came from an early memory he has. As a young child, he witnessed the jaws of life used in Torrington to save someone from a car crash.

“It just stuck in my mind,” said Wolhfert. “It’s incredible.”

Chief Foley noted it has been decades since the company received a donation of this size from an individual. Without Wolhfert’s generosity, Foley said the department was “nowhere near” financially ready to replace its extrication gear.

“We needed the upgrade,” said Foley.

When asked if the donation came at a good time, McGuire responded, “They always come at a good time.”

Captain Ryan Foley shows the 28-inch spread of the new extrication tool as Ben Wohlfert gets a feel for the 57-pound “cutter” tool.Riley Klein

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