The Bethel Volunteer Fire Department recently purchased $45,000 in new equipment, with funding from the special fire tax district started last year and a $10,000 donation from the Lions.
Purchased were four pieces of hydraulic extrication equipment - often referred to as the "Jaws of Life" - and two inflatable, stackable bags capable of lifting vehicles or even parts of buildings several feet within seconds.
The first order of business for the firefighters was thanking the community which made it possible.
"We'd have never been able to upgrade it we hadn't had that," Chief Don Love said.
Frank Van Leer, first vice president of the River Hills Lions Club, said the donation was made to make a difference in the community, and the volunteer fire unit fit that bill.
"They received $10,000 from our 2009-2010 fundraising for "Jaws of Life" equipment to help remove people from auto wrecks," Van Leer said. "In keeping with our 'we serve' motto, we respond to many (nonprofits) who apply to us for financial assistance and who make a positive impact upon the community."
The extrication tools and the inflatable bags will be used along with older equipment of the same type. The larger of the two inflatable bags canlift the largest fire truck Bethel owns more than a foot off the ground. The smaller one stacks on top, increasing the weight allowance and the distance the bags can lift.
The "Jaws of Life" equipment cuts and spreads, working quicker than older equipment and cutting cleaner.
"The stuff we had is 20 years old, and it's on the other truck," said David Long, assistant chief. "This is a new concept. It's the latest and greatest."
The new equipment also is safer, firefighters say. The bags, for instance, inflate in seconds and have secure valves that plug into breathing tanks. Air can be released quickly, and the connections are more secure than the older bags.
More additions are coming to Bethel, too. In July a new truck arrived. In several months the department expects a new service truck. Next July the department hopes to get another set of extrication equipment. Another grass truck and engine should come next summer, too.
Currently the department has four paid firefighters and 53 volunteers, with 11 trucks at three stations.
Covering 61 square miles including the Lake Wylie area, Bethel serves more than 20,000 residents and 300 businesses.