By Rachel Wulff

RANCHO CORDOVA (CBS13) — The jaws of life are a life-saving tool that takes training.

“Getting the hands-on training is crucial to understanding how to use the equipment,” said Ben Hicks.

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Hicks is fairly new to the Sacramento Metro Fire Department.

“I was in the trucking industry before this and did it about 10 years,” said Hicks.

He was one of several new recruits on a vehicle extrication drill in Rancho Cordova.

“Sadly, we’ve lost a lot of experienced firefighters that have retired. They’ve served 20-30 years,” said Capt. Amerik Hayden, who was overseeing instruction.

With the recent rains causing an increase in crashes, there is now a push to get recruits up-to-speed before the holidays.

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“When they get on scene, they need to know how the car is going to react as they put the tools in and how they cut,” Hayden said.

Gary Kazaryan with H-M Auto Parts donated some vehicles.

“They were asking for different size vehicles, different styles, cars we were getting ready to crush, so we donated those to practice on,” Kazaryan said.

The goal of the training: Learn how to get to trapped victims more quickly.

“We need to know if the occupant is trapped, if they have a foot entrapment, how they are entangled in the car,” Hayden said. “And then stabilize the car [to] make it safe for our crews to extricate and get that victim out of there.”

Learning how to apply pressure, under pressure.  It’s on-the-job training Hicks looks forward to doing.

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“I’m much happier doing this than what I was doing prior. I had no passion for it and now I’ve found something I’m passionate about. Something I’m happy to come into work for. For me, it’s made all the difference.”