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They Didn't Bite Off More Than They Can Chew

July 16, 1987|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

The Junior Women's Club in Diamond Bar really knows how to put on a pancake breakfast that will pull in a quick $300 for a good cause.

The nine members (down from 12 last year) are also adept at "hair-a-thons," hamburger-eating contests and just plain asking for money when they want to apply a quick fix to some community problem.

But then they took on raising $12,200 to buy a "jaws of life"--the metal-cutting apparatus that firefighters use to rescue victims of traffic accidents--and it all looked hopeless for a while.

"We thought we'd never make it," said club President Jackie Ware, as she watched the high-tech machine demolish its first car during a demonstration and celebration last week.

The club bought the equipment for Los Angeles County Fire Station No. 120 in Diamond Bar because the county said it couldn't afford it.

Diamond Bar got its jaws of life only a year after the women's club took on the project, which was far bigger than any of its members had ever attempted. They not only paid for it, but they had more than $2,000 left over to donate to a local disaster preparedness effort. And money is still coming in.

"Now we're flabbergasted. Just look what we've done," Ware said.

The project began with an appeal from Station No. 120, which ranks fourth in the county in responding to traffic collisions.

"I've probably gone on a dozen fatalities of teen-agers in just the past year," said Inspector Justin DeMello. "I'd say we average at least four serious collisions every month and time is always of the essence. The sooner we can cut into a car and start IVs (intravenous treatment), the better chance the victim will have."

Paramedic Leonard Fonts said, "In the three years I've been stationed here I've seen more fatalities than I can count because our freeways are so congested. There were many times when we needed this."

When they heard of the fire station's need, the Diamond Bar Juniors adopted it as a project. The club began raising money in familiar ways--appeals for donations, getting a day's profits from a hair salon and selling tickets for a hamburger-eating contest and pancake breakfast.

Member Linda Harris remembers that the first appeal for money produced nothing and the breakfast brought in $300.

But then a woman whose son had died in a collision sent in a check. Local clubs contributed and Christmas contributions from the public were generous. A golf tournament held jointly with the Home Improvement Assn. of Diamond Bar "put us over the top," Ware said.

"We never dreamed it would take only one year," said member Sue Sime.

Said county Fire Chief John Englund: "The citizens of Diamond Bar should be proud of this club. We owe them a great deal of thanks for making our job easier."

"This is state-of-the-art equipment," said DeMello, as he watched the jaws of life eat away at a junk car that had been brought to the fire station for the demonstration.

Two firefighters operated the machinery by starting an engine and applying first a cutter and then what looked like a giant pair of pliers that tore the roof off the old car. Nobody timed the process but it appeared to take only a few minutes.

"Our brand new machine is getting dirty," said one firefighter. "Oh well, it was going to happen soon anyway."

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