BURTON, S.C. (WSAV) — A Lowcountry firefighter’s initiative and construction skills have led her to create a new tool that could save lives.

In 2021, the Burton Fire District responded to a 35% increase in motor vehicle collisions causing injury, and a 175% increase (4 to 11) in the number of trapped occupants that required rescue

Burton Fire Department Engineer Brittany Nicotri saw that the hydraulic tools firefighters use to help get accident victims out of a vehicle don’t always have a proper grip on the dashboard to work properly.

So Brittany came up with her own. She had some help from her husband, a welding instructor at Battery Creek High School to create the metal brace. But she welded the entire apparatus herself.

The tool she made helps to lock the hydraulic in place and allow quicker access to patients.

“It allows us to gain access to the patient because when you are pinned with the dash rolled down on your legs there is no way to pull you out,” said Brittany. “We have to get the dash off of you to pull you out and start medical procedures on you.”

Brittany made a total of five rescue tools, one for each engine.

She says two engines are called to every accident scene. Now with every truck equipped, they can push the entire crushed dash up at once, protecting both front seat passengers.

“Firefighters are committed to service and are problem solvers,” stated Burton Fire District fire chief Harry Rountree. “Engineer Nicotri has once again shown that she certainly possesses both, and during these tough economic times, she found a way to improve our capability without placing more of a burden on our taxpayers. That is truly service to community and others.”

Nicotri was hired by the Burton Fire District in 2016, was selected as Firefighter of the Year just a year later in 2017, and received the South Carolina Firefighters’ Meritorious Action award for helping rescue a man trapped beneath a mobile home that collapsed on him.

Similar tools on the market now would cost about $1,500 for five.

Brittany’s version was made for a total of $150.