Odessa Fire Department History

Established in 1927

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"Jaws of Life - The Gift

  The very first "Jaws of Life" used in Texas was a Gift from Mr. & Mrs. Nojem & Edith Libson


          On January 11th, 1972, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Mr. Nojem Libson was driving East on 4th street when another vehicle headed South on Muskingum ran a red light and crashed into Mr. Libson's driver's side door. This collision pinned him into the bucket seat of his Pontiac Lemans. Mr. Libson suffered a fractured pelvic bone and was bleeding internally. The effects of traumatic shock, internal bleeding and the pain was leaving Mr. Libson terrified as he waited to see if anyone could get him out of the car.

          During this time there were not any "Emergency Medical Services" in operation in Odessa. The private ambulance service were not trained in vehicular rescue much less had the proper tools to extricate accident victims that were unfortunate to get pinned into the wreckage. The Odessa Fire Department at this time did not respond to car wrecks unless they were on fire and did not enter into the "Emergence Medical Services" until 1973.

          The ambulance attendant was a small man and Mr. Libson weighed 250 lbs.  The attendant later told Mrs. Libson that he had to sit in the passenger seat next to Mr. Libson and by putting Mr. Libson's right arm around his own shoulder was able to lift enough that people who were standing outside the car on the passenger side could then help to lift him over the gear shift and out of the car.

          He arrived at the emergency room still conscious and in severe pain. Dr. Galloway, who was working in the Emergency Room called Dr. Martinez for surgery.  They were not sure he would live. After several days in I.C.U. and a long 3 month stay in the hospital Mr. Nojem Libson told his wife Edith, that he had plenty of time to think about his ordeal and fear of being pinned in his car's wreckage. He did not want anyone else to ever go through such a terrible experience.

           Mr. Libson's business and career was metals for he owned Permian Iron & Metals. He had trade journals that advertised new tools for cutting and bending strong metals and lifting heavy objects. This new tool was a product of the Hurst Company and they just now were about to market the tool. Mr. Libson knew that this new hydraulic tool was portable and would have been useful to free him from his car wreckage without causing further damage to his already broken body. He told his wife Edith that as soon as he gets out of the hospital he was going to purchase one of these tools for Odessa.


         During the summer of 1972, The Hurst Company brought the tool along with personnel to demonstrate to the Odessa Firefighters the proper use of the tool known as the "Jaws Of Life". This was the first "Jaws of Life" delivered in Texas.


Mr. Nojem Libson reading
the owner's manual for the
"Jaws of Life" as
our firefighters
are being trained it it's use.
The "Jaws of Life" has tremendous
lifting capacity that will prove
to be very useful
in future vehicle rescues.
With 10,000 lbs. of force,
steering wheels can be easily
pulled from the chest of
pined-in crash victims making
rescues much faster helping
save countless lives.
The entire roof of a vehicle
can now be removed making
for quick access and
removal of crash victims.


         At Mr. & Mrs. Nojem and Edith Libson's request it was kept secret for years who donated the Jaws of Life. Mr. Libson felt a lot of joy in giving the Jaws of Life to Odessa, and knowing that he was helping save many lives in the future.

          The exact "Jaws of Life" that were donated in 1972 were in use by the Odessa Fire Department for over 20 years. It was used to save hundreds of lives during those years. That Jaws of Life even though it still works today, has been retired from service and is on display at the Central Fire Station located at 1100 W. 2nd.