BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison firefighters have a new supercharged rescue vehicle at their disposal – and this one goes on the river.
The new sleek, bright red SeaArk 24-foot rescue boat was parked behind the Fire Station about two weeks ago, where a car port will be built to keep it out of the sun.
The new boat replaces the 19-year-old airboat that the department has been using.
Captain Mike Schneider said it was time to upgrade the department’s capabilities on the river.
“That older boat was still working fine and we got a good trade on it from Dave’s Marine here in Fort Madison, but it didn’t go in reverse, was loud and not as efficient as this one.”
The city will end up paying about $25,000 for the upgrade to the new rescue boat, which was also purchased from Dave’s Marine.
On the back end of the boat sits at 150-horsepower outboard motor that will give rescue personnel faster response times to emergency situations. The boat will be kept at the department, but the city still holds a slip at the marina should the boat need to be moored there.
Schneider said the motor is situated so the boat can still manuever in shallow waters, which was the strength of the airboat.
Firefighter Alex Meierotto said the boat is equipped with a large water pump to assist with river fires or boat fires. It also has room for medical gear and is GPS equipped with sonar detection capabilities.
“If we were ever to be looking for a body, this GPS equipment will help us with that search,” he said. “We also have a certified diver in the department so we can have someone in the water, too.”
Schneider said he expects the boat will last the department at least 20 years. He said even with the previous boat being in service for 19 years it still had life left in it, the department just needed something a bit quicker.
He said for most Pool 19 rescues, the department will use the Fort Madison marina, but he said now with all the entries along the river and for mutual aid, the boat will be taken by truck and put in closer to where they are needed, which will also decrease time getting to the scene.
All of the staff will be trained on driving the boat and towing it, but Schneider said most of the staff are familiar with boats.
“Most of us have had boats or been around boats, so, yeah, they will all be able to drive the boat and the truck.”