Warren VFD adds rescue boat

The Warren Volunteer Fire Department is now training on a new piece of equipment obtained in June-a 20-foot aluminum rescue boat, complete with sonar, LED lighting and communications technology.

Fire Chief Mark Wile said the department has been in need of a rescue vessel for some time.

“Many people may not realize that our district includes six to eight miles of shoreline along the Ohio River,” he said. “It’s not a fire boat. There’s no water pump on board, but we can use it for river rescues and for mutual aid responses with other departments along the Ohio and Muskingum rivers.

As an example, Wile recalled a past incident in which Warren VFD responded to a barge on the Ohio where a worker was experiencing an apparent heart attack.

“We were able to pick the victim up and transport him to the hospital in our previous rescue boat,” he said, noting that vessel was much smaller than the new boat.

“It was more of a fishing boat design, and it needed a new motor, so we talked about it and decided to apply for a grant to purchase the new rescue boat,” Wile explained.

Cost of the rescue vessel was $48,000, with $33,000 financed by a grant through the Huntington Port Tri-state, the largest inland port in the U.S.

Another $12,500 came from a U.S. District Court-approved community service payment from Marietta Industrial Enterprises related to a 2013 case in which MIE pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to report violations of its mineral processing operations permit.

Wile said the remaining $3,000 was covered by the VFD.

“We’re also spending some additional funds to install lighting and other equipment on the boat,” he said.

Dan Foy, Warren VFD’s assistant chief, is a member of the committee that was appointed to develop specifications for the new boat.

“We probably started looking into obtaining a boat about a year ago,” he said. “After we were approved for the grant we worked with Charleston Marine from Charleston, W.Va., which is a dealer for Lifetyme Boats of Jonesville, La., the company that built the boat. They specialize in this type of boat and understood what we needed.”

Foy said the VFD was able to install some of the equipment in-house, including lighting, radios and other items which saved some expense on the rescue boat. He noted that local manufacturer Mondo Polymers also donated buoys that will be used to help mark areas of the river during rescue missions.

“And the boat has a Humminbird 360-degree sonar with side scan that can scan areas beneath and on all sides of the boat,” he said, adding that sonar is especially helpful in recovery of bodies from the rivers, if needed.

Firefighter Adam McKenzie, who also served on the boat committee, said all of the VFD members are receiving training on operation of the rescue vessel.

“All of the boat maintenance and training costs will be covered by the department,” he said, adding that Warren tries to conduct boat training exercises at least once a week.

Wile said the rescue boat is currently stored at Warren VFD’s Station 2 along Ohio 676, but the department is looking to possibly develop some docking facilities on the river in the future.

For now, when needed, the boat will be launched from area boat ramps at Indian Acres Park or the Williamstown boat ramp.