FOND DU LAC - The Fond du Lac Fire Department can now respond quicker to water rescues.
That's thanks to two new boats and a partnership with Fond du Lac's largest employer.
Two boats of Fond du Lac firefighters launched into Lake Winnebago. Something the department says it couldn't do before.
"These boats are something that we have needed for years being so close to Lake Winnebago and the river system we have in Fond du Lac,” said Erick Gerritson, Fond du Lac Fire Department.
The fire department's old rescue boat hangs from the rafters of Fire Station #1. After 20 years of use, it no longer holds air as well as it should and was not easy to use.
"When we would deploy it we would have to put it on the back of the engine and when we would get it there it would take numerous firefighters to get it off the engine and the motor was stored in a different location,” said Gerritson.
As we saw first hand these two new boats can be deployed quicker and effect a rescue faster than the old boat the fire department had.
"It's a quick deployment trailer, we slide one boat off and we winch down the other and we can have both boats in the water in just a couple of minutes,” said Troy Haase, Fond du Lac Fire Department.
The boats are in service thanks to Mercury Marine being in the fire department's backyard. Mercury Marine offers a discounted price on its boats and motors to fire departments around the world. The two inflatable boats, motors and trailer cost the city roughly $24,000. About half the retail price.
"Obviously with so much water near by, this is a great opportunity for us to help the community,” said Steve Fleming with Mercury Marine.
As we saw and felt after being pulled from the lake as practice victims, the new boats can be deployed in any rescue situation.
"We use them for hazmat, we use them for body recovery, we use them for search and rescue and for helping people get out of the water,” said Haase.
And the crews training with us for real emergencies, say the partnership will pay off if it saves a life.
"Time is of the essence with rescue, all the time,” said Gerritson.
The boats can carry between eight and twelve firefighters. They can also be used year round.
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