"The new fire department boat is actually replacing a boat that was taken out of service last year," BCFD Chief Craig Millsap said. "The old fireboat was in disrepair and was in need of a new engine. On at least two occasions prior to having a fireboat there were large marina fires that resulted in multi-million dollar losses. With this piece of equipment, we could have saved much of the property lost in those fires."
The department responds to several calls every year related to drowning, boating accidents, boat fires and medical calls on Lake Allatoona. July 4th weekend resulted in three drowning incidents where dive teams were put into service to recover victims.
Acquired through the State Homeland Security Grant Program, which is administered through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the year-long process paid off. However, Millsap said, "the grant portion of the funding specifically covered only a search and rescue boat [that] did not provide for fire-fighting capabilities."
Due to this future issue where needs to add water to ground crews working marina fires or boat fires as more houseboats are present on the lake, the department added funds to the grant to be able to include fire-fighting equipment. This would "increase operational abilities on the lake," Millsap said.
"Currently, we are in the process of beginning training for all of our personnel that will teach our firefighters how to safely operate the boat," Millsap said. "The firefighters attend a two-day training class that covers one day of classroom training over the different systems on the boat, fire pump operation, boating safety, navigation and departmental operating procedures. Day two of the class is spent on Lake Allatoona with all firefighters in the class getting hands on training and actually operating the boat and pump."
The department previously had a boat in its fleet of services. The older boat, donated to the department by John Fleetwood, was a pontoon model that had been remodeled before being put into service as a fireboat. Now, emergency crews will be able to respond more quickly and effectively.
"This new boat will expand our firefighting capabilities in many ways on and around the lake," Millsap said. "The fire pump is rated at 1,250 gallons per minute, which means that we can put much more water on large marina and houseboat fires than ever before.
"With such a large pump capacity, we will also be able to supply water to ground based fire engines when fighting fires on properties near the lake. The boat is equipped with large dive/rescue doors on each side that will allow us much easier access to victims in the water for rescue purposes [and] for search operations as well."