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River Firefighting Vessel FEMA Grant Approved
“The one area left unprotected is now protected,” Williams to told Huntington City Council at its Monday, Aug. 26 meeting. The vessel will have three fire fighting canyons and will be the only one within a 100 mile area.
Councilman David Ball , a retired firefighter, helped too, noting that one of his campaign goals was to obtain more grant monies for the HFD. Ball explained that the currently utilized boat has little usefulness beyond a “recovery” mission.
Previously, the department had asked for an enlarged floating capacity since the current vessel has limited space and launch capacities.
Williams indicated that the upgrade will add zero dollars to the firefighting budget.
The Mayor said in a news release, "“The Port of Huntington is the largest inland water port in the nation. The amount of commerce that is shipped on the Ohio River through our city has millions of dollars of economic impact for the Tri-State Region. Because the Port of Huntington is the largest inland water port in the nation, it is imperative that the City of Huntington’s Fire Department be equipped to properly protect our waterways from any fire, hazardous spill, or catastrophic event. Our City’s greatest unprotected risk has now been removed.”
“We thank Congressman Rahall for assisting us in assuring that our City is finally afforded protection on our waterways. Our citizens are again better protected because of the Congressman’s diligent efforts," Williams said.
Ball gave credit to Police Chief Skip Holbrook for a “happenstance” suggestion on finding grant money.
The boat will be 35 ft. long, 9 ft. wide and uses two 300-hp outboard engines. The boat will have a top speed of about 35 knots or 40 mph. It features a separate engine that powers a Hale pump with a 1500 gallon per minute rating, firefighting capable with three water cannons and foam capabilities which cause less water damage and are used to extinguish flammable liquids.
The boat will have a sealable cabin with positive air presser, this allows operation in chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, explosive, (CBRNE) atmosphere and can monitor, detect, and identify various gasses.
The boat will feature radar and sonar units, a Forward Looking Infer-Red (FLIR) camera that can see at night and also works like a thermal imaging camera, a stable platform for dive rescues complete with dive gear storage and air supply area, an EMS work area with a patient bench, onshore firefighting assistance by supplying water through hoses to firefighters or supplying fire trucks with water hundreds of feet away, and the ability to put police, fire, and EMS on the same vessel at the same time.
Currently, the HFD has a 20 year old rescue boat pulled to the river by an aging truck. Although firefighters assisted by marine facility donations built it to rescue specifications, it’s not physically big enough to withstand high lapping waves. There’s no cabin. Weather determines whether there is a launch.
“We’re on a wing and a prayer”, Sheets said in a March 20 article. “Still, in any other crisis circumstance, I’ve never seen the firefighters hot put 110% forward.” http://www.huntingtonnews.net/57971
Sheets noted the department’s water rapid response time meet critical standards. HFD from the downtown station respond to boating accidents, bridge jumper reports, or a vessel stalled in the water.
As Chief Eastham told council members Thursday, June 7, the river cargo contains hazardous materials, such as liquefied petroleum gases. The proposed vessel would have firefighting, rescue and haz-mat capabilities. “We are going to have deployable inflatable boats to handle a catastrophic circumstance, such as an airplane ditching in the river or a sinking pleasure craft with a lot of people to bring to shore.