MADISON, IL (KTVI) - In Illinois, the Madison Fire Department started training on their newest weapon against fires on the Mississippi Riverfront.
“On the Illinois side of the river,” said Madison Fire Chief Jeff Bridick. “There’s nothing that compares to this boat.”
Firefighters, paramedics and divers from Madison, U.S. Steel and St. Louis City Fire Departments helped each other fasten their flotation vests. A pilot from the vessel’s builder, Lake Assault Boats, fired up the twin engines. And everyone held on.
First responders from both sides of the Mississippi started training on Madison’s brand-new $350,000 fire boat.
“The boat was purchased through Port Security Grant through the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA,” Bridick pointed out.
Special doors let the boat pull right up to a docking location, letting rescuers get victims to ambulances more quickly and safely. Small ladders built into the sides of the boat let divers get in and out of the water without having scale, or fall over, the side of the boat. Rescuers often had to cancel searches for victims in the river when the sun goes down. Things could be different with technology called Forward-Looking Infrared.
“With the FLIR, we’re going to be able to operate at night,” Bridick explained. “And with that, we also have searchlights on the vessel.”
With all the advanced technology such as satellite navigation and color weather radar, there is one thing to remember. This is still a fire boat, with the same mission as any fire truck.
“There’s a lot of industry along this river that doesn’t have the ability to fight fires from the river,” Bridick said. “And, this is just another tool to do that with.”
This vessel may have been purchased by the Madison Fire Department. But, the chief said it is dedicated to the entire community and open for training and missions to every fire department that touches the water.
“It’s communities from the mouth of the Illinois River to just a little bit north of Chester (Illinois),” Bridick said. “So, roughly 70 miles of waterway. It's just another tool that's going to help industry as well as the residents of the communities here."
The boat may have a ton of safety and rescue features. But, it does not have a name. The Madison Fire Department is open to suggestions. Post yours on our FOX2 Facebook page.