Collingwood Fire Department is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new, custom made rescue boat.
Deputy Fire Chief Dan Thurman expects the 24-foot Stanley aluminum boat will be ready and in the water by mid-August.
The boat is aluminum instead of fibreglass for durability, and will be equipped with a 300 horsepower engine as well as a water pump that can be used for fighting boat fires on the water.
It’s being built in Parry Sound by Stanley Boats, which has also built rescue boats for Innisfil and Barrie Fire Department.
The boat purchase was approved in the 2020 budget, with $90,000 set aside for its construction. A local resident who was rescued by Collingwood firefighters expressed their thanks by donating $25,000 toward the new boat.
Thurman said the front end of the boat opens up to allow rescue crews to bring kayakers and windsurfers on board.
“It’s a very versatile boat,” said Thurman. “It’s going to be able to withstand the waves and harsh conditions.”
Currently, the Collingwood Fire Department shares a Zodiac boat with the town’s Parks, Recreation, and Culture department. It’s a rigid inflatable craft with an engine, and often the town’s sailing school will use it as a coach boat.
However, Collingwood’s Fire Chief Ross Parr said the boat was fine to start with, but is inadequate for the number and severity of calls the fire department receives for marine rescues.
Last year the shared boat was actually involved in a close call that left two sailing school staff overboard during a storm. The fire department couldn’t respond to the call since their boat was the one being used by those who went overboard.
Chief Parr said there were about seven more times the fire department couldn’t respond to a 911 call because the boat was out of commission.
Also, since the Zodiac has soft sides, firefighters cannot use a pump with an exhaust to spray water at a fire without putting a hole in their boat.
Thurman said the fire department went with a custom boat to get the specifics they wanted and needed for rescues and fighting fires.
Every firefighter at the department is trained for several types of water rescues. Thurman said the OPP do have a vessel, but it isn’t always available 24/7 depending on the availability of a trained officer to man the boat.
The new fire rescue boat will be available 24/7 as the Collingwood Fire Department is staffed 24/7.
“We had 17 calls last year [for water rescues] and we really should have had more,” said Thurman. “The waterway is getting busier and we know there’s going to be more calls all the time.”
The deputy chief said fire crews can be at the boat, which will be parked at Collingwood harbour, within five-to-six minutes of receiving a call.
“It’s going to be years of using this,” he said.