WILKES-BARRE — As part of a plan to improve his department’s equipment, Fire Chief Jay Delaney is seeking a new rescue craft to replace the river boat the city has had for 35 years.
Delaney said Tuesday that when he returned as fire chief in 2009, he went to work preparing a capital improvement plan, and a new rescue craft was near the top of the list.
Mayor Tom Leighton said he has agreed to advertise for bids for a boat, estimated to cost $20,000 to $30,000. City Council will have to approve the purchase.
“Upgrading the river rescue craft for the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department is a prudent step to ensure not only the safety of our emergency responders, but also the general public,” Leighton said. “As the River Common hosts more organized events and Wyoming Valley residents engage in fishing and kayaking on the river with increasing frequency, it is necessary for us to have an effective rapid response on the river.”
Delaney said the city will keep the current boat as a back-up. “We really need to upgrade,” Delaney said. “We want to keep our firefighters as safe as possible, and we want to give the public every possible chance to be rescued.”
Delaney said the current boat was recently used to rescue a man from the Susquehanna River. The boat, he said, is used 12 to 20 times a year for river rescues and it was used in September 2011 to transport citizens during flooding.
“Now, with so much increased activity on the river, we feel it is critical to upgrade our rescue craft,” Delaney said. “We have more events, like Riverfest and the dragon boat races, many more kayaks and boats use the river and fishing has increased as well.”
Delaney said the bids are being advertised and will be opened at City Hall on May 20 at 10 a.m. He said the boat will be funded by the city’s federally funded Community Development Block Grant budget and not from the general fund.
According to the specifications, the new boat will be wider and have more stability. Delaney said two or three firefighters will be able to be in the boat for rescue missions because the maximum capacity will be 1,100 pounds.
A diver’s platform will be on the front of the new boat to make it easier to get rescued victims in the boat, Delaney said. The new craft will include a larger motor, aluminum construction for durability, a design that allows it to float through shallow water and a marine radio to improve transmissions.
Delaney said all of the city’s 62 firefighters and eight paramedics are trained in river rescue. He said the new vessel will be much faster than the current boat.