Saltwater and heavy use take a toll on water rescue crafts, according to Robert Biancheri, South Gulf Fire Rescue’s water rescue technician and trainer.
Even with perfect maintenance techniques, a wave runner should only see three to four years of service before it is retired to recreational use.
South Gulf Fire Rescue has had their existing wave runners since 2014. That is, until Biancheri drove to Panama City to pick up a brand new Yamaha FX HO in neon yellow earlier this month.
“We should be able to get a solid three or four years out of it, “ he said. They’ve become much more electronic than they’ve ever been before, with features and all the newest technology that will help us greatly.”
The fire department’s other wave runner also needs to be replaced, said Biancheri. He hopes that upcoming fundraisers might help bring in the money to accomplish this goal.
“And we need to replace our other one, as soon as possible,” he said. “To give you an example, it’s a 2014, and it’s showing.”
The new wave runner cost the fire department a little north of $20,000 – an amount that could not be deducted from their funding from the county.
Water Rescue equipment at South Gulf Fire Rescue is paid for entirely through the organization’s fundraising efforts through their associated 501-C-3.
“Our tax dollars do not support water rescue. They’re for fire budget,” Biancheri said. “So everything that you see that’s whater rescue related is by virtue of the comunity.”
It took South Gulf years to raise the funds for the equipment, and Biancheri said the fire department was on a waiting list for more than 6 months before the equipment was delivered to the dealership.
“We placed the order in November of last year,” he said. “And we took delivery of it on May 5.”
“When we asked if we could buy another one, they said they don’t have any, so we’re going to have to try to get on the waitlist as soon as possible.”
South Gulf’s Fire Chief Mike Barrett said the equipment is necessary not only for performing life-saving water rescues, but also to ensure that the fire department is trained with up-to-date technology.
“Training is the lifeblood of public safety,” he said. “We train like we fight, and we fight to win.”
South Gulf Fire Rescue will be hosting a garden and pool tour on Saturday, May 21, and their annual Butt Roast will be held on Saturday, May 28. For more information, please visit the fire department’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sgcfire.