Bonita Springs boat comes to rescue

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A boat custom-built for Bonita Springs Fire Rescue has arrived at Station Two.

“We’ll have it in service sometime after the holidays,” said Lt. Richie Scott, who is training firefighters/emergency medical technicians on the intricacies of the new boat.

The 26-foot Twin Vee replaces the district’s 211/2-foot Boston Whaler.

The $100,000 boat is costing taxpayers $33,000. The rest was covered by a $44,258 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District and $22,900 the district got for trading in the Boston Whaler to Twin Vee in Fort Pierce, where the new boat was built.

“With the grant and the trade-in, it worked out to be very beneficial to the district,” said Bonita Fire board Chairman Steve Lohan. “The boat that we had was not serving the district well. The guys were in danger out there on that boat on a regular basis. It was not stable.”

It would have cost about $20,000 to replace the old boat’s engine. The new dual-engine boat has space to store a water pump and medical equipment and has night vision.

“Most of our calls tend to come in at night,” said Scott, adding conditions are usually rough as well. The district has answered about 50 marine calls in 2012, including medical emergencies, missing swimmers and boat fires.

Scott said the new Twin Vee is projected to last 10 years. The district used the $80,000 Boston Whaler for five years.

The district still uses its first boat, a 19-foot inflatable purchased in 1999.

Scott got approval from the board to request the grant for a new boat in early 2012, applied for the grant in the spring and got approval in the summer. Twin Vee began building the vessel on Oct. 1, the first day of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The boat will be based at Station Two on Mango Drive, off Bonita Beach Road. “We can pretty much launch wherever there’s a launch site,” said Scott, adding it takes about 15 minutes to get from the station into the water. “Most of our calls we work with the Coast Guard. We assist them. They ask for our assistance a lot of times when it’s medical.”

Bonita Fire is part of the area’s Marine Emergency Response Team, made up of other fire districts with boats. The three closest units respond to a call.

“In our district, us, Estero and Sanibel would respond to anything from Sanibel Causeway down here to here in Bonita,” Scott said.

These districts have received grant funds toward purchase of a vessel with a value greater than $2,000, according to Lee County Natural Resources, which administers the grants: City of Cape Coral Fire Department, Boca Grande Fire Department, Captiva Island Fire District, City of Fort Myers Fire Rescue, Estero Fire Rescue, Fort Myers Shores Fire District, Sanibel Fire Rescue and Upper Captiva Fire Rescue.

The Marco Island City Council recently approved purchase of a $399,983 fire-rescue boat.

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