After what could be 20 years of planning, a boat will be used to provide fire protection services to the islands and mainland shoreline properties of Rainy Lake.
The 23-foot Lake Assault boat is custom designed for local use and is now being rigged at the International Falls Fire Hall.
The boat is owned by the Rural Fire Protection Association, and once ready, will be docked and ready for operation by the members of the International Falls Fire Department.
The boat will be paid for by a $90,000 loan for half the cost of the boat, and the other half from RFPA reserves. The loan will be repaid by RFPA members whose property could benefit from it, notes Dana Hartje, RFPA office manager. It will be repaid in annual installments over five years at a 3-percent interest rate.
The owners of all the islands in the United States and within Koochiching County will be billed, starting in June, $90 per year for coverage, the same as other RFPA members.
Fire Chief Adam Mannausau said Lake Assault builds many designs and the one selected fits the needs of the community.
“It has the No. 1 capacity to move people we need to move,” he said. “We can put a fair amount of firemen on it.”
He said the boat has a landing door on the bow, which provides easier access to islands and rocky shorelines for firefighters, equipment, and even an all-terrain vehicle — if the situation became desperate.
Mannausau said a couple weeks ago he’d only been out in the boat once, and that was on a smooth day, something Rainy Lake doesn’t always offer. The boat is heavy enough and has more than enough power to handle Rainy’s rough water, he said.
Specifications provided by Hartje show the boat has two 175 horse power 25-inch shaft counter rotating Suzuki four-stroke outboards.
The outboard motors are controlled by computer, allowing them to move independently of one another: One can be in forward and the other in reverse, adding to better maneuverability, Mannausau said.
An upgrade included a joy stick system that allows for nibble maneuvering and easier control, he added.
Other upgrades include an infrared camera to assist in navigation at night and during poor visibility and the most recently updated electronic charts. In addition, it comes with a fire pump and deluge nozzle, allowing water to be sprayed from the lake.
Mannausau said the boat should be seen as a multi-use tool, to be used for fires, as well as in medical emergencies, search and rescues, and recoveries, and assisting multiple agencies.
“We are able and willing to assist Voyageurs National Park, the Sheriff’s Department, Customs and Border Patrol — whatever agency needs us, we can assist.”
The boat will add to the ability to manage fires on mainland properties more easily accessed by a boat, than a fire truck, he said.
It could even be used on a hazardous material response by the local regional team, he said.