Mulhurst and District Fire Department (MFD) now have a brand new search and rescue boat. The water-craft will be shared between the Mulhurst and South Pigeon Lake department, both who already share a Sea-Doo for water rescues as well.
However, there are many advantages of the boat over the Sea-Doo for rescues, including the ability to take on more passengers—a necessity for a multi-person rescue.
Fire Chief for the MFD Butch Russell explains, “If there is seven people in the water and you have a machine that only takes two people, who makes the decision to bring whom out of the water first? You don’t want to be the person to have to do that.”
The MFD was able to purchase the Sea-Doo and boat for water rescues as well as the boat lift with the generous donation of $140,000 that came from five years of donated proceeds from an annual golf tournament put on by Dave Majeski.
The new search and rescue boat has a dedication on it in memory of Larry Majeski, who passed after drowning in Pigeon Lake when he took his Sea-Doo out solo in September 2011. At that time there were no department water rescue units and members of the MFD and South Pigeon Lake fire took out their personal boats to join the search for Majeski.
Currently there are 12 firefighters between Mulhurst and South Pigeon Lake’s department trained for water rescues, and Russell plans to have as many members of his department trained as possible; especially now that there is a boat to use for rescues and training.
Assistant Fire Chief John Skinner says, “Its about time, because now we have the whole lake covered and that’s what we need.”
It wasn’t even a week ago that the MFD received a call about a boat in distress on the lake. On Saturday June 13, five boaters became stranded on Pigeon Lake when their boat’s motor broke.
A member of the department, Rick Martin responded to the call with his personal boat to tow the boaters to shore. Fifteen to twenty minutes later the thunderstorm that rolled in across Alberta started.
The new search and rescue boat will aid the MFD’s water rescues considerably, and could have aided them in a close-call rescue last summer.
“One of the camps on the north end of lake, they had three canoes go out with seven people in them and there was an offshore breeze from the north end to the south end and away they went,” says Russell. “It was a really windy day, and one of the councillors had the wherewithal to tie the three canoes together which probably kept everybody out of the water.”
“Unfortunately the organization wasn’t prudent in calling 911, it was about two to maybe three hours before they all got swept away.” The Sea-Doo was called out but the waves were too choppy to take it out and use for the rescue. Luckily, “Rick Martin was good enough to take his own boat out and he found seven people and they were quite happy,” says Russell.
Russell adds that the situation was extremely close to becoming a recovery rather than a rescue.
“It has been a long time coming,” says Assistant Fire Chief Wayne MacDonald on getting the new search and rescue boat. “We’ve been pushing for it for years.”
Wednesday June 17, the department set up the new lift for the boat at the County of Wetaskiwin Emergency Services dock at Silver Beach. The department will do more training for water rescues and search and rescue techniques with the boat in the coming weeks.
Currently the MFD is looking for recruits to join the department. Anybody interested can contact Butch Russell at 780-940-7664.