Pugwash Fire Department

Back in the day, fire departments would respond to one fire after another.

But now, the Pugwash department is seeing an increase in water rescue calls, and the members are hoping to add to their fleet with a rescue boat.

The idea for the boat, says Darren Clark, has been floating around for well more than a decade, but now the department is looking at acquiring one, hopefully sooner rather than later.

“Year over year we’re seeing the number of incidents we’re called to growing,” said Clark, one of three firefighters on a rescue boat committee. “We are seeing more and more personal crafts and pleasure crafts, and we are seeing the lack of our own ability to get involved.”

The department currently has 34 members, and they respond to about 60 to 70 calls for assistance each year. Those calls can range from fires to motor vehicle collisions, to medical assist, to water rescues.

“About 20 per cent of our calls are water rescues or assistance,” said Clark. “That might not sound like a lot, but they are unlike a call for a structure fire. The reality is when someone goes in the water, with our currents, tides, and winds, there can be an immediate danger to life. Someone needs to get out there quickly.”

Clark, who sits on the committee with Ron Betts and Alex Mundle, says the department is looking to purchase a hard shell, inflatable boat big enough to send out three rescuers, with room for patients. Most of the firefighters in the department are certified medical first responders, which Clark says works to their advantage in the rural setting.

He said the committee has reached out to the Canadian Coast Guard for recommendations, and have been doing research as to pieces other departments have.

It’s estimated the type of rescue boat the department is looking at will cost around $80,000.

Clark presented to Cumberland County council recently, and is hoping to have some good news come out of the municipality’s budget deliberations. He pitched cost-sharing on the boat, and the department has been actively fundraising for a few years now.

Proceeds from the annual mackerel fishing tournament recently have gone to the project, and the department has launched a GoFundMe page.

“Ideally we would have liked to have had the boat yesterday,” Clark said. “And certainly with council, we know money is tight. But we need something. We’d love to have it this year.”

While the department doesn’t have their own boat just yet, there are others in the area who could respond, including those from Prince Edward Island. But, Clark says, the response times aren’t ideal – those responding from the island could take at least 75 minutes to respond.

There are Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary boats available in Pugwash, Northport, and Wallace, as well. When available, the Pugwash firefighters have utilized pleasure and personal water crafts.

“At the end of the day, there’s a real need. It’s not like we don’t have the rescue services – we have the auxiliary coast guard with fishermen, but we have the expertise in open water rescue,” said Clark. “We have people now with the commitment who want to get involved. With a rescue boat, we would have the immediate ability to prevent lives lost in our area.”

For anyone wishing to donate to the rescue boat, the GoFundMe page can be found online at https://bit.ly/2uUjZWT.