The Elmira Fire Department has a new rescue boat, courtesy of a partnership with Chemung River Friends and a grant from the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes.
Jim Pfiffer, Executive Director of Chemung River Friends said that as more people make use of the river for recreation, the fire department needs to have adequate resources to ensure their safety.
On Wednesday morning, the groups conducted an on-water demonstration of the boat’s capabilities. The inflatable boat has a propless motor and will grant the fire crews the ability to get on the river more quickly, easily, and safely, than their old equipment previously allowed. Pfiffer said it can also be used to look for illegal dumping and to remove obstructions in the river.
“The river is our primary source of drinking water so we have a responsibility to help it and to keep that clean,” said Elmira Fire Department Chief Joe Martino.
Although it’s called a rescue boat, they hope to never have to use it for that purpose.
“We would prefer to never have to rescue anyone with it, only train and use it for education and looking for potential cleaning sites”, said Martino.
“What I’m hoping is, through the education, the training we do for the public, and the safe paddling classes, that nobody’s going to get in trouble on the river,” Pfiffer said. “That depends on the public using their heads, wearing life preserverers, not drinking on the water, and so on.”
The $14,000 boat, trailer, motor and equipment were financed by Chemung River Friends, the Elmira Fire Department and a grant from the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes.
In the future, Pfiffer hopes to do more training with the local fire departments, and to expand the Chemung County Task Force to both Steuben and Bradford counties.