New boat adds to the region's emergency response on river
HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington Fire Department on Thursday celebrated its newfound ability to to deal with emergencies on the Ohio River by dedicating its new firefighting vessel.
The fire department received a $569,100 federal Port Security grant to purchase the boat, which will serve as a regional response vessel along 64 miles of the Ohio River between the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam near Gallipolis Ferry and the Greenup Locks and Dam. This stretch is part of the Port of Huntington Tri-State, which is the largest inland port in the United States.
The vessel, which is 36 feet in length, is equipped with multiple features to assist in response to rescue operations and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive incidents. It has a climate-controlled pilothouse to provide a toxic-free area, dive/rescue door to easily bring victims onboard, chemical warfare agent detectors, fire-suppression system capable of 1,500 gallons per minute, GPS-enhanced radar and thermal imaging equipment, Forward Looking Infrared camera, and on-board radio system with multi-agency capabilities.
No other entity with capabilities similar to this vessel is within the central pool of the port.
"We have the ability to serve this waterway," Mayor Steve Williams said. "This was not possible before."
He noted the chemical spill disaster in Charleston in January as an example of what Huntington needs to be prepared to face.
"If something like that happens here, now we can go right into the teeth of the problem and be able to respond to that," Williams said. "Emergency preparedness. A city is never able to do quite enough, but you have be able to make preparations in advance. For that purpose, we are proud to have another company as part of our fire department."
The boat is called the Hartz-Booth Memorial Vessel (Marine Co. 1), named after Lt. Leonard Hartz and firefighter William Ernest Booth, who died while trying to save the lives of three young boys on the Ohio River in 1948. Thursday marked the 66-year anniversary of the accident.
Maurice Hartz, who was 19 months old when his father Leonard died, christened the boat.
During the dedication, David Glick of the B'nai Shalom congregation read a Jewish mourning prayer in honor of Hartz, who was the only Jewish member of the Huntington Fire Department. Rev. John Gallagher of the St. Michael Parish in Vienna, West Virginia, grandson of former Fire Chief John Gallagher and nephew of Booth, gave the blessing of the fleet. Huntington High School senior Josh Matthews performed taps in honor of Leonard Hardtz and Booth.
Firefighters will receive training for the vessel from the boat manufacturer and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Huntington Fire Department is in charge of the additional maintenance for the boat. The department was required to make a $127,000 in-kind contribution as part of the grant requirement, which can go toward training and fuel for the vessel. Bryan Chambers, communications director for the city of Huntington, said these are costs the department would incur anyway.
Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham said he wanted everyone to know the significance of all the vessels on the river, including the Huntington Police department vessel, the Ashland Police Department vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Ceredo Fire Department vessel and the Kenova Fire Department vessel.
"This is a community event, not just a Huntington event," Eastham said. "It also shows the close inner workings of all these agencies and the way we all work together ... we are a team."
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