As more boaters take to Marsh Park’s lake, the Fairfield Fire Department is stepping up its boat rescue training.
A few members of the department’s staff are either on the county or statewide water rescue team, but Fairfield fire Deputy Chief Randy McCreadie said all 27 full-time in-line firefighters and paramedics starting July 1 will be trained over the next several weeks.
“We want to make sure our people are prepared to do that with the increased boat traffic on Marsh lake, and we want to make sure that we are well prepared in the event of an emergency,” he said.
McCreadie is one of the Fairfield firefighters trained in water rescues.
“Now we’re adding more people to that list that weren’t necessarily on (the Butler County Technical Rescue Team or Ohio Task Force 1),” he said. “So we’re going to take our knowledge and experience in doing these things and pass it on to the younger career firefighters and help them get up to speed with operating a boat and how to affect a rescue.”
Fairfield transitioned Marsh Park lake to a pay-to-play lake, allowing hand-powered boats on the water for the first time. Boating on Marsh lake was written into the park’s master plan several years go, and Parks and Recreation Director Tiphanie Howard said her staff “decided to pull the trigger” last year.
Only five types of vessels are permitted on the lake at Marsh Park: kayaks, canoes, rowing shells, rowboats and Jon boats. All fees are being waived for the time being due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
McCreadie said department personnel will be trained on the use of the 14-foot inflatable boat, which includes a 40-horsepower onboard motor, and the nuances of a water rescue.
Firefighters will serve as the “victims” for the water rescue training and will wear the appropriate floatation and protective gear while in the water, McCreadie said. He said they’ll be trained on the technique of pulling them into the boat and out of the water, “which is not as easy as it sounds.”
The department conducted boat-handling training a few years ago “and we’re just getting back to it now,” McCreadie said. This time, they’ll incorporate 16 hours of training per unit shift for all full-time personnel. The 48 part-time personnel, who work 24 hours every six days, are not included in this training. The 27 full-time personnel work 24 hours every three days.
If more training time is needed beyond the six weekends, McCreadie said they’ll be added.
“The department is getting younger, and we’re trying to make sure all will have that knowledge and training,” he said. “These guys need to be able to get this thing out, get it out in a hurry — but safely and correctly — and get out there and help somebody.”
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