‘Harum-scarum’ boat

'Harum-scarum' boat

Gilroy
– The Gilroy Fire Department wants to make an $11,000
return.
Inside Sunrise Fire Station sits a motorized 14-foot Zodiac
rescue boat, never used, three weeks old. It’s designed for making
stillwater rescues, say, if a low-lying area in Gilroy floods and
leaves residents stranded.
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – The Gilroy Fire Department wants to make an $11,000 return.

Inside Sunrise Fire Station sits a motorized 14-foot Zodiac rescue boat, never used, three weeks old. It’s designed for making stillwater rescues, say, if a low-lying area in Gilroy floods and leaves residents stranded.

Before it can be put to use, each firefighter would need to undergo training, just like they would for an engine or ladder truck.

It’s been at least seven years since the last time Gilroy residents were rescued from floodwaters. Until 1993, the department had a swiftwater rescue team to operate in areas such as Uvas Creek.

The GFD hasn’t actually paid for the boat yet, and is holding the paperwork in hopes it never will.

“We are in the process of trying to return that to the vendor that we purchased it from,” Chief Dale Foster said. “We have re-evaluated the need for a motorized rescue boat of that size and type. It was purchased under a previous administration, and I’m not thinking that this is something the department needs, and so we’re trying to return it.”

The Zodiac wasn’t just a harum-scarum purchase by former interim Chief Hugh Holden, he said. There was concern that flooding that wreaked havoc in years past could return in 2005.

“This was anticipated to be a heavy rainy season, and it has been,” Foster said. “We’ve been lucky, it’s been stretched out. And Uvas is close to spilling over, so there was speculation there could be flooding in Gilroy, and what are we going to do about it?”

Rainfall currently is 130 percent of the normal 19.03 inches each season. Since July 1, 2004, Gilroy has received 22.20 inches of rain. The March 4 total during a normal year would be about 14 inches, with a season total of 19.03 inches, according to statistics from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The Zodiac boat is not suited for rushing floodwaters, though, or an overflowing Uvas Creek.

“In retrospect, we’ve looked at likelihood of the (stillwater rescue) program… and decid(ed) to research it a bit more instead of just going out and buying a boat,” Foster said.

There are a number of other agencies and fire departments in the county with equipment, such as life rafts, that Gilroy Fire “could get in pretty ready fashion,” he said. The GFD will look at the possibility of flooding, where it would occur, and if it would be of the still- or swiftwater variety in Gilroy before determining whether and what kinds of boats are needed.

“If there was a problem in a trailer park, we could find a craft that would help us do that, and be cheaper, and easier to use,” Foster said.

Foster did not know how long it will be before the department can return the Zodiac, but said he is working with the city’s purchasing department and the boat vendor.

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