The Penticton Fire Department is looking to the community to help fund a new rescue boat for use on Okanagan Lake.
“The (current) boat has served its purpose on Skaha Lake, but it certainly hasn’t met the needs on Okanagan Lake. Just on the capacity of the lake, in the Okanagan, it can get so big and the waves can get very extreme and the conditions are significant to the point where the boat doesn’t operate as well,” said Larry Watkinson, Penticton Fire Chief.
The department is looking to increase the coverage of their marine units, after the addition of the two marine rescue personal watercraft this summer that are to be used on Skaha Lake and can also access the Okanagan River Channel.
Read more: Marine rescue gets a big jump in Penticton
Should funding from the community come through, the new marine rescue unit will be permanently stationed at the Penticton Yacht Club. The aluminum hull, duel jet powered rescue boat costs $180,000 total, but with some capital from the fire department, the amount that needs to be secured is closer to $70,000.
The Penticton Yacht Club has come to the table with Penticton Fire to discuss funding, though Watkinson said they don’t know what shape that support is going to take just yet.
“They’ve certainly been behind us championing the project trying to come up with some of the monies that are required to help get this boat into the lake for rescues,” Watkinson said.
The one-of-a-kind boat takes four months to build, making the deadline to secure the funding in February if the boat is to hit the lake for the summer season with an expected launch date in May 2017.
“If we don’t come up with the funding in February we just may not have a rescue boat on Okanagan Lake this summer,” Watkinson said.
Read more: Rescue boat funding denied by RDOS
The boat would be on the water immediately, reducing response time by doing away with launching or transporting the boat.
“That time frame is upwards of 20 minutes. So we’ll have significantly reduced response time by having the boat in the lake 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Watkinson said. “You can imagine today we’re out here at the end of December, freezing cold. If somebody drove their car into a lake or ended up going out for a boat ride for whatever reason. Getting in this water now, you’re hypothermic within minutes.”
The City of Penticton put $150,000 towards the marine rescue program, part of which went to the two new units on Skaha Lake.
“How we’ve decided to distribute that is between two lakes. So we don’t have to have one boat that serves two lakes. We want to have two marine rescue units, one in each lake,” Watkinson said.
Penticton’s coverage area for marine rescue operations in Okanagan Lake reaches out to Peachland’s rescue boat near Indian Rock, north of Naramata.
“We need a large enough boat that can handle the waves and the wind and the conditions this lake sees and also the capacity to pick up enough patients to bring them back safely to the shore,” Watkinson said.
The fire department is looking for community groups, individuals and businesses
“I certainly don’t want to be in a position where we’re having to say no, we’re not going on the lake, because the boat we have today doesn’t meet the capacity of the big waves. Although it runs fine and has been well looked after it has lasted us 30 years. The City of Penticton has looked after this boat in a very well way. It has come to the end of its lifespan and we don’t want to get into the position where we’re buying the wrong boat for our lakes,” Watkinson said.