Kenai Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Prior inspects the Fire Department's recently-acquired boat at the Kenai Fire Station on Tuesday, March 17.

Kenai Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Prior inspects the Fire Department's recently-acquired boat at the Kenai Fire Station on Tuesday, March 17.

Kenai fire department acquires boat

A 25-foot long aluminum-hull boat is the Kenai Fire Department’s latest piece of equipment. On Monday the department took possession of a US Coast Guard Defender-class response boat, manufactured by SAFE Boats International, which arrived in Kenai from Haines by trailer. Fire Chief Jeff Tucker said that the new boat will allow the department to expand its operations.

“It … gives us the capability of going off-shore, out in the open waters more than our old boat did,” Tucker said. “Part of our mission here is to provide support for the airport operations plan, and with this boat we’d be able to respond to a downed aircraft out in the inlet. So this is a much better capability for that. … It has an overall capability of being in rougher waters.”

In addition to greater range, improvements that Tucker said the new boat offers over the fire department’s old boat, a 1985 19-foot long rigid-hull inflatable, include greater speed, capacity for up to 10 passengers, and an enclosed heated cabin that will provide greater protection for hypothermia patients.

“It’s definitely a fast boat,” Tucker said. “We’ll be able to get where we need to go pretty quickly.”

The boat is powered by two Honda engines, which Tucker said will propel it to 40 nautical miles per hour.

Tucker said that the boat was previously used by the Coast Guard in California before being purchased by a man in Juneau. When the fire department began seeking to replace its old boat, it originally intended to get a similar rigid-hull inflatable before discovering the current boat being offered for sale on Craigslist. The $103,500 boat was purchased by Kenai using a $90,000 state grant and a $13,500 appropriation from the city’s general fund. Tucker said that the same boat new would cost approximately $375,000.

Fire department crews will receive new training to use the boat.

“This is not your fishing boat that you take out,” Tucker said.

One difference is that the boat’s increased size and weight made it a very different driving experience than the previous smaller boat.


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