It’s not often a major piece of new equipment comes with a discount of more than 50 percent, but that’s effectively what the city is getting with the new river rescue boat. The cost to the city was slashed thanks to donations from other organizations.
Those donations reflect the understanding that emergency situations don’t often stop at jurisdictional lines. The Ottumwa Fire Department has benefitted from the assistance of other public safety agencies over the years, and it has lent a hand in return. Mutual aid calls aren’t uncommon for local fire departments.
The OFD long used fishing boats for river operations, and that works in most cases. But there’s a difference between having a tool that works and one that’s made for the business at hand. So, after the department lost its boat last year during a rescue, the city decided the replacement should be designed for river rescues.
It was a sensible decision that carried a significant price tag. The boat the city settled on cost more than $50,000. That’s where the donors came in. They responded in the knowledge that getting the right equipment could mean the difference between saving someone on the Des Moines River and having to recover a body.
There are, of course, instances of squabbling between government bodies. They can be territorial, and sometimes there are questions about who really has jurisdiction over an issue. Those are the times people tend to remember.
But cooperation is at least as common, perhaps more so. We are pleased to see this was one of those times. The department’s new boat will, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, be needed outside city limits. And, when it is, the department will be there. That’s the bond and responsibility donors knew existed when they wrote the checks.
Some people may still flinch at the price tag. There’s no question this boat is not cheap. It’s a significant cost for something that may only be needed a handful of times each year. Why, some may ask, couldn’t the city have gotten along with another boat like it had before?
The answer lies in the fact the two prior boats were lost during rescues. The October 2018 rescue could easily have been a major tragedy. When the boat overturned, it sent the firefighters inside into the water. It was night, and the firefighters were hard to spot. They made it to land, but things could have ended very differently.
This isn’t just an investment in the safety of the public. It’s an investment in the safety of those who protect the public.
As with most of the department’s equipment, we’d just as soon never see this new boat be used. But, inevitably, there will come a day when it is needed. There will be a moment when someone’s life may depend on having it.
And that makes it a welcome addition for Ottumwa.