The Woonsocket Fire Department's new rescue boat — faster, tougher, notably lacking holes — got rave reviews at the Blackstone River Bikeway boat ramp near Davison Avenue this morning.
Navigant Credit Union donated $5,500 to the WFD for the red inflatable craft, which will allow the department to respond to emergencies on the Blackstone River without having to rely on mutual aid.
WFD Captain Tim Walsh, a Navigant Credit Union member and childhood friend of Tim Draper, Navigant's VP of Marketing, contacted his friend in April to see if Navigant was interested in helping the fire department replace their old rescue boat.
That aged 12-year-old craft was under-powered and prone to punctures whenever it bumped into something, said WFD Private John Polacek. "It was more of a recreational vehicle," he said. He pointed out the new boat's tough rubberized material, which he said would hold up much better than their previous boat.
Walsh said that last year, a rescue call on the Blackstone River underlined their need for a replacement boat. The current was too strong for their craft, he said, and the WFD had to rely on boats from the North Smithfield Fire Department and Cumberland Fire Department to make the rescue. "We couldn't even make it up the river," Walsh said.
Walsh said he and Draper worked for about five months to arrange the donation and purchase, but he gave all the credit to Draper. "He gets all the kudos. He worked hard," Walsh said.
Draper said one of the details that worked in their favor was that thanks to a FEMA program, they were able to purchase the craft from Mercury Marine at cost.
Details aside, Navigant CEO Gary Furtado said the decision to help out the firefighters was an no-brainer. "It was an easy decision for us to help support the community," he said.
The new boat will be housed at Woonsocket Fire Department Station 3, assigned to Engine Company 3.