Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  St. Louis fire officials say they’ll be more prepared thanever to make timely rescues on the Mississippi River once two new boats arrive.

Fire chief Dennis Jenkerson says that’s good because it happens more often than one might think.

“We’re on the river about four-to-five times a month with emergency calls,” said Jenkerson. “There’s two teams — Engine House 11 and Squad 1 — that comprise the marine task force. They’re the ones who are involved with the river rescues.”

U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan was instrumental in securing most of the fund, about $3 million, for a total of three projects that will drastically improve the response time and effectiveness of emergency rescues on the Mississippi, from the Jefferson Barracks bridge all the way north to the Alton Locks & Dams.

“I was so proud to get this job done,” Carnahan said. “It is a tough environment right now for city and state offices, with budget cuts and reduced tax revenues.”

In fact the first project secured by the fire department, a 27-foot fire boat, was funded by the 2007 Port Security Grant administered by the Department of Homeland Security.

However, St. Louis officials were unable to come up with the necessary matching funds in time to build the craft.

Congressman Carnahan worked with FEMA and DHS to negotiate an extension, allowing the $300,000 boat to be built and delivered this fall.

Along with the boats, a self-sufficient base of operations for both the 27-footer and a new 40-foot fire boat will be developed at the former site of the Admiral just north of the King Bridge.

“We’re going to be able to lift (the boats) out of the water and protect them from the weather and the debris coming down the water,” Jenkerson pointed out, adding that will save the city thousands of dollars in repairs.

The two current boats, including the 27-foot fire boat named the “Jack Buck”, will be retained and used as backups once the new boats arrive later this year.


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