By Alyssa Schnugg
When heavy rains caused local flooding in the spring of 2019, it became ever so clear that the Lafayette County Fire Department needed a way to reach victims of floods and other water emergencies.
Thanks to the generosity of Lafayette County citizens, the fire department was able to purchase two new boats and other equipment to respond to those emergencies.
According to Lafayette County Fire Coordinator Wes Anderson and Chief of Operations Stephen Wood, the department’s command staff and fireboard decided to ask the community to help the department raise the funds for the two boats through a mail fundraising drive.
The citizens donated about $43,000 and the department purchased a Rescue One Connector boat for search and rescue, mainly used on large bodies of water, and an inflatable surface/swift water boat for surface, flood and swift-water operations.
The equipment will be used for all water hazards including overturned boats, submerged cars, and swift water/ surface water events. The boats will also be available for mutual aid to surrounding counties, Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team deployments and Mississippi Task Force deployments.
The boats have been called out twice since their purchase in April. Both times were to Sardis Lake for overturned boats.
Anderson and Wood said the department has standard operating procedures in place, with each boat having its own qualifying set of standards. Each firefighter will have to have met those standards before entering into any water rescue operation.
Basic boater’s education required by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is the first step. Other courses mirror the water rescue course taught by the Mississippi Fire Academy.
Future fundraising efforts will focus on acquiring medical response equipment, Anderson said.