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King Foundation grants FKFD money for rescue boat

FORT KENT, Maine — The Fort Kent Fire Department will soon have a new rescue boat thanks to a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.

The fire department has been using a 14-foot, 1973 aluminum hull fishing boat for water rescues for decades.

“The old boat itself was never designed as a rescue boat,” said Fire Chief Ed Endee.

Endee assisted Zachary Voisine, a captain in the fire department, in writing the grant, which the King Foundation approved in the amount of $25,000.

The department already has received the money and members are searching for a new boat which they hope to purchase before summer.

The new vessel most likely will be an inflatable boat with an outboard motor designed for water rescues and capable of carrying 8-10 people, according to Endee.

“This will give us a very stable rescue platform for performing water rescues in varying depths of water,” he said.

The boat will assist the firefighters in rescuing people who capsize or fall out of watercraft in rivers, lakes or ponds in the St. John Valley or whose vehicles may end up in the water during accidents.

The new boat also will be available if future floods occur in the area. The FKFD used their current aluminum boat to access properties during the flood of 2008.

“We checked for people and made sure everybody was out of their homes during the flood,” Endee said.

Firefighters have not actually used the old boat to save or transport anyone since that flood, but the new boat will be ready when needed, Endee said.

“There are always people that are recreating in the river riding in boats and canoes and out there fishing on lakes in the area, so the potential is always there,” he said. “We hope we don’t have to use it, but we certainly want to be ready to perform quickly and adequately if we’re called on.”

The Fort Kent Fire Department currently is contracted to assist people living in the Fort Kent area and the towns of St. John, New Canada and Wallagrass.

The fire department also performs outdoor rescue operations in conjunction with the Maine Warden Service.

“The game wardens in this area mostly have canoes which are not conducive to water rescue and there’s not always a game warden in the area who can respond quickly,” Endee said.

He added that firefighters would be willing to bring the new boat out to help anyone who needed help in upper northern Maine.

“If somebody else calls out for assistance, we will certainly go,” Endee said.

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