Water Rescue With a Hope and a Prayer
The call came at 7:30 this evening. A surfer was in distress off Port Howe and Pugwash firefighters were summoned for a water rescue.
Many of the volunteer department would be at the high school, part of the standing-room only crowd for the annual graduation ceremony. Yet, within a few minutes you could hear the sirens as the PFD responded.
Two trucks complete with the equipment and manpower to fight a fire, but, they were not called to a fire. The emergency called for a water rescue. Somebody was in the strait, struggling to get to shore, as winds blew him or her further and further to sea.
Given the terrain around Pugwash, you would think this to be one of the easier emergencies the department might face. Pugwash is surrounded by water… great recreational water that beckons swimmers, boaters, sail boarders, and yes, surfers in the evening as the day darkens.
But, despite the well trained and otherwise well equipped fire department, the one thing that Pugwash Fire does not have is a rescue boat.
When the alarm sounds for a water rescue, firefighters respond as quickly as ever, but deep inside they hope or pray, because there is little they can do but watch from the shore, hoping that somebody with a boat can get to the one in distress, in time.
Calls for water rescue have been increasing in recent years. Individuals swimming, on flotation devices, wind surfers, sail boarders, or people in sailing vessels or power boats can easily be challenged by wind, currents, or mishaps.
Last summer there were two distress calls answered by somebody on a SeaDoo type vessel. Another call saw a Coast Guard boat launch from Pugwash during HarbourFest.
There were others, and thankfully, all were resolved without harm.
In each case, Pugwash firefighters monitored the crisis from the shore, unable to reach out. Though trained for water rescue, they were relegated to wait till the one in distress could be brought ashore, where firefighters or EHS personnel could administer to medical needs.
The Pugwash Fire Department has been aware of this limitation for years. The department has often expressed the need for a rescue boat. In fact, the PFD has explored its specific needs and began setting aside funds to purchase a rigid hull inflatable that would serve the community.
It is an expensive proposition, somewhat beyond the capacity of the local fire department. Given tonight’s emergency, a solution must be found before the emergency becomes a tragedy.