Thanks to a recent donation, the Forsyth County Fire Department plans to expand its water rescue capabilities.
CSI Insurance Agency and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. presented the department with $20,000 on Wednesday at Forsyth County Fire Station 15.
The grant will go toward the purchase of a swift water rescue boat.
The station, which is off Hwy. 20, has a swift water recovery specialty team that covers 8 miles of the Chattahoochee and Etowah rivers and Lake Lanier.
Thousands of visitors flock to the local waterways throughout the year and rescues are not uncommon.
The department currently uses a personal watercraft, a pontoon boat and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office watercraft, Fire Chief Danny Bowman said, but none of these provide quick response in shallow water.
“If we were to make a rescue when the [Chattahoochee] was low, we couldn’t get to you with [the personal watercraft] if the water wasn’t releasing [from the dam],” Bowman said.
“We have to have a watercraft meant for rescue regardless of the depth.”
Bowman expressed gratitude for the donation for a much-needed vehicle during tight economic times.
“This shows what can come with those companies that wish to reinvest in the fire services and our emergency services,” he said.
The grant is part of a nationwide philanthropic program funded by Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. The program is designed to provide needed equipment, training and educational tools to local fire departments.
Since 2004, Fireman’s Fund has issued grants to more than 1,500 different departments totaling more than $26 million.
More than $1 million has been given in Georgia alone, said Luis Cruz, territory sales director.
“We’d like to think that we understand the firefighters’ needs,” Cruz said. “This is more than a check. It’s really an investment on the firefighters.”
John Carr of Alpharetta-based CSI said the agency was glad to offer funding close to home, noting the donation came about in part from a January rescue.
“The reason why we are here today in Cumming, Ga., is because of the response that this fire department right here gave to our neighbors in need,” Carr said.
On Jan. 8, Ann Shirley could not get up after taking two terrible falls on her ice-coated driveway. She had broken a wrist and hip, injuries that took months to heal.
Her husband, Vic, called 911, and firefighters from Station 15 came to her aid.
“Within a matter of minutes, the fire department was on the scene providing comfort and care in an extraordinary way,” Carr said.
Added Vic Shirley, “We were very grateful for the quick response we got ... I was afraid she was going to freeze to death.”
Ann Shirley showed her appreciation for the station during the Wednesday ceremony, hugging the firefighters and expressing joy over the donation.
“I’m so happy for them, that they are able to receive something like this that will help a lot of people,” she said.