Berkeley Police, Fire Departments Seek Big Bucks Boat for Bay
By Doug Oakley Staff Writer Bay Area News Group firstname.lastname@example.org
BERKELEY -- Following a cutback in U.S. Coast Guard services in the last year, the city's fire and police departments are hoping to buy a fire-and-rescue boat worth close to $1 million.
The City Council on Tuesday night approved $230,000 to buy the 37-foot jet boat, money that would be added to a $690,000 grant the two departments are seeking from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The Coast Guard will not come out for a fire and often times when we have a water rescue, we've seen extended response time, and sometimes they can't deploy any boats at all," said Fire Chief Gil Dong. "We definitely have a need because we have the largest residential marina in northern California with 13 houseboats and 100 other berths where people live."
Berkeley's marina accommodates 1,100 boats in all, ranging from 16 to 110 feet long, a City Council report said.
The jet boat Dong and Police Chief Michael Meehan have their eyes on can maneuver in 18 inches of water, making it easier to conduct rescues near the bay shore, where deep mud makes it difficult to get to people in the water. The boat could be used to bail out sinking boats, respond to oil spills, rescue people in the bay, fight boat fires and do police work.
A Coast Guard spokesman said its response to calls for search and rescue in the bay have not changed "in any way shape or form." A recent policy change, however, calls for a "conservative posture" giving local agencies the lead when responding to fires on boats and in rescuing people from those boats.
Dong said as it is now, when a call comes in to the fire department for a rescue of someone in the bay near Berkeley, the fire department has to send out a swimmer from shore and haul the person all the way back. A boat would make that process much easier, he said.
"With a boat, we can initiate medical treatment right away, but with a swimmer, you're delaying medical treatment," Dong said.
Police Chief Michael Meehan said the boat would aid his department in responding to suicide attempts off the Berkeley pier, investigating stolen, abandoned or suspicious boats, people who are boating while intoxicated, and other crimes committed in the marina.
DougOakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley