By Julien Vernet
Hampton Union, Friday, July 18, 2003
HAMPTON - The Fire Department received its new 30-foot fire and rescue boat Saturday, but will continue using its Zodiac until September, when the department completes training.
Fire Chief Hank Lipe said that while the Zodiac has only been used seasonally, primarily during the summer, the new boat will be used year-round. In addition, the boat has firefighting capabilities and is equipped to provide medical treatment on board.
"It will give us the ability to treat the patients in transit and in an enclosed and protected environment," said Lipe, who lobbied for the vessel. "And most importantly, the boat provides a greater margin of safety for the firefighters."
The boat, moored at the Hampton Marina and powered by twin, 225 horsepower outboard motors, will allow for faster response and will be able to handle rougher waters, said Lipe.
When asked about the boat's territorial jurisdiction, Lipe said that the rescue missions would be carried out along the Hamptons' five to eight miles of coastline "from the mouth of the Hampton River to the North Hampton line, around Plaice Cove."
But how far out the vessel will venture on rescue missions is unclear. According to Lipe, there is "no distinguished line of demarcation" specifying the department's domain. Nonetheless, he stressed that all Zodiac rescue missions had stayed within a half-mile of the coastline and that he had "no desire to expand or broaden the scope" of the department's rescues.
"The boat is here to protect the residents and visitors of Hampton who get in harm's way," Lipe said.
Although the Coast Guard is officially responsible for the waters off Hampton, the fire department boat can respond faster to emergency calls.
"Their response time is approximately 25 minutes and ours is 10," Lipe said.
Hampton Board of Selectmen chairman Brian Warburton said the boat would be an asset to the department and emphasized that having a rescue vessel in such close proximity to Hampton waters is imperative.
"The Coast Guard is based in Portsmouth and we needed something that was going to help people closer," Warburton said. "When people are in need, you have a very short amount of time to respond."
Lipe said that Marine One, the name the new boat adopted from the Zodiac, is smaller and more maneuverable than Coast Guard boats, allowing it easier access to the harbor and the river.
Hampton firefighters are conducting rescue simulations and are being trained to operate the boat, which has an electronic system more sophisticated than the Zodiac's.
Lipe noted that the vessel will not serve as a patrol boat, leaving its mooring only in response to a call of distress.
Voters approved a warrant article in March 2002, allocating $50,000, the first of three payments in the lease-to-own deal, for the craft.
The Fire Department has been conducting water rescues since 1997, when taxpayers approved the purchase of the 17-foot inflatable Zodiac currently in use.