New rescue boat “a huge advantage”

Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department meet after taking possession of their new rescue boat and trailer in September 2019. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Fire Department has added a new rescue boat to its fleet to help improve rescue operations in the North Saskatchewan River.

Fire officials took possession of the boat during a brief ceremony on Monday. The custom-built craft is specifically designed for use in the North Saskatchewan River, something acting fire chief Kris Olsen said was badly needed.

“This boat will allow us to access all areas of the river within our jurisdiction and to do it faster than what was possible with the old inflatable rescue boat,” Olsen explained.

“We’re very excited that we can provide this added service to the citizens of Prince Albert.”

The east weir that runs through the river often hampered the department’s rescue operations in their previous inflatable craft. The boat was also difficult to navigate in shallow waters and sandbars, problems that sometimes forced the fire department to drive across the bridge and towards the airport to launch from the north side.

This new boat is not only faster and more maneuverable, it can also cross the weir without any problems, meaning the fire department will be able to launch from the south side of the river for any rescue operation.

“If we had a rescue east of the weir, we have to load up the boat, and (travel) all the way to the airport to launch,” Olsen said. “This boat here with its design, its enforced hull and the jet drive will allow us to maneuver back and forth overtop of the weir, so that’s a huge advantage.”

Prince Albert Fire Department acting fire chief Kris Olsen. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Fire Department river rescue crews will spend the rest of the week training with the boat’s manufacturers, before resuming their regular training schedule.

Olsen added that the Prince Albert Fire Department uses their rescue craft at least three to five times a year, not including training exercises.

“We have had jet boats in the past,” he said. “There was just a little bit of a lull in there that we went to the inflatable boat and we realized that, when it came due for fleet replacements, this was something … that was needed. This is what we came up with and we’re very happy with it.”