Rescue boat arrives in Oil City

The Oil City Fire Department is gearing up to unveil its new rescue boat next month, about nine months after the previous boat was badly damaged during a river rescue in November.

Derek Long, the fire department’s interim chief, said the boat arrived two weeks ago, and firefighters have already operated the vessel for nearly 9 hours of water training.

The 21-foot KingFisher has a 200 horsepower inboard jet engine and weighs about 2,200 pounds without most of the equipment installed, Long said.

Decals were still being added on Thursday, and Long said lights, radios and other equipment will be installed over the coming weeks.

The total cost of the boat is about $70,000, and most of that amount was financed through donations.

John Bartlett, a former Oil City Council member, was instrumental in fundraising efforts. Long said he hopes to recognize many of the donors during the boat’s unveiling Aug. 12 at the Oil City Council meeting that day.

Long said he can’t stress enough how important getting this new boat was for the community and for saving lives. The rescue boat has a strong, personal connection to him as he was one of the two firefighters who were perilously plunged into the Allegheny River in November.

The boat crashed into a downed tree in the water after the outboard motor lost propulsion in shallow waters, former Oil City fire chief Mark Hicks said at the time.

Hicks, who initiated the search for the new boat, said the inboard jet engine style boat that Oil City purchased is better suited for the Allegheny River’s conditions.

The department also spearheaded the creation of a countywide water rescue pre-plan after the November incident.

The agreement is between Oil City, Franklin, Seneca, Emlenton and Kennerdell fire departments and comprises nearly every department in the county with a rescue boat.

“Any time there is an incident, there will three boats that go out. So, if anything happens there will be at least one backup,” Long said.