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Seattle FD adds new watercraft to its fleet

Two customized Sea-Doos will help cut down the department’s water rescue response times

By Caitlyn Freeman
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The Seattle Fire Department is adding a new tool to its water rescue arsenal: two customized Sea-Doos.

The Jet Ski-like personal watercraft were donated to the department by the Seattle Fire Foundation as part of the department’s new rescue watercraft program. The goal of the program, which began on Monday, is simple: speed up water rescue response times.

“As we all know, every second counts in a response [and in the] worst cases that can be a lifesaving difference, a matter of seconds,” Foundation Board Member Samuel Murr said. “So these will help cut down the time to respond. We can get folks on the scene faster to start extrication or support.”

The watercraft will be kept at the Leschi North Moorage on Lake Washington and will cost the foundation about $64,000, a Fire Department spokesperson said in an email.

During a news conference Monday afternoon, fire Chief Harold Scoggins said the Sea-Doos create “almost limitless possibilities” as they expand the distance rescue divers can travel. Currently, divers are only certified to swim 300 feet offshore.

The department sees an average of 70 water rescues per year, a news release states.

“It means a lot to the community,” Scoggins said, standing on the docks. “We’re so fortunate here in Seattle to have a fire foundation that supports the men and women of the Seattle Fire Department. And this donation today is another testament to that.”

To use the Sea-Doos, which can go up to 52 mph, firefighters at Station 5 underwent 20 hours of training. Dietrich Hauge, the fire captain overseeing the program, said the department decided to store the Sea-Doos in the Leschi marina because it is central to Lake Washington.

He said driving 3 miles from the fire station on Seattle’s waterfront to the marina takes six to eight minutes when using lights and sirens. Once there, it takes another couple of minutes for firefighters to suit up and get the Sea-Doos on the water.

Both Sea-Doos are deployed during each rescue as one vessel has a driver and diver and the other takes a support role. The victim can either board the Sea-Doo with the driver or latch onto a sled-like device on the back of the watercraft.

Hauge said the overall reaction among firefighters using the Sea-Doos has been positive. He said there’s potential to add them to other stations in the city, depending on how the first year at Station 5 goes.

“I think a lot of people have recognized that this is a service that we can provide the community that we can improve on,” he said.

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