Photo special to Alachua County Today


MELROSE – The Melrose Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) is rolling out a new piece of equipment to help keep the community safe. In the past several months there have been several water-emergencies on Lake Santa Fe and the surrounding waterways. MVFD members wanted to increase their rescue capabilities on the water.

In an effort to address a major public safety disparity faced by the citizens of Melrose, this year MVFD undertook a major project to develop a special operations team with advanced water rescue capabilities. Members of the department spent over 200 combined hours training and working to bring a fully functional, rapid response rescue boat to the town of Melrose. This marks the first time that this area has had a dedicated, professionally trained group of firefighters ready to respond to water emergencies. This effort has been funded entirely by the donations of local businesses and MVFD.

"We have a very active community and they actually wanted to start a program themselves. But when we came up and we talked to them about this, they felt more than welcome to help us get to our goal,” said Melrose Fire Department spokesperson, Joshua Florence. “So, it's not just the fire department doing this. It's actually the whole community coming together as a whole to make the program to essentially help keep people safe on the water."

The Marine Unit is trained to respond to medical emergencies and vehicle crashes, but will not handle towing.

The boat, referred to by its call-sign “Marine 249,” is an AVON SR-4, previously serving the U.S. Army Vessel New Orleans. The two 55-horsepower Evinrude motors are multi-fuel and submersible, having previously served the United States Air Force's 308th Rescue Squadron. These two units together were acquired through the Florida Forest Service via the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and Firefighter Programs (FFP). The trailer owned by MVFD and the complete rig towed by one of the MVFD vehicles can be on the water in a short timeframe to assist in times of maritime emergencies.

Through many hours of work, MVFD members were able to get both motors in working condition, repair and replace safety components of the inflatable boat, add navigation lights, warning lights, and add life-saving equipment to make the boat ready to respond to emergencies in Melrose and the surrounding areas.

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