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St. Johns County firefighters debut rescue vessel

Marine 12 will be rapid response resource for county

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County firefighters demonstrated Friday how they’re using a powerful new boat to keep Northeast Florida waters safe.

St. Johns County Fire Rescue has its first firefighting vessel, Marine 12, which can make rescues far offshore, expanding the department's coverage area.

The boat was purchased with a federal port security grant that was awarded to the the department in July 2015.

“This vessel will allow us to enhance our marine rescue response, relating to emergency medical response for people having emergencies on the water, as well as it is a fully capable firefighting vessel designed specifically for that purpose,” SJCFR spokesman Capt. Jeremy Robshaw said.

The boat offers a different approach for firefighters that starts with the hull, which is equipped with the latest technology, including a sea chest, which pumps up water with the press of a button and allows it to shoot out through the front of the boat.

The hose can shoot up to 500 gallons of water a minute, reaching between 75 to 100 feet in the air.

The boat also sports the latest GPS, radar and sonar systems, as well the FLIR  system, which allows firefighters to pick up heat signatures, and night vision to help them find people in the water.

“This vessel allows us to do it so much better, so much safer, not only for the people we're responding to, but for our personnel,” Robshaw said. “A lot of times in this job, we ask our personnel to go into situations that are hazardous and where conditions are bad.”

The powerful boat, which was delivered from SAFE Boats International to the department earlier this month, gives the first responders a higher safety margin, Robshaw said.

The closest Coast Guard station to St. Johns County is in Mayport.

Robshaw said that creates a challenge offshore, because response times cane be between an hour to an hour and a half.

Having Marine 12 means firefighters can respond faster with more life-saving capabilities.

The boat is being moored in a St. Johns County marina and will be ready to respond 24/7 to marine emergencies.

SJCFR is currently completing final design on a permanent secure docking facility, which will house Marine 12, as well as other public safety vessels at the Vilano boat ramp. The facility should be finished by the summer of 2017.

Funding for the facility was also made available through the Federal Port Security Grant Program with matching funds provided by the St. Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District.