A handful of Waco firefighters traded much of their usual firefighting gear for nautical equipment as they took the department’s new fire rescue boat for its first training laps on Lake Waco this week.

The department received the 26-foot aluminum Lake Assault fire rescue boat Monday night, crews from Station No. 2 launched the vessel onto Lake Waco on Tuesday. Training and testing continued Wednesday as more firefighters were introduced to the new equipment.

“This new boat is going to support fire and rescue operations,” Waco Deputy Fire Chief R.M. Bergerson said.

One of its main firefighting features is an onboard pump that can move 550 gallons of water per minute, Bergerson said.

“It also has the ability to lower the front end of the boat into the water, which is going to allow us to easily bring patients, if they are injured, onto the boat,” he said.

The Waco City Council approved the about $240,000 purchase for the fire department last year. The boat was built and delivered from Superior, Wisconsin. It will be housed at Station No. 2, 2625 Park Lake Drive, where firefighters will respond to emergencies at Lake Waco and have the ability to venture onto the Brazos and Bosque rivers if needed.

“Over the years, there are three marinas on Lake Waco, we’ve had fires at two of the three marinas,” Bergerson said. “We’ve also had isolated boats on fire, and then just a variety of calls as far as stranded boats, injuries on the lake. It is a part of our mantra. We are prepared for any type of emergency.”

The newly established Waco dive team is expected to start training in the next month and will also be using the new fire rescue boat. It has advanced sonar to help emergency officials in a search and rescue operations and advanced mapping capabilities to help crews search areas efficiently.

“This is very nice and it is a lot better than what we had,” Waco fire Lt. Darren Meyer said, referring the department’s 28-year-old Boston Whaler boat. “We basically had a fish-finder as our sonar, and this is more geared to help us and plot points to go back and find where we were.”

Fire crews will continue to train on the boat this week. Bergerson said it will be registered later this month before it is put into official use.

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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