published: 27 Feb 2018
by: Lynn Moore
MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – The fishermen on dangerously thin ice probably were unaware they were being watched by Muskegon firefighters training on Muskegon Lake with their new flat-bottomed air boat last Friday.
The firefighters had taken the boat out onto Muskegon Lake, testing its capabilities to cruise over ice and open water. They kept a wary eye on the fishermen near the North Muskegon shore, knowing the ice their boat was cutting through on the lake was only a few inches thick.
The 20-foot boat manufactured by Duck Water Boats in Dover, Ohio, is the latest in the Muskegon Fire Department’s arsenal of rescue apparatuses. Its ability to cruise over land, water, ice and a combination of water and ice makes firefighters uniquely equipped for rescues off thin ice this time of year.
Lt. Todd Rake carefully steered the air boat across Muskegon Lake Friday, its square bow lifting onto the ice and its weight cracking the ice into huge sheets. The boat’s stern, where the very loud supercharged V8 Cadillac engine is located, dragged in the water, making the ride a choppy one until Rake headed to open water near the old Cobb Plant.
With Ross Morningstar keeping watch onboard, Rake practiced maneuvering the boat that has no capability of backing up. Muskegon fire personnel have been taking turns at the helm to make sure they are ready when an emergency arises.
They have trailered the boat to Mona Lake and trained with the U.S. Coast Guard. The fire department is committed to launching the boat throughout the county wherever it’s needed.
It replaces a small hovercraft that is in disrepair previously used for ice rescues. The $67,500 air boat is larger, meaning multiple people can be rescued at once and can even hold ATVs or other cargo.
Muskegon Fire Lt. Todd Rake and Ross Morningstar practice docking the department's new 20-foot flat-bottomed air boat during training on Muskegon Lake in Muskegon, Mich. on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. It replaces a small hovercraft that is in disrepair previously used for ice rescues. The $67,500 air boat is larger, meaning multiple people can be rescued at once and can even hold ATVs or other cargo.