Mazomanie Fire Department buys boats, trains in swift water rescue
MAZOMANIE, Wis. — A couple of things stick out for Mazomanie Fire Chief Mark Geisler when he thinks back to Aug. 20, 2018. The station started empty with everyone out for sandbagging operations. It was quickly filled with evacuees from about 100 homes, along with volunteers who wanted to help.
“A lot of people you know on a first name basis, so to see those people with all of their belongings scattered across their front yard and trying to air-dry or salvage what they can, just the loss and devastation was pretty hard to see,” Geisler said.
Geisler also remembers the outpouring of support from his community. By his count, the village logged 15,000 hours of volunteer work.
“I’ve learned that our community has lots of generous people who really do a great job of working together,” Geisler said.
While they couldn’t be prepared for every flooding event or emergency, Geisler and his team wanted to be as ready as possible for the next time something happened.
“I’ve been with our department for 26 years and I’ve lived here for 27 years, and I’ve seen five floods,” Geisler said. “Four of them I would categorize as 100-year floods, and this one we were faced with a year ago was obviously much more tragic than that.”
After months of research, Assistant Chief Adam Valenta knew preparedness meant more than a simply having a plan.
“The first thing was to get some type of means to meet the requirements of FEMA, which would be a boat,” Valenta said.
The Mazomanie community stepped up again. About 100 different donors raised $20,000 to pay for a pair of rescue boats, the same models used by the London Fire Brigade.
“One is a rapid deployment craft or RDC, and we can use that in flood situations as well as swift water,” Valenta explained. “The other is a motorized boat. We can use that in deeper flood water as well as river rescue.”
Those contributions also covered individualized gear for about 16 firefighters and swift water rescue training. By this fall, two-thirds of the all-volunteer department will be trained to help people in a water emergency. That means they can also respond to flooding events in surrounding communities.
“We’re seeing more and more flood events every year, and although I’d rather see this stuff dry-rot, I know we’re going to need to go out in it eventually,” Valenta said. “And hopefully, we can assist how we were aided by other departments last year.”
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