Saugerties fireboat to get pump

The Fire Department’s boat awaiting a water pump. (photo by Robert Ford)

The Fire Department’s boat awaiting a water pump. (photo by Robert Ford)

When it comes to fighting fires, the Saugerties Fire Department is prepared to battle a blaze whether it be in the woods, a home, or a several-story building. It is not prepared to fight a fire on a boat or at the historic Saugerties Lighthouse.

But that limitation may soon be removed. The fire department is in the process of purchasing a large-capacity pump for its boat, which will turn the craft from strictly a rescue boat into a firefighting boat. For the last several months, Village of Saugerties trustees and the fire department have been in talks about how best to pay the $4500 pricetag for the pump.

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Recently they agreed the fire department could use money from its yearly budget to cover the cost. The village has received a grant and a donation that will be added to the department’s own money for the purchase.

Firefighters were hoping the trustees would help out with the cost, but at a recent meeting they and fire chief Dave Mason agreed that funds from the department’s budget could be used.

Trustees were concerned there really wasn’t a need for the boat to be equipped to fight fires, and that using village funds to help pay for a pump would set a bad precedent.

Trustee Vince Buono has said that he “had a concern because trustees couldn’t afford to overspend the village budget, and neither can our departments.” The village government was being asked to contribute almost $1500 for a pump that officials weren’t sure the fire department needed.

“We have a tax cap that we have to stay below,” explained trustee Terry Parisian.

Trustees were unsure the fire department needed to fight fires from a boat.  Both Kingston and the Town of Ulster fire departments have firefighting boats, and the Coast Guard cutter Wire, which is stationed in the Esopus Creek in Saugerties, has firefighting capabilities.

Mason explained that there might be real problems should those fire departments not be able to get to Saugerties in time, or the Wire be out of port, if the lighthouse catches fire or if one of the many barges or tankers that ply the Hudson River past Saugerties goes ablaze. The lighthouse could burn to the ground, trustees were told. There is no way to get a fire truck out to the lighthouse, and during high tide when the pathway is under water the fire department would be unable to run hose out to it.

After some give and take, Mason said his department’s budget would be able to absorb the cost. Several weeks from now, the boat will be able to fight a fire at the lighthouse, on a barge or tanker in the river, or on any of the boats calling Saugerties their home port.

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