Logan VFD, others beefing up lake search and rescue capabilities

The Logan Volunteer Fire Department recently purchased this SeaArk 21-foot boat to be used in Smith Lake recovery operations. (Logan Fire & Rescue/Facebook)

LOGAN, Ala. – The Logan Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) recently purchased a 21-foot SeaArk boat from Russell Marine in Dodge City to be used on Smith Lake for search and recovery operations. The department will also soon purchase Explorer MK II sonar equipment from Marine Sonic Technology inYorktown, Virginia. The equipment will be used by seven area departments.

The system is the same used by outside agencies who are called in to assist in recovery of drowning victims on the lake.

Logan VFD Chief Toby Bates stated, “When a drowning occurs and outside resources are called, they are usually five hours away or from other states.”

The sonar equipment will be used collaboratively by seven departments surrounding Smith Lake: Trimble, Loretta, Dodge City, Logan, Crane Hill, Bremen and Cold Springs. Members from other departments like Bethsadia, Good Hope, Jones Chapel and Fairview also assist with lake incidents when needed.

Said Bates, “It’s not necessary for all lake departments to have their own sonar equipment. Seven departments surround Smith Lake in Cullman County, and this is a group effort by all departments, not just one. We have people from each department that help in some capacity. When anything anywhere happens on Smith Lake in Cullman County, we are all toned (out) to respond and all work together for whatever incident it may be – fires, boat accidents, drownings.”

The departments surrounding Smith Lake will send some members to Virginia for sonar training.

“Each department will have someone that can run the sonar. It is a hi-tech system and will require lots of knowledge of running it and the computer program and reading sonar,” said Bates. “The training is free, but we just have to go to Virginia to do it.”

Bates said he hopes that with the progress each of the fire departments has made, the time it takes to find drowning victims will be dramatically reduced.

“Three years ago, we did not have anything for the lake for fires or accidents or even drownings. We always had to stand on the bank and watch,” he said. “But when an emergency happens now, we have boats and personnel that can respond. Trimble has a boat, Logan has a boat, Crane Hill has a boat. And the new boat we bought will be used for sonar purposes and whatever else we can utilize it for. Other departments are buying other things we need as well and pooling it together. Each department has certified divers that are trained at search and recovery. The lake is getting more crowded and more people are moving here, which means more accidents and fires. We hope there is never another fire or drowning, but if so, we will be better prepared here locally to handle the situation.”

Bates said the funds to purchase the equipment are from a bank loan. Logan VFD and area departments have attempted fundraising efforts for the past three years but were unable to get enough donations for the equipment. Logan VFD is still looking for donations from anyone who can help for the purchase of equipment. Bates said eventually he would like to purchase another sonar that will be needed, the Kongsberg Mesotech MS1000, which costs over $57,000.

To learn about how to donate, email Crane Hill VFD Chief Brandon Williams at bwilliams9462@yahoo.com.

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