In 2011, the Pedernales Fire Department battled a brush fire that burned for two weeks and consumed 6,500 acres. Now they have a new tool to help in future fire fights. And this tool floats on water.
At up to 45 miles per hour, the Pedernales Fire Department can cruise to an emergency on Lake Travis quicker than ever and what seems like an endless supply of water.
It's an improvement over their previous boat the department purchased in 2001 that topped out at 30 miles per hour.
Firefighters took us for a ride on the new rescue boat Tuesday morning. They plan to have it on the water fully staffed for the first time this Fourth of July weekend.
Dangers once exposed in years past are now covered by water. Lt. Kyle Swarts took us to one expected trouble spot.
"That's Kids Cliff where people will go jumping," said Swarts. “We've had more than a few drownings there from people just jumping and hitting something submerged and never coming back up."
Firefighters conducted training in this very spot in anticipation. If a swimmer is in distress, firefighters can lower the bow and more easily load a patient onboard.
Firefighters can also dock the boat, mark their GPS location and walk away.
"The motors will automatically do all the work to keep the boat right in that spot so that if we needed the extra hands from the driver to pull somebody up out of the water or work on them for the medical condition we could theoretically do that,” said Swarts.
Should there be a fire, the new boat has a water cannon mounted to the deck. It pumps water from the lake and, as firefighters showed us, it has a long enough range to fight fires on shore.
Lt. Swarts only wishes he had that capability in 2011 when 65-hundred acres burned and 65 structures were destroyed.
"We have a very limited water supply. Our northern boundary is Lake Travis, but we have very few hydrants we were very limited with water. We just couldn't attack the fire the way we would normally want to. "
Another interesting feature to what they call their deck gun is they're able to hook up a hose to a nozzle and pump water to a fire truck on land.
"Your average fire hydrant in an urban area is going to put out anywhere from 100 to 400 gallons per minute. The pump on this boat is rated 15-hundred gallons per minute,” said Swarts.
Swarts says they have already rescued three swimmers during training sessions.
"It just gives us a lot more tools to serve the people out here and if need be rescue them,” said Swarts.
In addition to this weekend, the department plans to have the boat on the water for Labor Day weekend.