Lake Cowichan Fire Department Chief Doug Knott

Lake Cowichan Fire Department Chief Doug Knott

Firefighters rolling on the river

Navigating shallow waters: River fisherman guides crews on the use of their new jet-powered rescue boat

Living on the second largest body of water on Vancouver Island you’d think our rescue services would have equipment to work on the water.

But we didn’t. Until now.

“A boat is a safer way to operate” says Doug Knott, Lake Cowichan Fire Department’s chief, about water rescues, “ We’ve certainly used one over the years, many times borrowing and using our own stuff.”

After a year and a half of fundraising, the LCFD finally raised enough money to buy one.

Three weeks ago members took delivery of their new fire rescue boat. Its a 65-hp jet-drive ridged-hull inflatable with fire and rescue equipment added to it.

The jet-drive pontoon boat is a little different to use than a recreational boat so Knott has arranged to have the men learn to operate it from experienced jet boat users.

When Kenzie Cuthbert  heard the news he offered to help train the fireman to navigate the river — “the currents, the boulders and how to manipulate the boat using the jet motor.”

Cuthbert is a professional guide and fisherman on the Cowichan River and he is well-versed in jet boat use.

On Dec. 7, members received hands-on training, with Cuthbert pointing out some of the hazard areas on the river as they practiced manoeuvreing the boat in the shallow water.

Kenzie took two firefighters at a time downriver, past Little Beach, noting boulders and areas to avoid then they did some full-speed runs back up the river to the lake.

Firefighter Tyler Knott was happy to be able to train with Cuthbert. He was surprised how differently the jet boat handled than regular boats.

“That was the number one thing we learned today,” he said.

As a drift fisherman on the river, Cuthbert knows it like the back of his hand, he said. He also uses jet boats on the river so he was a good choice to teach the members how to safely use their new fire rescue boat on the ever-changing river.

Cuthbert was impressed with the boat’s stability.

“It felt really, really safe, and that’s a big thing.”

The Cowichan River is is very low for this time of year, but that turns out to be good for teaching the firefighters how to use their new boat in the shallows.

“The river is really low, I was surprised where we went.”  remarked Cuthbert.

Although most of the rescue work the boat will do will be on the lake, it is important to learn how to run on the river in case something occurs on it.

Three weeks ago some of the members were given five days of training on the lake with another instructor. More LCVFD members will receive training in January and February so they are all comfortable using the boat.