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‘Miss Sue’ to the rescue

First responders with Fire District 1 train with their new rescue boat “Miss Sue” Tuesday morning on the Rogue River. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Fire District 1’s new boat has already helped with an unusual water rescue

A new rescue boat christened “Miss Sue” will allow for swifter water rescues along a 12-mile stretch of the Rogue River between Gold Hill and Grants Pass.

Purchased with the help of more than $26,000 in local donations, Jackson County Fire District 1's new rigid inflatable Solar 470 rescue boat with an outboard jet motor has the capability to carry up to six people to safety, according to firefighter Andrew Dekorte, who demonstrated the watercraft Tuesday morning at the Coyote Evans Wayside boat ramp.

The demonstration was an opportunity for crew members to get some extra training time on the water with the new watercraft, such as ferrying techniques for maneuvering the boat against currents.

“The boat likes to go up,” Dekorte said as the boat passed by the ramp accelerating. “If we can practice getting the boat on plane it levels faster.”

It’s the first time Fire District 1 has expanded its river rescues with its own boat. Currently the fire district has six certified swift water rescue technicians, and three firefighters are certified to maneuver the boat.

The goal, according to Dekorte, is to ensure that crews on every shift can use the boat.

In the past, the fire district has leaned on the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol for water rescues. Rescuers would enter the river from the shore and wait for a marine deputy.

Dekorte and other firefighters said JCSO’s marine deputies are “awesome,” but the boats often need to come from White City or Shady Cove. Fire District 1 protects a 12-mile section of the Rogue River between Gold Hill and Grants Pass.

Having its own watercraft at the ready proved useful earlier this month, according to District 1 Chief and paramedic Mike Hammond.

A call came in about 10:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. Two men had crashed a homemade raft made from barrels and boards and were stuck at Savage Rapids.

Dekorte was training with the boat that day when Hammond said he called asking to use the boat.

“At night it’s a lot more dangerous,” Hammond said. “I drove down Rogue River Highway, and he (Dekorte) launched the boat in (the) Rogue River and picked up the victims.”

Seasonal firefighter Eric Goodboe helped the men off the wrecked raft and onto their craft.

“They said they’d been stuck a few hours before someone could call for them,” Goodboe said.

Hammond said the Solar 470 rescue boat officially will carry the call sign “Boat 40,” but it’s already been nicknamed “Miss Sue” after donors Sue and Ron Loynds.

“The only thing they wanted was a ride in the boat,” Hammond said, a request he obliged for the Loynds over the weekend.

The Loynds pooled their donation with another anonymous donor to the tune of approximately $26,000, according to Hammond.

According to Decorte, the timing couldn’t have been better. The rigid inflatable was made in Siberia and outfitted locally.

“This is one of the last boats out of Russia,” Decorte said.

Decorte took the lead on fundraising and research for the rescue boat, modeling much of Fire District 1’s training structure and efforts after a similar program at Fire District 4 in Shady Cove.

He’s devoted about 25 hours this month alone to training, and still leans on Fire District 4.

“I’m still in constant contact with them on new issues and advice on certain things,” Decorte said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.