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Captiva fire district's first-ever vessel nears completion

November 7, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

It appears the Captiva Island Fire Control District's new fire and rescue boat remains mostly on schedule, despite concerns voiced by the manufacturer that its completion might be delayed.

As Hurricane Michael rolled toward Florida in early October, Louisiana-based Metal Shark Boats alerted Fire Chief Jeff Pawul that the vessel - which was in the final steps of being finished - may experience a delay, depending on where the storm hit and how big of an impact it had on the area.

"It was basically that week leading into the storm," he said of their back-and-forth exchanges.

Article Photos

Fire Chief Jeff Pawul

At the time, the boat only needed some minor components from outside manufacturers.

Pawul explained that the concern was scheduling them in to get the work done.

"And the uncertainty of exactly where the storm was going to end up, and how big and bad it was going to be," he said.

On Oct. 30, however, Pawul learned that the vessel is nearly finished.

"It sounds like it should be complete this week, which would allow for the inspection and sea trial either next week or the week after," he said, noting that it would be delivered to the island afterward.

"It's a lot easier to correct any mistakes at the factory than it is on Captiva," Pawul added.

It will be the district's first-ever fire and rescue boat. In October 2017, it received a $300,000 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District, which encompasses Lee, Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, for the vessel. The funds cover the purchase and accessory items, like life rings.

"We'll probably end up between $260,000 and $270,000," he said.

Any unused monies will go back to WCIND's grant program.

"To fund other projects," Pawul said.

A boat has been a growing necessity for the district over the past few years. He explained that the average number of water-related calls in the last two years has increased about 10 percent as compared to the prior years. Emergencies on the water - outside the spectrum of the U.S. Coast Guard - now require a call to other agencies for assistance, including Sanibel, Pine Island and Iona-McGregor.

And despite a slow summer due to water quality issues, things appear to be improving.

"We all see the waters getting better," he said, noting that he expects tourism will pick back up and locals and visitors will hit the water in increasing numbers. "Those calls will start coming in."

"I think it's kind of going to be good timing," Pawul added of the boat's delivery.

Asked about the crew's response to the new vessel, he said they are excited.

"Of course," Pawul said. "Any time there's a new piece of equipment, or some new training being offered that is not being offered as a normal everyday thing."



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