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FHFD Water Rescue

SECTIONS: | Duties | Officers | Equipment | History |
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Water Rescue Unit Duties

While the location of Fair Haven between the picturesque Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers provides beauty and recreation for its citizens, if also provides the makings of difficult emergency situations, including nautical emergency medical incidents, drownings, ice rescues and, unfortunately, recovery of bodies. Growing out of an early "Dive Team" organized in 1962, today's Water Rescue Unit has expanded its training and services to address the full scope of EMS, Search and Rescue and Ice Rescue capabilities. These are all described below in the History section.

Water Rescue Unit Officers

Line Officers:

John P. Felsmann, Sr. Administrator
Jim Cerutti, Operations Officer
Bob Frank, Operations Officer
Bill Heath, Training Officer

FHFD Water Rescue

From Left, John P. Felsmann, Sr., Administrator, Jim Cerruti, Operations Officer, Robert Frank, Operations Officer, Bill Heath, Training Officer

Since the Water Rescue Unit is a joint effort between the Fire Department and First Aid Squad, it does not have separate Executive Officers.

2014 FHFD Water Rescue


The Fair Haven Water Rescue Unit uses the following equipment:

Marine 13 - 1998 20' MariTime Skiff Rescue Boat

FHFD 13 M 1
13M1 - 2012 Tracker 16 John Boat

FHFD 13 M 2
13-M2 14 Ice Rescue John Boat

1388 – 1993 Ford E-350/PL Water Rescue Truck
1388 1993 Ford E-350/PL Water Rescue Truck

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History of the Water Rescue Unit

Early in 1962, the First Aid Corps recognized that with the increasing popularity of our local waterways and the ocean, it was time to begin the process of instituting an "underwater rescue team." First Aid member Robert "Donny" Frank began the process of researching the requirements and qualifications necessary to implement this new team.

By the end of 1962, a team began to form and the First Aid Corps found some start-up funding. Donny Frank, Jack McQueen, Art Bennett and Bill Lang were to become the founding members upon receiving their New Jersey Council of Divers Certification early in 1963. Through that spring they trained regularly and began answering calls during the summer.

Over the next 10 years, the team responded to assistance calls in Sea Bright and Red Bank, as well as Fair Haven. But time began to take its toll. As the divers and equipment aged, and with no replacements forthcoming on either front, the diving team's activities slowly dissolved in the early 1970's.

In 1971, things picked up on the boating front. The First Aid Corps purchased a boat to be used for diver support and other water-related emergencies. Over the years the boat was retrofitted to enable her to hand a number of different situations. The boat served well, performing holiday patrols and assisting surrounding communities until the evening of July 4, 2001, when an unexpected storm swamped her at the mooring. Realizing that a void was created, the First Aid Corps started a search for a suitable replacement. In May 2002 a resident who was both a boater and an enthusiastic supporter of the Fire Company made a sturdy boat available for purchase under very favorable terms. The new boat -- named Unit 1359 -- has served us well to date and will hopefully continue to do so for many years.

In 1996 Robert "Bobby" Frank -- son of Donny Frank -- began the process of reactivating the dive team. Meetings were held and it was recommended that the team be a joint venture of the First Aid Corps and the Fire Department because of the increased need for manpower and funding. After that agreement was reached, policies and procedures were put in place under the command of the Fire Chief.

The first five members of the new SCUBA team -- as it has often been called - were certified in 1997. An inflatable "Zodiac" boat and necessary equipment were purchased to assist the divers on calls along with the First Aid Squad's EMS boat - Marine 13. Additional personnel were added to the Unit to provide land-based support for the divers. These members serve as tenders and boat operators, managing the safety lines and handling the boats.

The Water Rescue Unit -- as it is now called and performs only “surface rescues” as of 2012 -- has played a number of roles in very difficult operations along our waters.   Many members of the Fire Company provide support when an emergency call occurs and requires the help of all five organizations working together. To date, the unit has responded to calls in Fair Haven, Rumson, Atlantic Highlands, Leonardo, Little Silver, Oceanport and Red Bank and has made three successful recoveries.

Fair Haven Fire Dept. Fair Haven First Aid Squad Fair Have Fire Police Water Rescue FHFD Auxiliary