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.
Rescue Unit Officers
John P. Felsmann, Sr. Administrator
Jim Cerutti, Operations Officer
Bob Frank, Operations Officer
Bill Heath, Training Officer
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.
The Fair Haven Water Rescue Unit
uses the following equipment:
Marine 13 - 20' MariTime Skiff Rescue Boat
13-M1 - 16' John Boat
1388 - 1994 Ford E-350 Water Rescue Truck
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.
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.
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 -- has played a number of roles in very difficult
operations along our waters. Approximately 10 personnel are certified
as divers, and many members of the Fire Company provide support
when an emergency call occurs. To date, the team has responded
to calls in Fair Haven, Atlantic Highlands, Leonardo, Little Silver,
Oceanport and Red Bank and has made three successful recoveries.