In a time when many municipal budgets are shrinking and state funding is dwindling, securing grant funding is becoming increasingly important. That’s why a recent grant the Sauk City Fire Department received to acquire swift water rescue suits is so relevant. The department was involved in several rescue situations during the 2018 flooding in nearby communities. It was during that time department members realized the suits they had were not one-size fits all when it comes to water rescue.
“The recent summer floods of 2018, along with other water rescue events of the past, has shown the department the importance of having the right equipment for the job,” Sauk City Fire Department Assistant Chief -Fire Prevention Division Michael Breunig said. “Prior warm weather rescues forced our members to use our cold water rescue suits for protection, which would quickly exhaust them due to the suits insulating qualities.”
The grant funds were awarded by Madison Gas and Electric and the Alliant Energy Foundation for 10 complete swift water gear, including full body suits, boots, gloves, helmets and headlamps. Fundraising efforts put forth annually by the department were also used in the purchase.
“With the river next to us, it doesn’t surprise me they are going to need it,” Sauk City Village Board President Jim Anderson said. “It’s also a safety issue for the members. That they got the grant is totally awesome; it gives them more flexibility to go after what they need to.”
The Sauk City Fire District comprises 172 square miles in three counties—Sauk, Dane and Columbia. Its territory includes vast amounts of recreational waters including Lake Wisconsin, the Wisconsin River and Crystal, Fish and Mud lakes. Numerous small creeks and streams that are prone to flooding are also in Sauk’s fire district.
According to a news release issued by the department, the Sauk City Fire District is currently developing a water rescue division within the department that will conduct additional training above and beyond its regular instruction. Other equipment the department purchased through grant funding includes a Mercury Marine 15-foot inflatable rapid response boat and trailer in 2015, purchased with a grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The boat is capable of shallow water deployment, which was used last summer by the department during the flooding.
Anderson said the fire service is funded on a per capita basis by the municipalities in its district.
“We give them money and they determine how to best use it,” Anderson said. “They are frugal and do a really good job with their budget.”