SPARTA, NJ – A zodiac boat will be added to the tools available to the Sparta Police and Fire Department to assist with public safety on Sparta's 22 lakes and ponds.
The boat will be acquired with funding from a private grant.
“Any tool we can get that helps to mitigate loss of life and limb is a good thing,” said Chief Reigstad in an interview.
Reigstad indicated the boat will be an asset of the Office of Emergency Management, belonging to neither the police nor the fire department. It will be assigned to the fire department primarily because they have an active ice and cold water rescue team.
He explained currently when there is an accident on the water the first thing the police must do is to identify the actual location of the incident. The expected course of action with the new zodiac will be that both the police and fire departments will get the call for an incident on the water, the police will go to the lake to begin pin pointing location the people in distress and the boat will be brought to the lake by the fire department.
“This is not needed as much for Lake Mohawk,” said Chief Reigstad. “They have a marine patrol – private security and many private boats.”
The zodiac will be especially useful for cold water rescues that typically occur during early spring and late fall. The fourteen foot boat is built to hold eight people as well as equipment and the motor. It is an inflatable with an aluminum floor. The keel is also inflatable, allowing the boat to be modified as conditions warrant.
“It’s very rugged and very stable. It is the boat of choice for these operations,” said Chief Reigstad.
Currently 75 percent of the police and fire department personnel are licensed boat operators according to Reigstad. The police department is “in the process of developing policies and seeing if new training is needed.” He said they will likely get the remaining personnel trained.
There are no certified divers in either department. In the event a diver is needed, Sparta calls on the State Police or Jefferson Fire Department for their resources.