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Belhaven Fire Department to purchase new rescue boat

The Belhaven Fire Department will have a greater presence on the waterways of Beaufort and Hyde County this year with the purchase of a new fire and rescue boat.

For waterfront emergencies, from fires to search and rescue operations, the boat will greatly improve the department’s response capability. Belhaven Fire Chief Paul Wood Jr. says that the vessel will include a water pump that will allow for on-the-water firefighting.

“The closest one we have to Belhaven is in Bath,” Wood said. “By the time they get it hooked up and all, it probably takes 30 minutes (to get here). That’s a lot of time when you have something on fire or somebody drowning.”

Wood said that the drowning of Capt. James Cleary Jr., an assistant chief with the Belhaven Volunteer Fire Department, contributed to the decision to purchase a boat for the department.

“We just decided we needed a boat,” Wood. said.

Cleary was killed near the intersection of the Pamlico and Pungo Rivers while responding to a TowBoatUS distress call in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 2018. High winds, rough waters and limited visibility in the midst of a snowstorm combined to cause Cleary’s towboat to capsize, prompting a massive search effort.

As far as the training needed to operate the boat, Wood says that a number of members of the department already have their captain’s license, but will need to participate in specialized water rescue trainings.

Representatives from the department are scheduled to look at a boat manufactured by C-Hawk, a boatbuilding company located in Bailey. While the department has some money saved up towards the purchase, donations are being accepted at Southern Bank by contributing to “boat fund.” Checks can be made payable to the Belhaven Volunteer Fire Department and a number of fundraisers will also be held to offset the cost of the boat.

“This won’t be just for the Pungo River,” Wood said. “This will be for Hyde County, or anywhere it needs to go.”