Greenport Fire Department continues its search for fire boat funding

The Greenport Fire Department’s effort to secure a federal grant for the purchase of a critically needed fire rescue boat has come up short.

In March, the department reached out to the office of Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) to apply for grant funding. Earlier this month, the department was informed that the requirements for that grant had been changed after the new Congress was sworn in in January.

“Well, we didn’t meet the new requirements,” said former fire department captain Bob Jester. 

Mr. Jester is chairman of a department committee that has been working hard to find the funds to buy what everyone in the department — and in village government — believes is needed.

“And we need it now,” Mr. Jester said in March. “We have been lucky to avoid any disasters so far.”

Currently, the department has access to a 21-foot former lobster boat with no waterside pumping capacity. That boat has had engine problems, Mr. Jester said in March. The department also has a 12-foot inflatable boat that is not appropriate for rescuing people from a marine accident or fighting a maritime fire.

All along, the department’s goal has been to find grant funding of approximately $900,000 to purchase a modern fire rescue boat capable of marine rescues and fighting dockside and boat fires from the water. In essence, a fire rescue boat is a floating fire engine.

In March, Mr. LaLota said he and his staff would work with the department to locate any resource available to meet the goal. Last week, Mr. LaLota’s spokesman, Will Kiely, said that has not changed.

“They applied for funding through the appropriations committee, but the rules changed when the majority changed” in January, he said. “The fire department did not qualify for a certain type of funding. We have given them a list of options and we are very happy to help them with the process.”

To Mr. Jester — who in an email said his committee and the department would not give up until the job is done — pointed out that members fought a dock fire in the village on March 15.

“The boat we have is not dependable,” he said. “We got it back from repairs on March 14. We put it in the water. At 5:09 a.m. on the 15th there was a fire. The boat was called for, but we can’t pump water from it. The crew ran a hose from a truck, into the water, to our boat and they put the fire out that way. But it was not designed for that at all.”

He said the department is still working with Mr. LaLota’s office to see what grants might be available.

“His aides have stressed they know the boat is needed and will keep us up to date on whatever might be available,” Mr. Jester said. “We want to be on the front burner.”