Fire department raising money for new dive gear

Monday, October 15, 2007
Cape Girardeau firefighter Norman Baker, right, cleared his flooded full-face mask as fire Capt. Brad Dillow observed him Aug. 15 on the 15-foot underwater platform at Mermet Springs, a diving facility in Southern Illinois.
FRED LYNCH
flynch@semissourian.com

Watch a video of Cape Girardeau's diving firefighters:

http://www.semissourian.com/gallery/divi...

The back-to-back games at Dalhousie Golf Club today will benefit Cape Girardeau's police and fire departments.

Fire chief Rick Ennis, speaking at the 2007 fire truck rally at Capaha Park on Saturday, said he couldn't estimate proceeds because it's the first such benefit.

Though both departments benefit from the quarter-cent fire sales tax overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2004, Ennis said money is needed for other items.

Cape Girardeau fire Capt. Brad Dillow entered the 15-foot-deep school bus at Mermet Springs during a scuba training exercise using a full-face mask. (Fred Lynch)

"It's not that we're getting shortchanged or the money from the tax is being divested. We always have needs from the department and always will" he said.

The sales tax money "is being spent as we said it would be," he said.

Among the extras the fire department is looking to buy is equipment for its dive team. Assistant fire chief Mark Hashheider, who runs the city's public safety dive team, said such equipment is not covered by tax revenue.

Hashheider said today's golf outing and other fundraising events will help stretch dollars to buy dive team equipment.

He said full-face masks and dry suits will improve safety "and give us that capability of diving year-round. The colder the water, the less likely we'll be able to use wet suits."

Dive team members with the Cape Girardeau Fire Department entered the Mermet Springs scuba diving quarry in Southern Illinois recently for training in navigation and full-face mask, including from left, John Ryan, Rich Lyke and assistant fire chief Mark Hasheider, with Mermet staff member Randy Ren and firefighter Norman Baker, background. (Fred Lynch)

According to a July memo issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, public safety dive teams need such equipment as full face masks and dry suits for dealing with biological or material hazards.

Hashheider said although divers may seem like a luxury, his team has responded to as many as six calls in a single year, from recovering drowning victims to helping the police department recover cars and criminal evidence.

"We may not be called out quite as often as a person would think," Hashheider said, adding, "there is no other organized dive team in Southeast Missouri, so someone has to provide that service."

Cape Girardeau's team got started when firefighters who happened to be divers began volunteering for underwater missions. In the beginning they provided their own equipment, Hashheider said.

That changed in 2006, with the donation of $5,000 from the family of Brandon Sandvos, who drowned in Kelso, Mo., on April 3, 2005. He was 13.

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department bought three sets of diving equipment with the money. The equipment stays at the fire station, which shortens response time.

"I think we are funded fairly well for day-to-day operations, but we can't always get everything we need through the same funding source," Hashheider said.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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