Carol Sue keeps CVFD afloat

Pictured is the Carol Sue, the Columbia Volunteer Fire Department’s new boat for responding to emergencies on the Mississippi River.

The Columbia Volunteer Fire Department recently acquired a new boat, providing local first responders a safer means of conducting rescue or firefighting operations along the Mississippi River.

The boat, named the Carol Sue, was featured in a video shared last week by the CVFD’s Facebook page detailing a number of the craft’s utilities.

From Lake Assault Boats in Wisconsin, the boat is 36 feet long and 9 feet wide and features twin 250 horsepower engines, a top speed of 42 miles per hour and a fire pump capable of shooting 2,200 gallons of water per minute.

Columbia Fire Chief Mike Roediger offered additional information on the watercraft, from additional features to how the department plans to use it.

“It provides a much safer area to work on,” Roediger said. “Whatever we need to do on the river, it just provides a safer and easier way to work.”

Roediger pointed to some of the boat’s features, including an onboard generator for powering not only the lights around the entire ship but also the computers in the cabin which provide navigation and night vision capabilities.

The craft also has a retractable boarding platform for use alongside larger vessels, and Roediger further noted the fact that the front of the ship can be lowered and retracted to serve as a landing platform for rescues or a vehicle.

All of these features – particularly the size of the boat – make this craft a substantial improvement over the department’s previously sole means of responding to incidents on the river.

“The other boat, it was hard to put water from the boat on whatever was on fire due to its size,” Roediger said. “This one is much easier to get water flowing and maintain the boat where it’s supposed to be at.”

He explained the department gets calls for emergencies on the river around 15 times per year. Some of these consist of burning watercraft, stranded boats or individuals who have leapt from the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.

The department, he went on to say, takes care of calls along a roughly 15-mile length of the river, though it also responds to assist other departments located near the water.

“We not only assist our department but we assist Mehlville across the river and then both Missouri and Illinois departments both north and south of us, whether it be Cahokia, Prairie du Pont, Valmeyer, Maeystown to the south,” Roediger said.

The craft was procured through talks with the fire department in Madison, which originally acquired the vessel from Lake Assault Boats in 2012.

After getting some substantial repairs in 2018, that department found little use for the boat, and talks for providing it to the CVFD began last summer.

“It cost the citizens of Columbia $0 for the boat,” Roediger said. “It was given to us. We have an agreement with them that we can use the boat down here. We just have to pay for maintenance and insurance and any operational costs.”

The name Carol Sue has been kept from the boat’s time in Madison. It was named for the mayor of Madison’s deceased wife.

Roediger said work is currently being done to organize joint training between the fire department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Department for operations on the boat.

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing expressed his satisfaction with the new boat, noting that his department responds to calls on the river somewhat regularly – though not enough to warrant the purchase of its own vessel.

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Andrew Unverferth

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