Editorial: ‘Stop gap’ it had better be

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North Whidbey Fire and Rescue commissioners are about to address a rescue boat shortage by teaming up with Marine Services of Cornet Bay to provide water rescue services on North Whidbey.

This is described as a “stop gap” measure to provide such services until the district can find a suitable rescue boat of its own, and until the Island County Sheriff’s Office gets its own boat back in the water after years of non-use due to budgetary reasons.

Marine Services’ owner John Aydelotte has offered the fire district generous terms for use of his five boats, billing only $30 an hour for his hired captains, while he won’t charge anything for boats he steers. His boats would motor to the rescue scene with two trained fire district rescue volunteers on board.

Though relatively cheap, the drawbacks of this scheme come quickly to mind. What about liability if a boat is late to the scene of a marine emergency for some reason? What if the private captain makes a mistake, then who’s liable? Will fire district volunteers like just going along for the ride? Will captains for Marine Services really be available 24/7 in a timely manner? No doubt numerous other questions pop into the minds of rescue professionals.

If the commissioners do indeed ink the contract with Marine Services, they had better put its “stop gap” nature in writing, and make it clear to the volunteer firefighting force that it’s only temporary. If not, they might have to worry that some day, they’ll be expected to call a private taxi to get to a fire scene.

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