New fireboat at Fallen Leaf Lake |

New fireboat at Fallen Leaf Lake

Griffin Rogers

Fallen Leaf Lake firefighters no longer have to rely on a 17-foot boat converted from a type of fishing vessel to respond to emergencies around the lake.

The Fallen Leaf Lake Fire Department received a new 28-foot fireboat Wednesday that makes it far easier for crews to respond to rescues, fires, boat accidents, medical calls and more, according to Fire Chief Gary Gerren.

Personnel with local fire districts took the time Friday to familiarize themselves with the new watercraft, which comes with a variety of special features. They also received training from Lake Assault Boats, the vessel's Wisconsin-based builder and designer.

Included with the boat is a large water gun capable of pumping 1600 gallons of water per minute at a pressure of 160 pounds per square inch. The range of the water stream reaches about 350 feet.

Built-in sonar and radar are installed to help track objects in the water, and infrared cameras allow for better night vision. Meanwhile, two 225 horsepower engines allow the boat to hit speeds up to 42 mph.

At full speed, the vessel burns through about 55 gallons of fuel per hour. However, its main purpose isn't to zip around the lake, said Jerry Atherton, founder of Lake Assault Boats.

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"It's a floating fire hydrant," he said. "And that's primarily what it's used for."

Gerren said having a boat capable of supplying large amounts of water is critical to protecting the mountainous region, especially since several lakeside houses can only be accessed on foot or by water.

With the new boat, firefighters can douse a fire from the lake or connect hoses to it while attacking fires on land.

The department's old boat didn't provide firefighters with a sufficient water supply and was more the 20 years old, Gerren added. But that's not a problem anymore.

"We needed to upgrade," he said.

The new fireboat cost about $268,000, of which $250,000 was funded by El Dorado County.

Gerren said the department will keep the old fireboat, but that it will be mostly used for additional support to help protect the 3-mile-long, 1-mile-wide lake.

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