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Poland FRD first to purchase new ice rescue vehicle

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Chief Mark Bosse (l.) and staff of the Poland Fire Rescue Department pose atop their newest rescue vehicle, the AIR Responder, while Roger Bailey of WISE Technology (r.) looks on.

The Poland Fire Rescue Department recently became the first buyer of a new, amphibious vehicle that the Department’s Chief feels will help them save lives in cold water and ice rescue emergencies.

The AIR Responder, a new vehicle produced by WISE Technology, is capable of carrying multiple people (up to 900 pounds combined) across solid and broken ice as well as open water, reducing the risk to rescue personal who, using traditional methods, might otherwise become victims themselves.

The need for such a vehicle became apparent to Chief Mike Bosse through first-hand experience when, on a dark night in April 2013, members of a crew attempting to rescue an ice fisherman on Thompson Lake repeatedly broke through the ice while trying to reach the victim 1500 feet off shore.

Using traditional methods and equipment, the rescuers, dressed in heavy gear, became physically drained from repeatedly pulling themselves out of the icy water. After successfully reaching the victim and pulling him from the frigid waters, the rescuers still faced a long haul back to shore through crumbling ice conditions. To make matters worse, visibility was poor and communications failed as radios became water-logged. If not for the Maine Wardens Service air boat arriving on the scene as the crew struggled to make their way back, the outcome could have been tragic.

Spurred on by the scare, Bosse began an extensive search for a better way, eventually becoming acquainted with WISE Technology at an annual trade show. Bosse arranged to have WISE demonstrate the versatility of their new AIR Responder prototype in a variety of cold water conditions over the course of several months, which gave his crew an opportunity to offer some valuable input. The end result was delivered to the Poland Fire Rescue Department last week.

Powered by an unmodified snowmobile, the AIR Responder is easy to operate, and its low center of gravity renders it virtually unsinkable. The vehicle allows rescuers to reach the victim in a fraction of the time needed with conventional methods, reducing the likelihood of hypothermia, and needed medical care can begin as soon as the victim is onboard.

At a time when many fire departments are fighting for tax dollars to cover their basic expenses, Bosse reports that the Department’s purchase didn’t use a dime of tax payer dollars. With the help of the Poland Fire Rescue Benevolent Association, they are raising the funds themselves.

“The public has been very supportive,” Bosse said. “The association is doing a great job with its fundraising, and recent media coverage has brought in additional donations. But there is still a lot of money to be raised.” Bosse said contributions of any amount will be gratefully accepted by the Poland Fire Rescue Benevolent Association to help pay off the Air Responder.

For videos and more information about the AIR Responder, see the WISE Technology

website at www.wisetechco.com.

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