• The Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department has new equipment to crow about and expects to have quicker response to incidents on waterways in Washington and Wood counties.

    Thanks to two Coast Guard Port Security grants from the Department of Homeland Security and funds from the Belpre Township Trustees, the fire department has purchased a new high-resolution sonar, truck and cargo trailer for its dive team.

    “The intent of the grants was waterway security, to respond to incidents on the water involving property or victim recovery,” said Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Josh Chevalier, who wrote the grants.
    Article Photos

    Photo courtesy of Josh Chevalier
    Members of the Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department’s dive team work with their new high-definition sonar system. Behind them is the department’s new truck and cargo trailer.

    Response to terrorism was another goal of the Department of Homeland Security grants.

    Because the Ohio side of the Ohio River has ports related to chemical plants and unloading and loading facilities, “we were a high priority for the Coast Guard just because of that,” Chevalier said.

    “The grants became available and Josh asked the Belpre Township Trustees if we would be willing to pay the 25 percent matching funds” for the high-definition sonar, said Asa Boring, Belpre Township trustee.

    “Josh was 90 percent responsible for getting this all started,” he said. “He is young and energetic and really interested in the community.”

    The total cost for all three items was $136,319.55, with $95,075.55 spent on the truck and cargo trailer ($71,306.66 from the Coast Guard Port Security/Department of Homeland Security and $23,768.89 from Belpre Township trustees), said Chevalier.

    Twenty-five percent of the price tag for the high-definition sonar was in-kind money provided by the Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department, plus $41,244 provided by the federal grant, he said.

    The fire department tried to buy equipment and related supplies locally, said Chevalier.

    “We tried to keep as much money in the two-county area as we could,” he said.

    The truck was purchased from Family Ford in Marietta. Many of the accessories, including the truck’s topper, were from Steve’s Vans in Marietta.

    All paint and vinyl lettering and striping was by Garage Trendz in Vienna. Wiring was done by Muller Communications in Parkersburg.

    With the cargo truck, Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department’s dive team can have all its equipment loaded inside.

    “All they have to do is get their equipment and get in the water,” Boring said. “This might mean the difference between having a life saved or doing a recovery.”

    The dive team’s high-resolution sonar is the same system used by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, Chevalier said.

    The next closest system is in Pike County, Ky.

    Using a winch and towfish, the high-definition sonar can be lowered to within five feet of the bottom of the water to get a much higher resolution.

    “We can see different objects very clearly, mark them with GPS and put a diver in the water at the marker and we should be able to do the recovery in a smaller amount of time,” said Leonard Wiggins II, EMT-I/diver with Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department.

    “This (sonar) is actually our eye,” he said. “We can sit on the boat and have an idea before we ever drop over the side of what the terrain is like underneath us.”

    Chevalier said he sees the high-definition sonar as a value for the entire region.

    “With this we should be able to identify victims quicker,” he said. “It’s good for closure for the family. If the water temperature is right, we might be able to consider a resuscitation effort.”