Nassau County firefighters now have a boat for water rescues, courtesy of Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
The sandwich shop’s charitable organization donated a 17 ft. boat, 70 HP Suzuki motor, and rescue equipment, including life jackets, buoys, and a board, at a cost of $32,847 to the county’s fire rescue department. It’s the first boat for the department.
“This seems to be something you really need,” said Firehouse Subs co-founder Robin Sorensen, who said it “seemed a bit odd” the department did not have a boat because the community is surrounded by water.
Mr. Sorensen said the foundation has donated $30 million to first responders and that 70 percent of the money comes from customers, who drop cash in buckets at the company’s 1,100 shops and fundraising events.
“To me, that’s even better that it’s that way,” he said.
Fire Chief Brady Rigdon, who worked for the chain’s charitable foundation before joining the department this year, thanked his former colleagues for the boat, the department’s first, at a public ceremony Thursday morning at Station 20 along First Coast Highway on the south end of Amelia Island, where the boat will be stored and maintained.
“Thank you. This is a big deal for us,” said Chief Rigdon. “We had no capability and now we do.”
Last summer, a boat carrying two men started sinking in a local waterway and the department was forced to wait about 30 minutes for the Sheriff department’s boat to arrive, according to the chief.
“You never know when you’re going to have need,” said the Chief.
Assistant Fire Chief Greg Roland (who was appointed to the city’s Planning Advisory Board this week) said training is expected to start soon and will be conducted by Jacksonville Fire Rescue. He said all firefighters will be trained on the boat and so too will City of Fernandina Beach firefighters. The departments work together under an interlocal agreement.
Commissioner Justin Taylor, who represents unincorporated Callahan west of I-95, said first responders could have used a boat to help residents escape their homes during Hurricane Irma.
Commissioner George Spicer, who represents unincorporated Nassau County on the northwest side around Hilliard, said the county has pursued grants to save taxpayers money.
“It’s great that we can reach out to Firehouse Subs for help,” he said. “We have good people who are going after the money.”
Lt. David Lee wrote the grant for the boat.
“You have to show need and we had nothing around here to get us in the water,” he said. “We’re on an island with canals, the intercoastal, and on the island—the ocean. You heard the chief speak. We had two guys struggling on the water and had to wait for the sheriff’s boat to travel several miles. Now we won’t have to do that. For a rescue, time is critical.”
Note The story has been corrected. The name of Firehouse Sub co-founder who spoke at the ceremony is Robin Sorensen and not Robin Peters.