League City has 18 miles of waterfront along the banks of Clear Creek and Clear Lake. Along those banks are thousands of boat slips, and hundreds of docks and waterfront homes.
Yet, when there’s a fire along the shore, or a person in need of water rescue, the League City Fire Department lacks the tools to respond, officials said.
“In every case, we have to go there by land, do what we can and then call other departments,” League City Fire Chief Gary Warren said.
League City rescuers end up being spotters for other departments that can reach people stranded in the water, he said.
“There’s nothing we can do except point them out,” he said.
But the League City Volunteer Fire Department hopes to change that.
The fire department is seeking a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy a new fire and rescue boat.
If FEMA approves the grant, it would be the first vehicle of its kind in the department’s history, Warren said.
The fire department has inflatable rescue rafts it bought after Hurricane Harvey, but those vehicles wouldn’t be useful for rescues in Clear Lake or for fighting fires, Warren said.
The boat the fire department wants costs $436,790, according to a grant application prepared by the department. The grant would cover 75 percent of the cost of the vehicle, Warren said.
The city would be obligated to pay for the remaining 25 percent of the purchase, $109,197.
The boat the department wants is 30 feet long and capable of pumping about 1,000 gallons of water a minute. It also would be equipped with radiation detection and air-monitoring equipment.
The fire department responds to between one and five boat fires a year, according to an analysis provided by the department. It also has responded to 1,100 water rescue calls over the past seven years, according to the department.
About 800 of those calls came in August 2017, when Hurricane Harvey flooded a large part of the city, officials said.
The department estimates a boat would cost the city $23,771 a year to maintain, equip and insure, Warren said.
That cost was reasonable, given the added benefits to the city, he said.
The fire department also is arguing that a fire boat could help it respond to more regional emergencies, such as a refinery fire or a chemical spill in the ship channel. Making those arguments is important to department’s grant application, because the grant money is meant for port security.
The League City council on Tuesday gave its unanimous support for the fire department to go ahead with the grant application.
The fire department expects to hear in the next month whether the U.S. Coast Guard approves the application, a necessary step before it goes to FEMA.