SKOWHEGAN — The fire department on Monday received a new, $3,500 Rescue Alive pontoon sled for thin-ice and open-water rescues.

The Skowhegan Firefighters Association fronted the money for the device, and the fire department and the hospital’s Emergency Medical Services will conduct fundraisers to pay for it, without using tax dollars. One fundraising event is scheduled for this weekend.

Firefighter Jason Frost said the department got the idea to purchase the device during a rescue on North Pond, in Smithfield, in December. Oakland firefighters used a similar device to pull a woman from the freezing water after she tried to save her dog which had wandered onto thin ice.

“They had a hard time with that rescue,” Frost said. “We decided that with the number of bodies of water we have around here, with the river and Lake George, that we needed one.”

He said the 88-pound, double-pontoon sled will be used by the department’s technical rescue team, which is trained for difficult rescue missions.

Frost said the sled is 89 inches long, 66 inches wide and is not motorized. It is attached by rope to rescuers on or near the shoreline. He said the rescuer remains out of the water and can quickly walk the sled over ice or paddle to a victim. All rescue activity happens between two aluminum guardrails attached to the pontoons.

The sled is equipped with a harness that goes around the victim’s chest, allowing the rescuer to slide the person along the guardrails into the space between the pontoons. The unit can be towed on snow-covered roads by off-road vehicles to take a patient from remote areas back to plowed roads.

The sled also can be used in the summertime for water rescue.

“We decide to get the sled on our own — it’s a lot of money to ask of the taxpayers,” Frost said.

A basketball game between firefighters and EMS is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Skowhegan Community Center, off West Front Street. Suggested donation is $5 for adults and $3 for children. All proceeds will go to paying off the sled.

Frost said Maine Fire Equipment Co. of Skowhegan has a Facebook page, and for every “like” on the page, the company will donate $1 to the fund. Donations also have come in from various departments at Redington-Fairview General Hospital.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com