2018-08-09 / Front Page

Town wants to replace decades old lifeguard truck

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer


The current life guard truck is “Surf 79,” a 1998 Chevy 1500, which tows the 2015 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130. The truck is considered an emergency vehicle, with a siren and lights, and is used by lifeguards to expedite response time. (Photo courtesy of the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department website) The current life guard truck is “Surf 79,” a 1998 Chevy 1500, which tows the 2015 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130. The truck is considered an emergency vehicle, with a siren and lights, and is used by lifeguards to expedite response time. (Photo courtesy of the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department website) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – After nearly 20 years, the Old Orchard Beach Lifeguard division is looking to replace its truck. The town put out a request for proposal for either a 2019 red Crew Cab truck outright, or to trade in its 1998 Chevrolet Extended Cab truck to use toward the purchase of a new vehicle. The 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 retails at $46,890. The town of Old Orchard Beach is sales tax exempt.

While the current truck transports equipment to lifeguard posts every day, it also functions as a year round emergency vehicle for the town. The truck is equipped with a siren and lights to expedite lifeguard response to emergent situations up and down the seven miles of beach.

“When something happens, it’s faster to go by street than to try and fight through the crowds on the beach,” said lifeguard captain Keith Willett. “When the season ends, the fire department will use the truck to respond to beach crises.”

The lifeguard division responds to a variety of calls, from lost children and medical emergencies to people pulled into rip tides or drifting too far out on paddleboards and kayaks.

“It all depends on the wind. It can be unpredictable, and people get pulled out fast,” Willett said.

The lifeguard department is running with a smaller staff this year than before, due to a lack of applications and interest in the position. According to Willett, the going hourly rate can’t compete with surrounding areas such as Kennebunk and Ogunquit, where the rate ranges a few dollars higher than OOB’s starting pay of $12.50 per hour. The town employs 26 lifeguards, aged 18 to 45. In comparison, the town has previously been able to use 22 lifeguards a day on the beach, where the daily count this summer is about 12. Due to the lack of staff, the lifeguard department has had to cut back from the usual 13 stands open daily to seven, a drop that has prompted public concern.

“We’re hearing comments and concerns about it up and down the beach this summer,” Willett said.

Willett said the department tries to ensure every lifeguard is trained to use the truck. According to the human resources listing for lifeguards in Old Orchard Beach, candidates must be a certified Maine state lifeguard of at least 18 years of age, and be CPR and First Aid certified. Lifeguards must also be able to swim in a variety of currents, as well as be able to operate equipment such as kayaks and rescue boards.

“All of our lifeguards can operate the truck and are Red Cross certified. It’s a great program,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rich Kindelan.

The lifeguard truck tows a Ski-Doo to and from the beach, and is stocked with rescue boards, snorkels and EMS equipment, such as spine boards and first aid kits. The truck responds from the command tower located in front of The Brunswick, where the program is based out of, and from there is dispatched to situations locally, as well as to provide mutual aid to surrounding areas if needed.

“We were called to a scene last week because someone was fleeing arrest from the police and went into the water, so we were called to help get him out,” Willett said. “We really do a little bit of everything.”

Requests for quotes must be filed with Town Manager Larry Mead by 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

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