Madison: When most people customize their boats, it usually means some racing stripes and a bigger engine.
But when the Madison Fire Department's Dive Team learned they needed a new boat last fall they took special order to a whole new level.
Years on a smaller lake rescue boat helped them create a wish list. "It was like man, if only we had this. You do more training and if we only had this. With this boat we got all we wanted," says Lt. K-Tal Johnson.
The old boat simply didn't have enough space. "There's a lot of stuff in one small area so it makes it difficult to get ready. Obviously it's an emergency situation so you want to have enough space so that you're efficient in getting ready and getting in," says one member of the diver.
"It was a nightmare. Where now we have a huge area where 3-4 guys can get their stuff on," says Lt. Johnson.
Storm Hawk Boats of Madison custom built the boat, moving the console three feet forward to add more space for the divers and their equipment. "We have 48 square feet of open area," says Lt. Johnson.
The company also installed a 4 foot dive door, making it easier to get victims and divers in the boat. "Before when we'd have a person we're trying to get out of the water we'd have to lift them up over the rail to get them in the boat," says Lt. Johnson.
But the firefighters did more than pick a few options out of a catalog. They decided how tall the railings would be, and how to store their gear, and even where the lights should go so they could be seen at night. "We were able to take it out in different conditions and find, 'You can't see these lights here, we need to have them here.' Simple things like that that made this come together," says Lt. Johnson.