For many years, the Duluth Fire Department was ill-equipped to save people from Lake Superior and the St. Louis
River. For rescue, firefighters were limited to throwing ropes, swimming to victims, or waiting for the Coast Guard
to show up. These tactics were inadequate.
In the late 1980's, a local merchant donated a rescue boat to the department. The boat is kept at Station #1. It
is small and light, deploys quickly, and can be launched and/or carried just about anywhere with enough people.
The department works well with the United States Coast Guard, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, and Superior Fire
Department. Many water rescues have been a joint effort. However, since the introduction of the DFD rescue boat,
firefighters are routinely reaching victims before the Coast Guard. This timely response is appreciated by those in
need and helps maintain the golden hour of patient care.
The rescue boat has been used many times to rescue people. Whether it's a pleasure boat in distress, a swimmer in
trouble, or people stuck on ice floes, the DFD rescue boat has proven to be an invaluable resource.
As with all DFD rescue services, firefighters are required to practice in realistic conditions. The DFD rescue boat
personnel regularly practice launching and maneuvering in five to seven foot waves with 30+ mph winds. Launching is
the tricky part. However, once away, the boat rides the waves well and is very maneuverable.
Training for all fire department personnel include reviewing launch sites, boat operation and safety, victim
approach, hypothermia, rescue suit familiarization, and water current studies. The department will soon expand its
rescue partnership with the City of Superior.