DEERSVILLE — The Dover and New Philadelphia Fire Departments Joint Rescue and Recovery Dive Team purchased six new dive suits after receiving a $17,000 donation form the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy Foundation and Encino Energy.
Rainfall did not deter a group of people from gathering recently for the check presentation at the beach area of Tappan Lake Park. MWCF and Encino Energy partnered to provide the funding for the new dive suits, which will aid in the joint department’s efforts to assist Tuscarawas County and surrounding counties in times of emergency.
Officials from both organizations said the donation was a collaborative effort to support health and safety initiatives in the communities they serve. Hardy Murchison, CEO of Encino Energy, said giving back to local communities is a “critical” component of the company’s identity and what it does.
“Our people live here in Harrison County and surrounding areas. We are hopefully a part of the community in a way that’s really constructive, so we’ve got to find a way to give back to the people like the fire and rescue services and MWCD who are making this a great place to live and a great place for us to work,” he said.
John Hoopingarner, president of the MWCF, said they were proud to have been involved in the partnership to provide support to the area’s first responders.
“The dive suits are so important for the work that they do and how they keep us all safe,” he said.
Partnerships are what the the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District is all about, MWCD Executive Director Craig Butler said. The donation made to the joint rescue team will allow it to continue efforts to keep the millions of park visitors safe, he said.
“They (park visitors) can know that they can have a good time and they can do it responsibly but if they get in trouble, we’ve got qualified, trained first responders to help them,” he added.
Brooks Ross, captain of the Dover Fire Department, said the donation means a great deal to the dive team, which consists of 25 certified members from the Dover, New Philadelphia and Bowerston fire departments. He said the funding moved the purchase goal for the suits ahead by a couple years. Each dive suit costs around $2,500, he said.
“These suits that we use and diving equipment in general are very expensive, and we’ve got a large number of divers on our team now. Trying to find the funding, especially after this pandemic, was hard. It was a project that I’d planned out where we might have everything in a couple of years, but with the partnership between Encino Energy and MWCF, we were able to complete it in about a year,” he said.
The donation helped purchase four suits for the Dover and Bowerston dive teams. Ross added that having the proper gear makes a big difference in their efforts
“The guys at the Bowerston department were using their own personal equipment, so it was nice that we now all have the exact same equipment. It’s standardized and it makes it a lot easier and a lot safer. If we do have an issue with a suit, we’re familiar with theirs and they’re familiar with ours,” he said.
The dive team works with a lot of the local fire departments and is one of very few dive teams in the area, Ross said.
“Around our area, every county that touches Tuscarawas County, we’re it,” he said.
Following the check presentation, members of the dive team donned the new suits and ventured into the lake for some training. Ross said most of the team has practiced diving in Tappan Lake but not in the beach area, making it a good opportunity for them to get a look at it from underwater.
The presentation was meant to coincide with the district’s annual boat safety awareness campaign; however, due to the rain, that event has been postponed. Still, Park Ranger Supervisor Lucas Pace offered some helpful tips to keep people safe when out on the water. He said boaters should always have enough personal floatation devices for everyone present on a boat. He said it is important to make sure the life jackets are the proper fit and in good condition. He said that boaters should also carry a whistle and have a fire extinguisher handy in case of an emergency.
Pace warns people against drinking alcohol while out on the lake.
“Alcohol tends to be exacerbated by the waves and wind action out on the lake, so we find it’s more likely for someone to have an accident if you’re under the influence of alcohol,” he said.