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Technology, Equipment Upgrades Bolster Lake Rescue Team's Capabilities

The Madison Fire Department’s Lake Rescue Team announces the acquisition of a new rescue airboat dedicated in honor of retired Lieutenant and Lake Rescue Team co-founder Craig H. Yapp. In a ceremony held at the Olin Park Boat Launch, the 2020 Midwest Rescue Airboat was officially named “Yapper.”

Yapp served the City of Madison Fire Department for 24 years, from March 1982 to March 2006. He played a critical role in the leadership and development of the MFD Lake Rescue Team from its inception in 1983.

“This is a great honor for me and my family,” Yapp said in a statement to the Madison Common Council, which approved the boat’s dedication in an honoring resolution on September 15, 2020. “My 24 years as a member of the Madison Fire Department and 10 years as a member of the Police and Fire Commission were special times. I’m very proud of the things that we did.”

“Yapper” saw its first call on March 1, 2020 after a man fell through the ice of Lake Waubesa on his snowmobile. The MFD Lake Rescue Team was dispatched to ensure the safety of the man after being exposed to the cold.

While the previous airboat was only a wintertime resource for the Lake Rescue Team, the new airboat has year-round capabilities. It can traverse water and ice conditions in the winter, as well as marshy areas and flooded terrain in the summer. Technological upgrades and new design features enhance the team’s ability to execute successful search and rescue operations. Notable features include:

  • Increased spaciousness: Measuring 8 feet wide and 20 feet long, the new airboat allows up to six passengers on board at once. The previous airboat only allowed two rescuers on board at a time.
  • Improved communications: Wireless headsets allow personnel to communicate with one another and with on-shore command, as well as to remain connected to the department’s dispatch communications system.
  • Better plotting: A Garmin touch screen GPS mapping system provides maps of the lakes, allowing team members to know their exact location relative to important landmarks during a search operation. The system also allows the team to mark areas they have already searched.
  • Better visibility: Whereas hand lights were needed while operating the previous boat, the 2020 Midwest Rescue Airboat features three halogen lights along the front to allow rescuers a better view of the terrain before them. An emergency light atop the boat allows others to see it in the dark, particularly from the rear.

The airboat will reside at Fire Station 1 in downtown Madison, the home of the Lake Rescue Team.


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