The Denver Fire Department's holiday wish list has just one item on it: a 28-foot aluminum fire boat. If schedules are maintained, the vessel could arrive by February.
Currently, the boat is under construction at the Lake Assault Custom Boats facility in Elk River, Minn.
When finished, the $200,000 craft will be equipped with twin, 300-horsepower outboard engines and a 1,500-gallon-a-minute fire pump - driven by a Kodiak Marine V8 engine - that siphons water directly from the lake.
Costs are covered by a financial tax base generated by Denver's fire-district tax.
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The process of obtaining a fire boat for the Lake Norman communities started nearly five years ago.
"We went to the commissioners two budget years ago," said Chief Jay Flynn of the Denver Fire Department. "We actually went mid-budget year, but we weren't able to get it in, so we presented it last year for the current fiscal-year budget and finally were able to get it in."
Flynn said that the new Webbs Road fire station, which serves the community's lakefront properties, will have primary access to the boat. While specific firefighters will not be assigned to boat duty, Flynn said, several people will be trained to operate the craft. Denver firefighters plan to cross-train with neighboring fire departments as well.
The fire boat also carries a possible financial benefit for residents. Flynn estimates that more than 800 homes in the Denver district are within 1,000 feet of the lakefront and are not covered by county water lines and fire hydrants.
"Once we go through the state of North Carolina's inspection process and get the boat rated by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, those folks will be able to receive a reduction in their insurance rating," he said.
"They would go from a '9' rated area to a '5' rated area once we get it through the state's process."
Flynn said a 2006 Christmas Day blaze at one such home - in Denver's gated Governor's Island community - served as the impetus for pursuing a fire boat.
"(The boat) definitely would have come into play that day," he said.
Carol-Faye Ashcraft lives on Burton Lane, which leads to Governor's Island, and remembers the fire well.
"As I recall, something like 13 units replied to that fire," she said. "But they were all on land. The fire was huge, and it was threatening homes on either side of this multimillion-dollar house. There's only one way in (to the community) on a very narrow road ... so they had a lot of trouble even getting the fire trucks in."
Ashcraft said the addition of a fire boat could only assist the Denver department in addressing similar emergencies.
"Had they had a fire boat with any kind of reach at all (that day), it looks like they could have done a lot more to save the house," she said.
Flynn points out that the craft will have other uses beyond fighting fires.
During the summertime, when the lake is busy with weekend traffic, the department sends boats out at regular intervals to assist broken-down patrons or people in need.
Before buying the new fire boat, Flynn says the department had been "making due with what we've got," relying on assistance from Mecklenburg County firefighters and a smaller fire boat stationed in Cornelius.
"We would call on a neighboring department and wait for them to get there," Flynn said.
Now, the chief says his department will be better equipped to respond to drownings, hazardous material and fuel spills, boat fires and other emergencies that take place on the water.
"That's the big thing," said Flynn. "Even though Denver is buying this (boat), it really is going to be a resource so that if there is a need anywhere on the lake, we'll be able to take it and help out.
"Basically any address that's within 1,000 feet of the lakefront can benefit," Flynn continued. "It's a tool that we can use to better serve the community."