Christine Lee, NBC 5 News
The Mansfield Fire Department is learning to use a new hovercraft to help them better respond to flood emergencies.
Mansfield firefighters are training on their department's new hovercraft, which will allow emergency crews to travel on both land and water during situations such as flash floods.
The firefighters hope that the hovercraft will make their response during floods more efficient. Their current system could be improved, Capt. William Franks said.
"So many times in the past, we've put our teams out into the water to go out to a flooded vehicle and find out after we're there that there is no one there," he said.
With the hovercraft, his team will be able to cover a larger area in a short amount of time, Franks said.
"Sometimes we have multiple areas we're doing our rescues," he said. "In that one- or two-hour time period, three, four feet of water can push a vehicle a long distance. It can also push bodies or children a long distance."
Engineer Dallas Evans said the hovercraft would make their jobs much easier in future emergencies.
"There is a lot of low-line areas in this city, and we'll be able to get up to the houses that are completely covered in water," he said.
Chris Fitzgerald, president of Neoteric Hovercraft Inc., said additional safety for the rescue teams is the most important thing the vehicle offers.
"Instead of them having to walk across a flooded stream with poles to check it out, this gives them the ability to get out there and to assess the situation and help without putting the firefighter in danger," he said.
Fitzgerald said the company has made hovercrafts for about 50 fire departments throughout the country. Each vehicle can cost up to $60,000, he said.