Companies give Gulfport fire boat a free $50k upgrade

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It may be tough economic times, but some local businesses say you can't put a price tag on helping to save lives. U.S. Marine returned the Gulfport Fire Department's search and rescue boat on Friday after making a few additions. Gulfport officials said they bought the boat with BP money, but the money didn't stretch far enough to cover some extra safety features.

The boat that Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy Donlin picked up from U.S. Marine looked different from what he dropped off. Donlin said when the fire department purchased the 30 foot boat, they got it without all the bells and whistles.

"We only had a certain amount of money," said Donlin. "They had to take things off of the boat, not put things in the boat because we couldn't afford it."

U.S. Marine and its vendors joined together to outfit the vessel with $50,000 in free upgrades. Company workers installed features like remote controlled search lights, cargo netting, a safety handrail and a protective paint coat.

D.J. Malley is a program manager for U.S. Marine. He said employees were excited to do the work.

"It felt good knowing that you're apart of something that could help save a life," said Malley. "Maybe what we gave them could help find somebody a minute sooner. Seconds matter sometimes. Who knows, our business is marine and maybe it's us they're looking for some day so it comes full circle."

Donlin said, "If you can just save one person, then you've paid for everything money wise that this boat is worth."

The story of generosity doesn't end here. U.S. Marine also offered to do any future maintenance firefighters may need on the boat.

"This is really, really good neighbors when you have someone who is going to step up like this and say, 'Whatever happens to the boat, we will take care of it. Don't worry about it. We're here in the community,'" Donlin said.

"Right now with the budget crunch that the whole United States is in and Gulfport that really means a lot to us."

Firefighters said in a few weeks, the boat will be back at U.S. Marine being outfitted for a special camera that can be used at night. Officials say using heat, the camera can sense a body in the water from 1,600 feet away.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.