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Huntington Fire Department Dedicates Boat In Honor Of Fallen Firefighters

Reported: May. 22, 2014 4:37 PM EDT
Updated: May. 23, 2014 5:03 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.V.a. (Darrah Wilcox) -- Lt. Leonard Hartz's family has many fond memories of their loved one.

"My dad was a WWII veteran serving in the Coast Guard. He also played French horn in the Huntington Symphony, and he also taught music on his days off," his son, Maurice Hartz, said.

The legacy the former firefighter is most remembered for -- he died a hero. Sixty-six years ago today, he and Firefighter William Earnest Booth both died trying to rescue three drowning children along the Ohio River.

On Thursday, a boat was dedicated in honor of those firefighters who died in the line of duty. Investigators at the time said the men died because of lack of proper equipment.

"This boat right here goes a long way in preventing something like that from ever happening again," Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham said.

The name is the Hartz-Booth Memorial Vessel.

"It has been overwhelming, and to think today is finally here," Maurice Hartz said. "This has helped add a little bit more closure to what happened when I was 19 months old."

It's the first first-class vessel for the department, and is funded by a $569,000 federal port security grant.

The fire-fighting boat can pump water right out of the river for incidents on the water or near the shore, and if there is ever a major water line break similar to what happened in Ashland recently, fire service would not be affected.

"We would be able to sit the boat in the water and pump water to a fire engine from the river," Eastham said.

That is not all it can do.

"A lot of people don't know that there's 26 million tons of hazardous materials that goes right through the port of Huntington and we've got to have ways of protecting that," Eastham said.

The 36-foot vessel is also equipped with a dual ventilation system, air-lock entries and positive cabin air pressurization that could provide a toxic-free area in an emergency. There also is a dive and rescue door for water rescues, chemical warfare agent detectors, GPS-enhanced radar and marine thermal imaging equipment, a Forward Looking Infrared camera to help search crews better detect a lost person's heat signature and an on-board radio system with multi-agency capabilities.

Maurice Hartz followed in his father's footsteps.

"I always hung out around the fire station, chased the firetrucks, so apparently I had smoke in my blood from a very early age, and I still have have it. So it was very influential," he said.

He retired from the Huntington Fire Dept after 21 years, and said he is proud to help keep his dad's legacy alive. He said any time something helps preserve a memory and keeps a tradition alive, keeps on going, it's a good day.



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