Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri stretches into three counties, boasting more than 1,000 miles of shoreline. Heavy residential development and condos require a full-time fire department along with rescue capabilities on the water. Jeff Dorhauer is the fire chief and one of the rescue-boat skippers.
Did you always want to be a fireman?
No, I was in risk management at Lodge of the Four seasons in 1989. Someone asked me to volunteer for the fire department. That was new to me, coming from St. Louis where city services are paid. But I decided helping people would be rewarding and stepped in.
Is it true that women go for firemen?
My wife does. We were just married when I started on the volunteer department. We’re still here with our kids.
So you had no plan to be the Fire Chief?
I just worked my way through volunteer training and in 1996 I was hired for a paying position. Then over time, I worked into this position.
Are you the only rescue boat skipper?
No, many of our firemen have taken captain’s training to qualify, though we didn’t test for the license.
What’s a typical day on the fireboat.
Well, we use it more to transport boating accident victims to land based ambulances—our ambulance services don’t have boats and our skippers are EMT’s. It works out well.
What causes most injury accidents around here?
Alcohol, speed and poor visibility at night. If you don’t really know this lake, you shouldn’t be navigating it at night—and definitely not on plane.
What are the most common injuries?
Back injuries in bowriders are pretty common. People hit wakes too hard.
What was your most rewarding moment on the rescue boat?
Well, when we are on the rescue boat it’s never a good day.…
Is there any fun duty?
We love to use it to teach kids about boating safety. You think kids like fire engines? You should see them around the boat!
What about the water cannon?
We can hit the fourth floor of most condos, but just as often we use the jet pump to supply water to the fire trucks. There are no hydrants in most of the areas where we fight fires. Want to see it in action?
Your boat is jet driven?
Yep, two jet pumps are run by Italian-made diesel blocks marinized by Mercruiser.
That sounds custom, is it?
It’s built by Metalcraft, but we spent a year researching what we needed and finally designed it with a low platform aft, and a second deck we could slide a gurney onto. It lets us get accident victims on board as easily as possible.
Do you have a personal boat?
I have an ’88 Wellcraft with dual 454’s.