The Maine Warden Service and first responders in northern Maine have acquired a new airboat to use during emergencies, natural disasters and search and rescue efforts.

The airboat, the only one of its kind in Aroostook County, has already been deployed to help several residents of Westmanland who were cut off from their homes by the rising waters of Madawaska Stream. Using the boat, emergency personnel were able to bring one woman to safety and carried supplies to other families stranded by high water.

The Warden Service says the airboat was purchased new from Diamondback Airboats in Florida for $83,000, which included shipping the boat from Florida to Maine.

The airboat is 20 feet long and 8 feet wide and is powered by a 550 horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged motor. The custom features include a reinforced hull, hydraulic ice break, custom stainless steel dive ladder as well as a polymer-covered hull for extra protection on rough ice and other surfaces. The purchase was made possible in part by a grant of $10,000 from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, as well as partnership from several other agencies.

Partners in this project include Aroostook EMA, area town managers, police chiefs, and fire departments in Ashland, Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Fort Kent. The new airboat is to be stored at a donated facility that is secure, heated, and maintained for year-round access and deployment. It will be stationed in Fort Kent for the time being.

Wardens say the airboat is perfectly suited for river work and for search and rescue and dive team recovery efforts.