First responders in Door County see spike in empty watercraft calls

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STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- A rise in emergency calls involving empty watercraft leads Door County first responders and the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a reminder to boat owners.

"We've seen a dramatic uptick in that as the lake levels go up, the beaches get smaller, people aren't being as careful about tying boats and things like that," said Fire Chief Chris Hecht with the Sister Bay/Liberty Grove Fire Department. "So, we're seeing a lot of boats drift away."

"We have no clue if there's anybody on those vessels or crafts, so it's a full multi-agency response looking for a potential patient or victim," said Fire Chief Andrew Bertges with the Gibraltar Fire Department.

Crews rely on contact information that all too often is nowhere to be found.

A number of fire departments across Door County plan to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard in offering "Found It" stickers to provide to boat owners as needed.

"Really the most important thing to put on there is just a name and a phone number," said Kevin Osgood, public information officer with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Even if owners do not have the sticker, first responders say it is important to have contact information on board using more old school methods.

"You could mark your boat with permanent marker or possibly put your information in a zip lock bag where we can easily find it," said Bertges.

Bertges says it is a simple step made up front to prevent tying up resources without a reason in the future.

"Personnel and assets out on the water for hours at a time looking for someone who may not be in the water at all," said Osgood.

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