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GALLERY: Port fireboats then and now.

Wharf Fire

PortandTerminal.com, October 9, 2019

LONG BEACH, CA – Fireboats have two advantages. One, they sit on the sea, away from the fire and two, they have unlimited water supplies to put the fire out. These two attributes have given them a crucial place in the fire services at port cities for over 250 years. We also think that they’re pretty awesome vessels to look at.

Early fireboats

The first recorded fireboat was built in 1765 for the Sun Fire Insurance Company in London. This was a manual pump in a small boat that had to be rowed by its crew to the scene of the fire.

The concept for the first generation of fireboats (those built prior to 1894) was based on the typical steam-powered tugboats found in many harbors following the Civil War. Although not specifically intended for fireboat duty, some of those vessels were fitted with steam-operated pumps and monitor nozzles for auxiliary fireboat use.

By the early 20th century fireboats while nowhere near as capable as today’s vessels, would certainly be recognizable at any modern port for what they are.

Examples of early fireboats:

Seaward access to a crisis

Fireboats are able to go places other firefighting equipment simply can’t reach. Fitted with special pumps and nozzles designed for fighting shoreline and shipboard fires, they provide first responders with strategic angles of attack.

Unlimited water supplies

The Port of Los Angeles’ Fireboat Two delivery capacity demonstration

The incredible pumping capacity of fireboats allows them to supply large volumes of water at high pressures over long distances. In some cases, one fireboat can have the same water delivery capacity as almost 40 land-base pumpers. For example, the Los Angeles Fire Department Fireboat Two shown in the video below can deliver 38,000 Gallons Per Minute (GPM).

Next-generation of fireboats

The Vancouver-based naval architecture firm Robert Allan and international marine technology specialist Kongsberg Maritime have developed a remotely operated fireboat to keep first responders safe while they effectively tackle port fires.

Kongsberg Maritime stated in a release that RALamander will be able to attack fires quicker than manned vessels due to in-close firefighting and an ‘eye in the fire’ capability that keeps marine firefighting professionals out of harm’s way.

Learn more

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