Apparatus, SOC Specialized

Boston (MA) Fire Department Receives New Dive Team Vehicle

Issue 12 and Volume 17.

Roderick Fraser

The Boston (MA) Fire Department (BFD) Dive Team is ready 24 hours a day to respond to water rescue incidents in Boston Harbor and is occasionally requested to assist in water search and rescue outside Boston. Having a reliable response vehicle is critical. The BFD Dive Team response vehicle was a 1985 E-ONE rescue unit that had been reassigned to the dive team. After all the years of service as a rescue and then a dive team response vehicle, it started having mechanical and suspension problems. The department’s long-range apparatus replacement plan included replacing the dive truck, but a review of the vehicle showed that the body was still in excellent shape even though the chassis and cab needed repair. After much internal discussion, the department decided to totally refurbish and rechassis the truck body, which saved the department time and money. The results surpassed everyone’s expectations.

(1) The exterior compartments of the dive unit were all redone along with new painting and lettering. A slide-out mount was installed inside one of the compartments for a nine-hp outboard engine. (Photos by author.)

The Refurb Process

The department put the new cab and chassis out to open bid and purchased a 2011 International 4400 crew cab and chassis for $84,379. The Dura Star chassis has a large crew cab that seats five comfortably and has a 256-inch wheelbase. The department contracted the job of refurbishing the old dive truck body and mounting it on the new chassis to M and R Truck and Equipment Refinishing of Whitman, Massachusetts, also through a competitive bid process. The department’s maintenance division developed a list of repairs and improvements needed from its perspective and met with the BFD dive master to incorporate changes and improvements he felt were important into the specification.

This refurbishment included restoring everything inside and new roll-down cargo doors on all compartments, lighting, electrical outlets, interior painting, and heating system. Removing an interior hard-mounted bench seat allowed more room to move around and additional storage. The exterior compartments were all redone along with new painting and lettering. A slide-out mount was installed inside one of the compartments for a nine-hp outboard engine. A new generator with outlets was installed, along with a new skylight and a removable trailer hitch to accommodate towing the Dive Team’s 30-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat, the “CAPT John Kenney.” One of the compartments was reconfigured to accommodate a redesigned cascade system built to hold dive tank bottles. One side compartment holds a small inflatable boat, and new back doors lock to secure equipment inside.

The project also included remounting, completely painting and lettering the body, and correcting any damage. The body was completely rewired with new LED lighting and new super bright scene lighting. Every compartment was spray lined with a rubberized coating, and a new air compressor was installed.

(2) The body was remounted on a 2011 International 4400 crew cab and chassis. The chassis has a large crew cab that seats five comfortably.

The Right Timing

This project complements the purchase of the “CAPT John Kenney” in September 2010. The professional-grade RIBCRAFT 9.0 was designed and built specifically for the BFD. The 30-foot boat can support ten divers plus crew. It features a partially enclosed pilot house with extended aluminum top, a drop-down canvas enclosure for all weather protection, a large open aft deck, integrated dive ladder with platform, and secure storage for more than 12 dive tanks. The vessel supports the department’s dive operations year-round. It is equipped with twin 225-hp Evinrude E-TEC outboard engines capable of reaching speeds in excess of 50 mph.

Firefighter Steve Murphy, BFD dive master, says, “Over the past 30 years that I’ve been on the dive team, I have always been impressed with the skill and dedication that each dive team member has shown. But in the past five years, the Boston Fire Department has extremely improved the safety of each diver and the ability to respond to any location quickly and with divers. This has been accomplished with the new equipment each diver has received, the arrival of a new 30-foot high-speed boat capable of transporting 10 divers with gear, and a new dive truck able to transport divers and equipment to any location. The Boston Fire Department SCUBA Team, because of this recent advancement, can now serve the people of Boston better, faster, and safer than it has ever been able to do in the past.”


The department completed the refurbishment at a cost of $105,959, making the total project cost for the new dive truck $190,338. At that time, estimates for a new dive truck were approximately $375,000.00. In this case, refurbishing the body and remounting it on a new cab and chassis made sense and saved the department approximately $185,000. Refurbishment is not a viable option for every vehicle. But in this case, it was a success, and the new dive truck will serve the BFD for many years to come.

RODERICK FRASER is the 37th commissioner of the Boston (MA) Fire Department. Since his appointment in 2006, he has made vast improvements in the training, safety, and material readiness of the Boston Fire Department and has replaced 63.6 percent of the city’s ladder trucks and 55.9 percent of the engines in six years. Prior to his appointment as commissioner, Fraser was the commanding officer of USS UNDERWOOD (FFG 36) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.