Article by Anthony Rowett
Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
When the use of fireboats is mentioned, the first image that may come to mind is that of a fireboat lobbing large master streams onto a building fire along the waterfront. Although the production of master streams is a common use for fireboats at structure fires, firefighters must understand all of the capabilities of the fireboat. Fireboats perform many functions, including both firefighting and non-firefighting related operations. Fireboats are commonly used to respond to structural fires along the waterfront, ship and vessel fires (both at the dock as well as while the vessel is underway), medical emergencies that occur in the water, search and rescue operations in the water, as well as any other type of emergency that occurs either in the water or along a waterfront. When operating at a structure fire along a waterfront, firefighters must understand the capability of fireboats to not only apply large flow master streams from the waterfront side of the building but to also support the land-based structural firefighting operations. One of the best ways a fireboat can assist land-based firefighting operations is to provide an additional water supply source for land-based firefighters, using the fireboat’s ability to pump supply hoselines from the body of water that it is in.
Fireboats possess great pumping capabilities, which allows them to produce multiple master streams that can be applied to the fire from the waterfront side of the building. The pumping capabilities of some fireboats can greatly outperform land-based fire apparatus. The pumping capacities of fireboats vary from fireboat to fireboat, but most possess substantial pumping capabilities that exceed those of land based fire apparatus. The Mobile (AL) Fire Rescue Department’s Fireboat Phoenix is a 35-foot vessel with two 2,000-gpm pump engines with four master stream appliances. The Fire Department of New York’s Marine 1–also known as Fireboat 343–is a 140-foot vessel with a pumping capacity of 50,000 gpm. The differences between these two fireboats is great, but both possess the capability to supplement land-based structural firefighting operations, in addition to supplying master streams from the waterfront side of the fire building.
The great pumping capabilities of fireboats are not limited to producing large flow master streams, but can also be used to provide an additional water supply. When a structure fire occurs along a waterfront…