Special Delivery: Two New Fireboats for FDNY

Three Forty Three and Firefighter II
Three Forty Three and Firefighter II are 140 feet long and can pump up to 50,000 gpm.
Three Forty Three and Firefighter II
The boats have one 17,000-gpm, six 5,000-gpm, and four 2,000-gpm monitors, plus a 1,000-gpm monitor mounted at the basket on the tip of a 50-foot crane.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has taken delivery of two new fireboats (virtual twins except for minor interior piping differences): Three Forty Three and Firefighter II.

Three Forty Three, a 140-foot-long, 500-ton vessel that replaces the 50-year-old John D. McKean, went in service in mid-2010 and was assigned to Marine 1, stationed on the Hudson River. The ship, capable of pumping 50,000 gpm, is named in honor of the 343 FDNY members killed on September 11, 2001.

Firefighter II arrived later during 2010 and entered service early this year at Marine 9 on Staten Island, replacing an earlier vessel, Firefighter.

Both ships, paid for in large part using $54 million in grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are from an original design by naval architectural firm Robert Allan Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. Eastern Shipbuilding Group, of Panama City, Fla., constructed the two boats.

James Dalton, chief of marine operations for FDNY, says the department is very pleased to have the boats, as they replace fireboats from 1938 and 1952.

“The number one reason we chose to go with new boats was the age of the old boats and the amount of repairs we needed to keep putting into them,” Dalton says.

Dalton notes that about 10 years earlier, FDNY had considered moving toward smaller fireboats around 85 feet long but determined that such boats were too small for FDNY’s needs and didn’t have the pumping capacity it sought.

“Los Angeles Fire Department’s newest fireboat was designed by Robert Allan Ltd., so we went to L.A. and spoke with them about their experience with the new boat,” Dalton points out. “Then we went to the Seattle Fire Department, which was in the process of building a Robert Allan-designed fireboat, and picked their brains about what they were happy with on it. In the end, we decided on Robert Allan Ltd. as our naval architect.”

Speed was a concern because FDNY’s existing fireboats could only make about 12 knots and in some areas of New York–the Hudson and East Rivers, and Long Island Sound–the department has great distances to cover. Dalton says the FDNY sought speed in the range of 17 to 20 knots. Both new boats can achieve 20 knots.

Pumping capacity also was a concern to FDNY, according to Mike Yriondo, contracts manager for Eastern Shipbuilding Group. Three Forty Three and Firefighter II each have four 2,000-hp MTU (German) diesel engines that can either power four 12,500-gpm fire pumps or four variable pitch propellers.

Pumping capacity, when a fireboat is stationary, is 50,000 gpm, using all four engines. If the boat is maneuvering, two engines can be used to pump up to 25,000 gpm, with two engines used to maneuver.

Yriondo says FDNY wanted flexibility in the monitors on the boats, so both fireboats have four different size monitors–one 17,000-gpm, six 5,000-gpm, four 2,000-gpm, and one 1,000-gpm monitor mounted at the basket on the tip of a 50-foot crane. Each fireboat has six monitors capable of delivering a foam product.

FDNY’s former fireboats were built before departments began using foam regularly, so the boats carried 55-gallon drums of foam on deck. But, the new fireboats came with two 1,800-gallon foam tanks in the hull.

“We wanted inboard space to carry foam and not have it subject to freezes, so now we have 3,200 gallons of alcohol-resistant AFFF Universal Gold foam on each boat,” Dalton notes.

Richard Johnson, FDNY captain on Three Forty Three, says the new fireboats allow firefighters to get to the scene quicker and also can get in tighter to operational areas.

“With the old boats, boarding any vessel required us to use a Jacob’s ladder or a gangway to get onto the vessel,” Johnson says. “But, with these new boats, we can use the dive platform on the back to get in tight to a smaller vessel or a person in the water.”

Johnson states the boats also can be ballasted down by the bow to change their attitude to match the area they might have to reach to rescue people. The bow has a gate that facilitates rescue efforts.

Each fireboat also has a 17-foot rescue boat that can be used in low-draft water and which can be launched in about a minute’s time, Johnson added.

In addition, both fireboats have an overpressure system in the habitable areas of the ship so they cannot be contaminated in the case of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) incident. All monitors on the fireboats can be controlled from the safety of the wheelhouses, and the boats carry decon shower facilities.

Three Forty Three and Firefighter II also have a 50-foot-long crane tower ladder with a shortened version of a bucket, Johnson points out. The crane can be manned or it can be used to hoist equipment. “The crane also has water capabilities that allow us to get more remote and reach things we might not be able to through traditional operations,” Johnson says.

Dalton points out that the crane can lift approximately 3,000 pounds as a safe working load and carries four floodlights under the basket so it can be set up as an elevated lighting position. The basket also has a digital camera mounted that can be used to recon the deck of a ship or barge if needed, he says.

Both fireboats have four large manifolds on the port and starboard sides, fore and aft, that allow connection of four large-diameter handlines and a large-caliber supply line coming off of a six-inch Storz connection to supply land operations. They also are able to work with five-inch New Jersey connections, grooved pipe, and the Area Maritime Security Committee’s 12-inch Neptune system.

Yriondo notes that Three Forty Three and Firefighter II each carry steel taken from the towers that were destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

“The numbers and raised letters for the names of both boats on their bows and sterns are made from steel from the World Trade Center buildings,” Yriondo says. “I think that’s a fitting tribute for all FDNY.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a freelance writer based in Tucson, Arizona, who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

FDNY Fireboats –Three Forty Three and Firefighter II
(Characteristics are the same for each boat)

  • Overall length, 140 feet
  • Waterline length, 130 feet
  • Moulded beam, 36 feet
  • Moulded depth, 16 feet at midship deck edge
  • Draft (maximum), 9 feet
  • Air draft design, loaded, waterline to highest point, 39 feet
  • Main engines, four MTU 2,000-hp diesels
  • Four Hundested variable pitch propellers and reduction gears
  • Maximum fuel oil capacity, 9,350 gallons
  • Fresh water tank, 1,000 gallons
  • Foam concentrate, 3,600 gallons in two 1,800-gallon tanks below deck
  • Sewage holding tank, 1,000 gallons
  • Oily water tank, 120 gallons
  • Sludge tank, 60 gallons
  • Decon wastewater tank, 100 gallons
  • Speed, 20 knots in fully loaded condition at 100% vessel power (8,000-hp)
  • Pumping capacity, 50,000-gpm on four engines as stationary pumping station; 25,000-gpm on two engines as firefighting ship
  • Monitors: one 17,000-gpm, six 5,000-gpm, four 2,000-gpm, one 1,000-gpm on crane with basket
  • Monitor throw distance, 700 feet from amidship
  • Operating crew, 7 firefighters and officers (27 in transit)

Price, with equipment, for both boats – $54 million


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