N.Y. City Fire Department Seeks State-of-Art Fireboats

March 30, 2007

Two aging fireboats that helped fight the inferno caused by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center will be replaced by gleaming vessels that are larger and far more powerful, New York City fire officials said.

The Fire Department of New York has begun seeking bids on the project to build the two new 140-foot ships designed by a Canadian firm, Robert Allan Ltd. Each would have the capacity to pump 50,000 gallons per minute and travel 20 mph — twice the pumping rate and speed of the pair of FDNY fireboats now patrolling New York Harbor and the Hudson and East rivers.

Among fire departments, they “will be the elite boats for all of North America,” said FDNY fire Chief James Dalton, head of the department’s marine division.

One of the fireboats currently in use, the Firefighter, is 68 years old; the other, the Kane, is 52. Both pumped water out of the Hudson River and fed it to firetrucks near ground zero for eight days following the collapse of the twin towers.

The department began designing new boats after a consulting firm that analyzed the Sept. 11 rescue effort recommended modernizing its fleet.

The city expects the new fireboats “to play a critical role in responding to large-scale emergencies, including potential terrorist attacks and the rescue of large numbers of civilians in the event of a major disaster,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

Officials said some of the cost — which could reach $20 million per vessel — will be covered in part by the Department of Homeland Security. The FDNY hopes to launch them in 2009.

Plans call for several features that would boost the department’s ability to respond to biological or chemical incidents, as well as accidents or fires involving cruise ships or ferries.

Among the features:
A high-tech communications system linking the boats to police radios and to supervisors on shore via video.

A water gun on the bow that shoots 17,700 gallons a minute and has a reach of more than 700 feet, and six other guns that can shoot either water or foam used to put out flammable liquid fires.

A decontamination shower for either crew members or casualties of a chemical accident or attack.

A crane fitted with a telescoping ladder that will allow firefighters to board larger ships or extend the reach of water streams.

A giant platform designed to attach to passenger ships for swifter and easier evacuations.

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