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A fireboat is a specialized watercraft and with pumps and nozzles designed for fighting shoreline and shipboard fires. The first fireboats, dating to the mid-1800s, were tugboats, retrofitted with firefighting equipment. Older designs derived from tugboats and modern fireboats more closely resembling seafaring ships can both be found in service today. Some departments would give their multi-purpose craft the title of "Fireboat" also.
They are frequently used for fighting fires on docks and shore side warehouses as they can directly attack fires in the supporting underpinnings of these structures. They also have an unlimited supply of water available, pumping directly from below the hull and can be used to assist shore based firefighters when other water is in low supply or is unavailable, for example, due to earthquake breakage of water mains, as happened in San Francisco due to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Modern fireboats are capable of pumping tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute. An example is Fire Boat #2 of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Warner Lawrence, with the capability to pump up to 38,000 US gallons per minute (2.4 m3/s; 32,000 imp gal/min) and up to 400 feet (122 m) in the air.
Fireboats are most usually seen by the public when welcoming a fleet or historical ships with a display of their water moving capabilities, throwing large arcs of water in every direction.
Occasionally fireboats are used to carry firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, and a physician with their equipment to islands and other boats. Some may be used as icebreakers, like the Chicago Fire Department's Victor L. Schlaeger which can break 8 to 12 inch ice. They may also carry divers or surface water rescue workers. Passengers from ships in danger can be also transferred to various kind of rescue boats. Rescue boats may be used also for oil and chemical destruction on rivers, lakes and seas.
List of famous fire boats
- Deluge - Fireboat/Tug (New Orleans, Louisiana) (retired)
- Duwamish - (Seattle, Washington) (retired)
- Edward M. Cotter - Fireboat/Icebreaker (Buffalo, New York) (active) The oldest active fireboat.
- Tacoma Fireboat #1 - (Tacoma, Washington) (retired)
- John J. Harvey - (New York City, New York) (retired)
- Massey Shaw - (London, England) (retired)
- Pyronaut - moored at Bristol Harbour Railway and Industrial Museum (Bristol, England) (retired)
- Ralph J. Scott - (Los Angeles, California) (retired)
- Sir Alexander Grantham - (Hong Kong) (retired)
- Warner Lawrence - Los Angeles, California (active)
- William Lyon Mackenzie - (Toronto, Canada) (acitve)
- William O. Bird II - Sandusky Fire Department (Sandusky, Ohio) (active)
Departments with Fireboats
- Baltimore City Fire Department - 1; 1 reserve
- Boston Fire Department - 2
- Buffalo Fire Department - 1
- Chicago Fire Department - 1
- Cleveland Fire Department - 1
- Detroit Fire Department - 1
- District of Columbia Fire Department - 3
- Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department - 2, 1 frontline, 1 reserve
- Hong Kong Fire Services - 8 and 4 support vessels (command, 2 diving units, speedboat)
- Honolulu Fire Department - 1
- Jersey City Fire Department - 1
- Los Angeles Fire Department - 5
- Massachusetts Port Authority - 1
- Miami Fire Department- 2
- Nagasaki Fire Department - 1
- New York City Fire Department - 3; 1 reserve
- Newport News (VA) Fire Department
- Portland (ME) Fire Department - 1
- Portland (OR) Fire & Rescue - 2
- Port of Houston Authority Marine Fire Department - 3
- San Francisco Fire Department - 2
- Sandusky Fire Department - 1
- Seattle Fire Department - 3; 1 reserve
- Tacoma (WA) Fire Department - 1; 1 reserve
- Toronto Fire Services - 2
- Tokyo Fire Department - 9
- Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services - 2 (3 more in Metro Region)
Government & Military with Fireboats
- Japan Coast Guard - 9; 230 patrol boats with water cannons or fire fighting support systems.
- James Delgado (1988). "Duwamish Fireboat: National Historic Landmark Study". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2009-12-29. http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nps.gov%2Fhistory%2Fmaritime%2Fnhl%2Fduwamish.htm&date=2009-12-29.
- Schlaeger, Chicago Fire Department, 2008
- For example, the Helsinki Rescue Department in Helsinki, Finland has various kinds of boats for various kind of firefighting, rescue, and oil destruction tasks. http://www.hel.fi/pel.
- Vancouver.ca Fire Boat