[B]Old Fireboat Stokes Fears of `Disaster[/B]
[I]Source: Boston Herald
Publication date: 2009-01-29
Just weeks after heroic firefighters rescued 155 terrified passengers from a plane crash in New York harbor, officials say Boston is ill-equipped to handle a similar scenario as the city’s ancient fire boat is once again docked and in dire need of repair.
The 37-year-old boat, Firefighter, which was supposed to have been replaced a decade ago, has been out of service for two weeks and will remain tied up indefinitely as firefighters wait for a hard- to-find part to fix the boat’s starter.
“The miracle on the Hudson would have been the disaster in the harbor if it happened up here,” said Boston Firefighters Local 718 President Edward Kelly.
With the 76-foot fire barge out of service, the Boston Fire Department’s only active watercraft on the harbor is a 27-foot boat that was donated to the city in 2006 by comedian Denis Leary. The boat has a pump and hoses to fight fires but could rescue just 10 people. The Firefighter, which sat tied up yesterday on Burroughs Wharf, could rescue up to 80 people, firefighters said.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who is running for mayor, blasted Mayor Thomas M. Menino for failing to replace the fire boat.
“This administration is playing politics over public safety,” Flaherty said. “We need to give our first responders the tools they need to protect our citizens and our city.”
Besides concerns about airplane water landings in the wake of the New York rescue, thousands take daily commuter boats and LNG tankers make regular deliveries in the harbor. This summer, the Tall Ships will visit the city.
“The condition of the fire boat and (its) age . . . are clear signs of where the fire department is on the the Menino administration’s priority list,” Kelly said.
Boston Fire spokesman Steve MacDonald said the replacement part was located in Texas and is “en route” to Boston. As for a long- term plan, MacDonald said, “There is money allocated in the 2010 budget for a new boat.”
He added that Massport has a fire boat to assist in an emergency.
The fire union has been blasting Menino over the department’s aging equipment since Lt. Kevin Kelley was killed in a ladder truck crash earlier this month, likely because of faulty brakes.
The fire boat has been a concern since the 1990s when the City Council approved $4 million to replace it. In 2006, following a Herald report that the boat had again broken down, fire officials said a new $10 million, Homeland Security-funded firefighting vessel was on the way. Yet a new boat has not arrived.
Firefighters say the latest breakdown was exacerbated because the boat is so old that mechanics couldn’t find a replacement part - even from the United States Navy.
The Firefighter’s docking is the latest example of aging fire equipment going out of service. Several trucks have been taken out of service because of brake and other problems this month. Just this week, an out-of-service brush truck was brought in to replace Engine 29 in Brighton.