FLIBS18: Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue at the ready for yacht emergencies

Oct 31, 2018 by Dorie Cox

By Dorie Cox

A different type of boat is making its debut this year at the 59th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. A new fireboat is in the water, standing by to keep the 1,500 boats on display safe.

The 42-foot MetalCraft fireboat was brought into service after FLIBS last year by Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Station 49, just south of Bahia Mar’s marina, at the end of that marina’s show display. The fireboat and crew stand ready in the Intracoastal Waterway and adjacent waters outside the show, in place for any medical or fire emergency.

The fireboat is a Alamarin-Jet drive vessel, and its fire pumps move water at the tremendous force of 4,000 gallons a minute, said Stephen Gollan, battalion chief of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.

“When fire operations are implemented, the port motor is dedicated to the fire pump and the starboard continues to operate as primary propulsion for the vessel,” Gollan said. “Depending on the current and wind, sometimes the fire discharges will be utilized to also control the vessel. The other motor is strictly used for jet.”

The jet on top of the cabin is used for firefighting, and two on the stern are also available for firefighting. The one on the bow is used to control the boat.

“Lots of people see this and don’t understand,” Capt. Jib Webster said during a drill on the boat in August. “But when we’re pumping water, we lose power. We control our location with the lower pump. It is a process to fight the force.”

If water is used to fight fire on the docks or on a yacht, dewatering equipment is immediately put into place to remove it. Foam and CO2 are also available as an option to extinguish any fire for minimal damage. The firefighters are aware that what they put on a boat has to come off, and they monitor the environment in reference to mixing water and oil.

“The last thing we want is the vessel to sink,” said one of the firefighters during a drill in August.

On the fireboat, the driver runs the vessel while the engineer serves as the eyes and ears with continual communication as to the all-clear for navigation. The boat also communicates with towing and salvage companies, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Also standing by is Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue’s 27-foot McKee Craft, which is outfitted with a fire pump as well. Although other fire-fighting and medical emergency equipment is in place, Gollan doesn’t want yacht captains, crew or visitors to notice. He said much of the equipment is out of sight.

“The focus is to not see us,” Gollan said, as he looked over the yachts moving into place at Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show yesterday. “We’re hidden in the corners.”

Twenty firefighters are stationed inside the show and on the two boats at all time, Gollan said. Fire pumps are on the docks, but hidden under the docks are fire hoses that run from a firetruck staged on the road in front of the show to strategic spots on the docks.

“Golf carts are in place to deploy and lay the hoses to the yachts,” Gollan said.

The firefighters have a special saw for fiberglass to breach a hull when needed to reach a fire source. And during the boat show, the station hires additional staff and stages trucks throughout the show. Emergency services are monitored from an off-site joint command center with Show Management and local law enforcement.  

Most of the firefighters in Station 49 are boat captains, with licenses ranging from six-pack to masters, and they are standing by at the show all week.

For emergency assistance, dial 911. Contact the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue fireboat directly at +1 954-829-8836; Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Station 49 at +1 954-828-4849; or Broward County dispatch at +1 954-476-4730. Fire Rescue Station 49 also monitors VHF 16.

Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments are welcome below.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is a writer with Triton News.

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