By: David E. Kuebler, Fireboat Mate/Supervising Officer,
Fire Station 110, "C" Platoon, Fireboat 5
BACKGROUND........ The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbors are the busiest ports of entry on the West Coast and serve all of the Pacific Rim countries. The Port of Los Angeles is now constructing the largest harbor expansion project ever done in the United States. Today, the 26 miles of wooden wharves in L.A. Harbor are being replaced with modern cement docks for containerized cargo, petroleum and chemical transshipment, open cargo loading facilities and, in addition, new recreational areas are being created.
The Los Angeles City Fire Department invented Underwharf Firefighting using Fireboats, SCUBA gear and special firefighting tools for firefighters over 35 years ago to deal with the special needs of Harbor Firefighting during that era. The tradition of leadership and innovation in this field continues today in the capabilities of the Department to meet the needs of the ever-changing harbor firefighting environment.
FIREBOATS........... Today, the Los Angeles Fire Department has five Fireboats in service. The largest, and oldest, is Fireboat #2, the "Ralph J. Scott", 100' long with a pumping capacity of over 17,000 GPM. The next and newest is Fireboat#4 , "Bethel Gifford", it is 74' long and is capable of pumping 10,000 GPM.
The remaining three Fireboats, Number's 1, 3 and 5, are all 34' long and are pump rated at 750 GPM. These three 34' Fireboats are the primary SCUBA operations platforms.
SMALL FIREBOAT OPERATIONS.......... Fireboats #1, 3 and 5 are crewed by three specialized firefighters, the Fireboat Mate (boat operator) and two Firefighter/SCUBA Divers. These Fireboats operate individually or as a team with other Fireboats/Trucks. The function of the three 34' Fireboats is in direct attack or support of many different tasks. Boat fires, wharf and underwharf firefighting, EMS incidents and drowning, hazardous material spills, petroleum tanker inspections, helicopter support, de-watering partially sunken vessels, underwater search and rescue, stranded boat rescue and many more. Operations can take place as much as three miles outside of the harbor in the open ocean and up the coast to the Los Angeles City limits. To handle Firefighting and EMS incidents the three 34' Fireboats carry a normal complement of deck mounted 2 1/2" bow turret, 2 1/2" and 1 1/2" fire hose, SCBA breathing apparatus, EMS equipment, underwharf firefighting floats, entry tools and 50 gallons of AAAF/ATC foam mounted in a pressure tank.
SCUBA OPERATIONS -- In addition to the above mentioned equipment, the SCUBA operations have kept pace with modern technology as well. The current SCUBA inventory carried by each Fireboat includes: