History of the Iconic Fireboat

FireboatThe fireboat is one of the most important fire apparatus for many waterfront cities. Their maneuverability and power, not to mention their supply of water, has proven invaluable in many emergency situations. But do you know how this craft came to be?

The first recorded use of a fireboat in U.S. emergency service dates back to 1809, when a group of New York City volunteer firefighters mounted a hand pump to a small watercraft. By the middle of the 19th century, the fireboat had become a recognized asset to the fire service, with many departments purchasing older tugboats to retrofit with firefighting equipment. Still, the cost and limitations of single-boiler tugs placed the boats out of reach for many cities.

This all changed around the turn of the century. With innovations such as multiple boilers, wide beams, and eventually the diesel engine, the fireboat became much more practical for many port cities. It is, in fact, these early designs that serve as the basis upon which many modern fireboats are created.

Today, the modern fireboat can be one of the most iconic apparatus for port cities in the U.S. One of our country’s most recognizable crafts is the historic Edward M. Cotter of the Buffalo Fire Department. Used for fighting early 20th century warehouse and factory fires across the city’s waterfront, the Cotter is recognized as the worlds’ oldest active fireboat, and was designated a National History Landmark in 1969. There is no question that the fireboat has played a critical part of firefighting history, and will continue to play a part for years to come.

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