The History of the Fireboat

The fireboat was invented when a firefighter attached a small hand pump on a boat in 1809. Not until after the Civil War was the boat an essential part of fire departments. In the 1860s the country had become a major contributor in international trade due to the industrial revolution. The ports and waterfronts became busier and busier, increasing fire risks.

To combat these increased risks and actual fires, the first fireboats were purchased and used specifically for fire rescue in the United States in Boston, Massachusetts in 1873; the William F. Flanders. New York followed shortly in 1875 with the William F. Havemeyer. Fireboats were steam driven until 1931 when fuel costs got too high. To reduce costs, the boats started running on diesel eventually replacing the steam driven boats.

The New York fire department is well known for its fireboats and fire rescues. Their fleet of fireboats was at its peak in the 1910s to 1940s. During this time, they had 10 fireboats in operation. These fireboats have acted in many historic events. They pumped water onto the World Trade Center on 9/11 and helped rescue passengers from Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson River in 2009.

Pictured above is the John J. Harvey fireboat.  Photo credit:

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