More About Fireboats

More About Fireboats

In our January, 1945, issue we answered a question from “N. M.” on when and where the first fireboat was used. According to available data the first fireboat—then known as “floating engine” —was operated in the City of New York in 1800.

Additional information on this subject has been received from one of our British readers, G. Hindson, Senr. Co. Officer, National Fire Service, Ladymead, Guilford, Surrey, England, who writes:

“Regarding early fire floats (the British equivalent of our “fireboats”) it is on record that the Sun Fire Insurance Office had a float in commission on the Thames (London) in 1767. This float was constructed by Messrs. Tilley. The firm also constructed a fire float for the London Assurance Co. in 1793.

“In 1840 the London Fire Engine Establishment’—which was the name given to the pooled resources of the principal insurance companies’ Fire Brigades, had two floats in operation on the Thames, one of which required 120 men to operate the pumps, and it is reported to have been fitted with 10-inch pumps having a variable stroke.

“In 1855 Messrs. Shand & Mason constructed a steam float for the London Fire Engine Establishment. The hull was about 120-feet long with a beam of 15-feet and on her trials she is supposed to have pumped 1,700 gallons per minute through four 1 1/2-inch jets. Propulsion was obtained by the discharge from the pumps through fixed jets in

the hull and in still water the craft obtained a speed of 8 m.p.h. This float was in operation for 14 days at the Great Cotton’s Wharf, Tooley Street fire of June, 1861. The destroyed property amounted to over £2,000,000. The float was withdrawn from service in 1890.” Mr. Hindson’s information will be of interest to fire service historians who have believed that this country was responsible for the first fireboat, and for the first jet-propelled boat.

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