What Trend in Fire Boats?
Opinions of Designers, Regarding Size of Boats and the Merits of Small Size Craft for Fighting Fire
EARLY this year the city of Chicago. Ill., the second largest city in this country, added to its fire fighting equipment a new fireboat. Of particular interest and significance was its size.
Instead of duplicating or exceeding the size of boats already in service in that city the new craft was materially smaller. Its dimensions are as follows:
Length overall, 90 feet, 6 inches; length on the water line, 87 feet; beam, moulded, 22 feet, 4 inches; depth, moulded, 11 feet; draft, extreme, 6 feet, 9 inches; height above water line, 15 feet; speed, 15 miles per hour; power, propulsion, 750 brake horsepower; power, pumping 1,000 brake horsepower; pump capacity, 150 pounds, 7,500 gallons per minute; pump capacity, 300 pounds, 3,750 gallons per minute; accommodations for eight men.
How this boat compares in size with a modern boat in our largest city, New York, may be gathered from the following data on the Fireboat John J. Harvey, built in 1931. Length, 130 feet; 123 feet on the load water line; 12 feet, 9 inches in depth; 8 feet, 6 1/2 inches draft, and 23 feet from the water line to the tip of the mast. Speed, 18 miles per hour; total horsepower, 2,740; capacity, 16,000 gallons per minute at 150 pounds pressure.
Has a trend to small boats been started? This question is today in the minds of many Fire Department officials and a large number of them believe we are headed toward the smaller craft. The arguments of shallower draft, greater mobility and quicker response of two or more small units over a single unit are commonly advanced. The limited number of large fires requiring the full capacity of the large boat appears as another sound argument for the smaller unit. The value of having small boats stationed at strategic points, rather than a single large boat at a central point, is also held as a strong argument for the smaller boat.
Deputy Chief A. J. Mullaney, of Chicago, who has made a thorough study of fire boats, is of the opinion that a fireboat approximately forty to fifty feet in length, providing for a crew of not more than four men and with three thousand gallons maximum capacity would be better, from the standpoint of price and personnel, than even a boat of the size commonly found today in large seaport cities.
W. E. Whitehouse, of the Defoe Boat and Motor Works, Bay City, Mich., successful builders of fireboats, is of the opinion that hull should be about 60 feet in length and 15 feet, 6 inches to 16 feet beam, so as to give plenty of room for the engine and pump installation. A hull of this description, he states, could readily be built of steel, all welded with longitudinal framing, such as employed on the new fireboat “Fred A. Busse” of Chicago. He is strongly in favor of making all portions steel, that is, hull, houses, deck, bulkheads, etc.
In a hull of such description either twin or triple engines could be used. For ordinary purposes he believes that twin engines, double ended, would suffice, these engines being used both for propulsion and for pumps, with the use of clutches, as in the fireboat “Fred A. Busse.” If it is desired to go a little further, however, a third engine could be installed in a vessel with the before mentioned beam, so that this third engine on the centerline could be used for maneuvering only. Two engines of about 160-170 horsepower, each driving two pumps, with a properly installed pipe line, he believes, should give this capacity of about 3,000 gallons per minute at 125-150 pounds pressure.
The boat should be built with a pilot house forward, but in place of a deck house abaft the pilot house, this should have a trunk cabin over the engine room containing the windows for engine room ventilation, this trunk to be kept as narrow as possible so as to give a good full deck space. The hose manifolds could then be brought up directly from the engine room, either at the trunk side, or at the after end of the trunk. This would leave the forward and aft deck open for turrets, if they were desired. He further believes that a boat such as outlined, all steel, all welded, heavily and ruggedly built could be put through economically and make a serviceable and efficient little fireboat.
Other boat builders also hold similar views, John Alden, a boat designer of Boston, has made considerable study of the smaller units and is of the opinion that they are highly practicable.
As noted. Fire Chiefs, too, have been giving the matter considerable thought and among those located on the seaboard, there are many who feel that the future in water front fire fighting will find many of the smaller units doing service in an excellent manner.
It is a field which is yet to be fully explored, but the future looks promising for the smaller craft.