2018-04-26 / Front Page

Fireboat Arrives in Newport

By Leif Walcutt


The Newport Fire Department's new fireboat arrived at the Newport Shipyard after being transported across the country from Vallejo, California, and then was placed in the water for its first voyage – to Perrotti Park. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) The Newport Fire Department's new fireboat arrived at the Newport Shipyard after being transported across the country from Vallejo, California, and then was placed in the water for its first voyage – to Perrotti Park. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) After seven years of planning, the Newport Fire Department received its new fire and rescue vessel on April 25.

The boat will replace an 18-year-old 22-foot rigid hull inflatable that lacks firefighting capabilities on water, with a 37- foot, jet-propelled catamaran with firefighting, rescue and anti terrorism functions.

The vessel arrived at the Newport Shipyard and was put in the water at approximately 2:30 p.m., after which it left for Perrotti Park.

There, Fire Captain Donald Gunning was inspecting the vessel and unpacking electronic equipment. “We have to get all the systems up and running to make sure they all work,” he said.


The new fireboat features a front-end enclosure to protect those rescued on the water. Newport’s current 22-foot rigid hull inflatable rescue boat, pictured at right, will be retired after more than 16 years of service. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) The new fireboat features a front-end enclosure to protect those rescued on the water. Newport’s current 22-foot rigid hull inflatable rescue boat, pictured at right, will be retired after more than 16 years of service. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) Firefighter Greg Morash said, “the Newport Fire Department will begin a month-long training session for firefighters, with the boat, beginning April 28.” Morash traveled to California during the fireboat’s construction, in addition to his attendance at sea trials.

Gunning, Morash and another firefighter, Marcus Cochran, participated in sea trials of the boat in California at the end of March, to test the vessel’s general functions and capabilities. “There were some issues that have since been corrected, particularly in programming of electronics,” said Gunning.

The vessel features a flat stern built at water-level for EMS situations. “One of the bigger assets of this boat [is that] it’s set up like a rescue wagon or ambulance,” said Gunning. This feature, however, which would assist the rescuing of victims during emergency situations, was not tested during the sea trials.

Newport City Council voted to approve the purchase of the $887,642 vessel from Moose Boats, Inc. of Vallejo, California on March 22, 2017.

“Through the grant process we were able to get a larger boat that has more capability for virtually the same money,” said Gunning.

A majority of the funding for the new fire/rescue boat comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/ Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2016 Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), which the Newport Fire Department was awarded on June 29, 2016.

“Before you order the boat, you have to win the grant,” said Gunning, who spearheaded the department’s effort to procure the new vessel.

According to Action #5626, issued by the City Council on March 1, 2017, “The federal share of the project is 75 percent or $723,375, and the city’s portion is 25 percent or $241,125. Offsetting the city’s share of the cost will be the pledge in the amount of $200,000 from local philanthropist, Peter D. Kiernan III.”

Kiernan is a venture capitalist and owner of the Hammersmith Farm in Newport, a 28-room Victorian mansion that was the childhood home of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

According to Gunning, Kiernan previously donated the funding to purchase the department’s 22-foot rigid hull inflatable, a single engine vessel that he said underserved the needs of Newport’s busy waterways.

The new M2 37 is a high-performance boat that can fight fires on the open sea, on rivers or on the beach, according to the company’s website.

Gunning said the decision to purchase the new boat was prompted by the department’s inability to fight fire on water.

“There are structures in and around Newport that the fire department can't access from all sides,” he said, “so this type of vessel is warranted.”

With Newport’s position at the mouth of Narragansett Bay, Gunning said that more than two billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel “go past our front door every year.”

The smallest category of refined oil tanker can hold a significant amount of fuel, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). “A GP tanker can carry between 70,000 barrels and 190,000 barrels of motor gasoline,” reads a 2014 report.

“If any of those ships ever caught on fire, you need to have a tremendous amount of water to keep the ship cool and keep the fire from spreading,” said Gunning.

The 37-foot vessel features jet propulsion firefighting technology. According to the Moose Boats website, the M2 Catamaran Diesel Jet utilizes two propulsion engines to provide fire pump motive power. The M2 water jet can be configured for a variety of discharge options with an output up to 2,000 gallons per minute.

The M2 also features an infrared camera and various radar and communication antennas, as well as the ability to monitor and detect harmful gases and radiation in situations arising from hurricane damage or a terrorist attack.

“We could monitor for different types of gases,” Gunning said, citing chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and other flammable gases as possible scenarios.

The boat’s christening ceremony is set to occur on May 5 at 10 a.m. at Perrotti Park.

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