Fort Lauderdale doubles down on response with fast fireboat


Fort Lauderdale is awash in luxury yachts and recreational vessels of all shapes and sizes. The potential for boat and marina fires and other emergencies looms large. The recent acquisition of Fireboat 49 by the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department promises to relieve some of the apprehension driven by these potentially life-threatening events.

“Without a doubt, rescue is the main function of the new boat,” said Greg May, battalion chief. “Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America. With over 44,000 residential yachts calling the city home, our waterways and our yachting industry becomes much safer with the addition of Fireboat 49.”

With a top speed approaching 40 knots, the 43-foot vessel can quickly respond to emergencies, and with an Advanced Life Support designation, it can cover a wide range of contingencies. “Anything an ambulance can do, we can do,” May said.

Everyone on Fireboat 49 is trained as a paramedic with expertise in search and rescue as well as dive rescue. Crewmembers trained for shipboard firefighting at Resolve Marine and boat operator search and rescue (BOSAR) with the U.S. Coast Guard. “And we have full dive rescue equipment,” said the engineer, Todd Doerfler.

Unlike the department’s older firefighting vessel, a 27-foot fishing boat fitted with a small pump, Fireboat 49 has an enclosed compartment. This provides rescue personnel with a much better environment in which to focus on sonar while searching for underwater targets.

The MetalCraft newbuild, part of the shipbuilder’s Firestorm 36 series, can respond to emergencies at nearly 40 knots.

Another huge upgrade for tracking is provided by a FLIR system. There is also a pair of Garmin GPSMAP chartplotter/sounder units with SideVu, ClearVu, radar and CHIRP sonar with mapping, and aft deck and engine room cameras.

For fighting fires, a Darley fire pump shoots 3,400 gallons of water per minute via two Elkhart Copperhead monitors on the stern and two Elkhart Scorpion monitors, one on the bow and one on the cabin roof.

The boat is equipped with sensors that can detect chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive materials (CBRNE) that may be stowed in passing watercraft. Another feature is the raised platform that provides a bird’s-eye view for personnel during a rescue operation. An on-deck control station also gives the helmsman a clear view of operations.

Fireboat 49, delivered in August 2017, was designed and built by MetalCraft Marine of Kingston, Ontario. It is a Firestorm 36 model, one of a series of fireboat hulls ranging in length from 27 to 70 feet. Propulsion is provided by two Cummins QSB6.7 550-hp main engines with ZF 280 gears and Alamarin AJ 340 waterjets.

“It’s very impressive,” May said.


Capt. James Chioffe mans the helm as Fireboat 49 heads out for duty. The electronics package is anchored by an array of Garmin components.


Two Cummins QSB6.7 main engines deliver a combined 1,100 horsepower to Alamarin waterjets.


Elkhart Scorpion fire monitors on the bow (above left) and pilothouse roof are complemented by a pair of Elkhart Copperhead monitors (above right) on the stern.



Fireboat 49 specifications

Owner/operator: City of Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Fort Lauderdale Fire Department
Designer/builder: MetalCraft Marine, Kingston, Ontario
Dimensions: L: 43’ B: 13’4” D: 2’3”
Mission: Firefighting, search and rescue, dive rescue
Crew size: Four (minimum)

• (2) Cummins QSB6.7 main engines, 550 hp each
• (2) Alamarin AJ 340 waterjets
• ZF Marine ZF 280 gearbox
• Onan 7.5-kW auxiliary generator
• Top speed: 37 knots

• Fuel: 400 gallons
• Water: 40 gallons
• Black water: 30 gallons

• Darley 3000 fire pump, 3,400 gpm
• (2) Elkhart Brass Copperhead fire monitors
• (2) Elkhart Brass Scorpion EXM fire monitors
• Static kernmantle rope for life rescue
• (2) surface rescue throw lines
• Atkins & Hoyle aft davit
• Gilman collar fendering

• Garmin GMR 24 xHD dome radar
• (2) Garmin 7616xsv chartplotter/sounder units
• Ritchie compass
• (2) Icom M506 VHF radios with RAM microphones


By Professional Mariner Staff