FDNY'S '343' Fire Boat Tested

The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Posted: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 04:48

Feb. 22--PANAMA CITY -- Water cannons fired thousands of gallons of water hundreds of feet through the air Wednesday in St. Andrew Bay during the pumping trials of the world's largest fireboat.

The final testing will be concluded in the next three weeks, and the New York City Fire Department will take delivery of the of the fireboat in early March, project manager Justin Smith said.

The vessel -- named "343" in honor of the number of firefighters killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and its aftermath -- was launched in September 2009.

The finishing touches and tests are being conducted in St. Andrew Bay and Watson Bayou, near the Eastern Shipbuilding Group's marina.

The four engines on the "343" produce about 8,000 horsepower and are capable of pumping more than 50,000 gallons of water per minute. The water flow is controlled by a touch-screen panel in the wheelhouse and is run by an engineer. The vessel can be operated with as few as nine crew members, Smith said.

The Eastern Shipbuilding Group is building two vessels to replace the aging FDNY fleet. The price tag for the two vessels is about $54 million, paid mostly by the Department of Homeland Security.

One of the final tests that will need to be run is the 12-hour endurance test, Smith said.

Engineers spent more than 10 years designing the fireboat, which includes a decontamination room, an emergency medial area, equipment rooms and crew quarters.

"Besides being the largest fireboat, this vessel is unique because of the flexibility of it and the complexity," Smith said.

The fireboat was designed to pump water to extinguish fires but also has a swim platform that can be used during water rescues and a boat ramp and dinghy to aid in the search or rescue of vessels or planes. The fireboat also can lower or raise itself to help rescue people from damaged or sinking ferries.