'Help' at 38 Knots

'Help' at 38 Knots

New fire and rescue boat launched by Fairfax County.

Boating on the Potomac River just became a lot safer thanks to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Last Wednesday morning they officially launched their new 36-foot fire and rescue boat from Pohick Bay Regional Park.

The $400,000, 11 ton craft can travel up to 38 knots, or a little over 40 miles per hour at full throttle. It can also pump nearly 2,200 gallons of water per minute out of its five deluge guns. Pivotally mounted on the bow, stern and cabin roof, they give the crew a 360 degree firefighting capability.

"We also intend to keep our original boat in reserve or when we need extra patrol capabilities like on holidays," said Captain Jimmy Chinn, Gunston Station. "Our Marine Operations crews will be undergoing additional training to get used to this more powerful and much better equipped boat."

Built by MetalCraft Marine. Inc., Kingston, Canada, it features a rescue-style hull and a fully enclosed cabin enabling firefighters and paramedics to increase patient care for potential victims.

"The boat has full advanced life support and can transport up to four littered patients," said Dan Schmidt, public information officer for the county.

IT IS POWERED by twin-turbo charged Cummins diesel engines that allows it to streak across the water with only a two foot draft. By powering the twin screws in opposite direction the craft can be moved to and from the dock in a sideward motion making loading and unloading easier and safer, according to Chinn.

During a demonstration run, Kenneth Athing, technician, Marine Operations, FFCF&R, explained the radio directional finder located directly in front of the wheel seat. "When anyone keys up a distress signal it will immediately show up on the finder in the cabin," Athing said.

"We have our own on-board oxygen and defibrillator which is a big improvement over our other boat," noted Firefighter D.J. Breisch. "Our GPS can pick up other GPS signals from any boat in the area."

Additional capabilities include a depth finder called a "Side Scan Sonar." It can look both down and forward to detect objects or depth levels. The new craft also has a foam system that will safely mitigate fuel spills or fire involving petroleum-based products, according to the crew.

Across the forward cabin entrance from the radio directional finder was the infra red locator panel, also in direct view of the boat operator. "Everything has its own heat signature and we can use that at night or in bad visibility," Athing said.

Having water pumps located right on the motors, the deluge guns can fire streams as far as 240 feet from the boat. "And being on the water we have an unlimited supply," Schmidt pointed out.

With its built-in tow reel, the fire-rescue boat can bring disabled crafts to shore. It also has a three foot, water level platform at the stern making it easier for Marine Ops personnel to bring victims on board.

ALTHOUGH THE NAME "Perfect Storm" was written over the cabin entrance, Schmidt revealed the boat had not yet been named. "The manufacturer put that on there for publicity purposes and forgot to remove it before delivery," he explained.

The name of the department's old fire/rescue boat, housed at station 20, is The Earl Kane. It was named for a firefighter who gave his life in a rescue attempt on the river.

Chinn indicated that they hope to be able to build a boat house at Pohick Regional Park for this craft since it is too big to be transported back and forth to the station as they have done with The Earl Kane. "We are negotiating with the Park Service to see what can be worked out," he said.

"This boat is limited only by the imagination and ingenuity of the crew," Athing said.