FEMA-funded fire boat to boost crisis response

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor via Getty ImagesPassengers exits a Caltrain commuter train during the morning commute

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor via Getty ImagesPassengers exits a Caltrain commuter train during the morning commute

In the coming weeks, a new Redwood City Fire Department boat will hit the water, improving the city's Bayshore emergency response capability.

The 36-foot, custom-built MetalCraft Marine vessel — purchased for $986,941 with funding from a Department of Homeland Security grant — includes water pumps, an enclosed cabin, medical equipment and infrared night-vision capability to aid with after-dark rescues. It also has a shallow draft, which means it will be able to operate within the often shallow southern part of the Bay.

In addition, the new vessel can transform itself into a pumping station, allowing it to pump Bay water to trucks situated inland should the city's water system go down during an emergency, Battalion Chief Michael O'Leary said.

The fire boat will have a crew of three and an engine company available to staff it, O'Leary said.

The new craft is an improvement over the department's current inflatable rescue boat — a 10-foot inflatable Zodiac — which is unsuited to assist large container ships and other cargo vessels entering the city's deepwater port, Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith said.

The fire boat will be the only one of its kind in the southern part of the Bay, Smith said.

The grant that paid for the boat is one that is available to 11 regions in California, said Dan Watson, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grants were awarded based on risk-based assessments of each region requesting money, Watson said.

The port security grant program distributed more than $93 million in grant money to jurisdictions petitioning around the country. Watson declined to comment on the specifics of the Redwood City fire boat grant.

The grant paid for the vessel, its delivery and nine days of crew training from the manufacturer.

To christen the new vessel, the city asked residents ages 5 to 13 to submit name suggestions — one of which officials will select prior to the August launch.

Bay Area NewsPeninsulaPort of Redwood CityRedwood CityRedwood City Fire Department

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