(Oct. 16, 2020) After seven years of service, the Ocean City Fire Department’s fire-rescue boat has blown an engine, prompting the department to look at repair options that could cost more than $100,000.
The Moore Fire 32 vessel, of Moore Boats, has two 350 horsepower diesel engines, is 32 feet in length, has a resting draft of 18.5 inches, but needs just seven inches of water under it when it’s riding on plane. It also has the ability to pump 1,250 gallons per minute to aid in fire extinguishing.
“We have various other fire and rescue equipment on board, including basic medical supplies, we have a radar … [and] a sonar,” Assistant Fire Chief Will Savage said.
Savage said the fire department began discussing purchasing the boat more than a decade ago.
“We had a marine program which consisted of a smaller jon boat [flat bottom) and a 20-foot jon boat,” Savage recalled.
Those had been purchased in order to deal with street flooding and assist in evacuations, as well as tackle flames inaccessible by firetrucks via the resort’s waterways, Savage said.
However, these jon boats became insufficient, as calls for service began to increase significantly.
“We got some consultants to study our needs and challenges, and then in 2009, we established a formal workgroup [consisting of] members of our own department, as well as the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard,” Savage said.
In 2013, the Moore Fire 32 vessel was purchased for approximately $540,000.
Savage said the funding came from a Maryland Department of Natural Resources waterway grant, the city and private contributions and donations made by Moore Boats.
“The main purpose of the boat is to mitigate fire rescue and emergency medical incidents on our local waterways, which would include our surface rescue swimmers and our dive team,” Savage said. “We also have the capability to support hazmat operations, which would typically be handled through either our fire marshal’s office, Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office, emergency management or the Coast Guard.”
Additionally, with the boat’s low draft, it has the capability to traverse shallow waters, and is built to endure seasonal conditions making it a year-round tool.
The boat’s activity was cut short, however, this summer.
“On Aug. 9, we received a call for service at 12:34 p.m. through Maryland Natural Resources Police,” Savage said. “We were dispatched to a parachuter down in the ocean in the area off of Assateague Island, approximately .5-1 mile offshore.”
Savage said it was during the ride to the parachuter that one of the motors blew out.
Additionally, the call turned out to be a dud — witness accounts conflicted and none of the responding agencies found the parachuter.
Savage said another work group was formed to discuss the boat’s future, and four options were considered.
The first option was to strip the boat and sell the parts. However, Savage said this idea had been scrapped early on, as the boat was only a few years old and in usable condition.
“It would be a disservice to our taxpayers if we just got rid of it,” Savage said.
Additionally, if the fire department went this route it would be required to return the waterway grant it had received for its initial purchase.
The next idea was to replace the engine, but the issue would be that if one motor was replaced, the other would likely need to be rehabilitated.
“Knowing what happened to the first motor, we are not finding a company that is willing to take on the work and warranty it, so again that may be a disservice to our taxpayers,” Savage said.
The workgroup considered purchasing a new boat, but that was ruled out when option one had been axed.
The last option was to replace the inboard motors with outboard motors, which would require some metalwork to be done.
Savage said the fire department is still weighing its options, but planned to have the boat fixed sometime mid-winter.
As for funding the repair, Savage said the department had applied for another $50,000 waterway grant, which would be matched by the city.
While it’s too soon to predict the total cost, “I don’t have any conclusive answers for an end number, but my guess would be higher than $100,000,” Savage said.
The remaining cost would go through the normal budgeting process, Savage said, and those wishing to donate money to help finance it could do so to the fire department’s volunteer division, as well.