Meet SFFD’s New Fireboat Technology

By Peter Ong

Surrounded on three sides by water with the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Golden Gate Strait to the north, and San Francisco Bay to the East, the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) currently relies on two old and refurbished fireboats, the Phoenix (built in 1954) and the Guardian (built in 1951) to serve as fire protection assets for the waters around the City.
San Francisco requires fireboats for a wide range of protective coastal duties. Since San Francisco lies near a major earthquake fault line, a fireboat could serve as a pumper in the event of an earthquake where underground water mains may break and render hydrant water pressure useless. A fireboat could pump water straight from the coast to service fire engines inland and keep attack hoses supplied with adequate water pressure. A fireboat could also serve as a rescue craft for water-related emergency situations, or serve as protectors for container ships visiting the Port of Oakland, and for oil tanker ships delivering to the oil refineries in Richmond, the city above Oakland. San Francisco waters also have four steel and concrete bridges crossing to the north and eastern counties that see heavy daily traffic.
Jensen Maritime Consultants has won the award to design the new San Francisco fireboat, the first new fireboat for the City in over 50 years. The Phoenix was built in 1954 and the Guardian (built in 1951) was purchased used from the City of Vancouver, BC. The new fireboat will be a custom design, and the one thing that is really unusual about this boat is that it can pump 18,000gpm at 150psi, or it can pump 6,000gpm at 300psi and 6,000gpm at 15psi. Line attack hoses could attach to discharge manifolds on deck so the fireboat could serve as a pumping station in case of an earthquake where the water mains break underneath the street.
The new SFFD fireboat comes with unique design features and capabilities.
In particular, this design has five fire monitors: two dual monitors in front, one on the boathouse facing forward, and two on the corners of the second deck facing the rear. The Jensen design has twin searchlights mounted over the bridge’s roof, a mast with radar and communications antennas, twin smokestacks canted towards the rear, a deck crane on the starboard side, port and starboard openings for coming alongside piers and jet skis, or for easier access for divers or for hauling in swimmers in distress or debris, and on the stern ramp a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with an outboard motor. The RIB in itself is a unique asset as it allows the SFFD to conduct inspections, ship boarding, and search and rescue operations independent from the new fireboat. To launch, the RIB slides down the stern ramp via gravity into the water. To retrieve the RIB, a winch mounted at the forward end of the pedestal hooks up to the RIB and hauls it aboard. (Both the Phoenix and Guardian carry motorized skiffs, but do not have stern ramps to launch or retrieve them).
Two sets of stairs flank the RIB ramp to lead to a platform at the stern for launching or retrieving materials or swimmers. The deck of the new Jensen-designed fireboat also has 24 vertical discharge manifolds to hook up line attack hoses for pumping to fires offshore.
A Chemical Biological Radiation Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) system allows firefighters to plug masks into the air system aboard the boat and breathe clean air during firefighting or Hazardous Materials situations. For pumping water, the new fireboat has three fire pumps. The two propulsion engines for sailing each have a water-driving fire pump mounted on the other end of the propulsion engine and there is one dedicated fire engine with a fire pump mounted on it. When sailing, the boat can pump 6,000gpm at 150psi by using the dedicated fire engine and pump only. At dockside, or when the propulsion engines are not being used for sailing, all of the engines (two propulsion and the dedicated fire engine) can be used to operate the fire pumps to produce 18,000gpm at 150psi. The engines also have a high-pressure mode where they can pump 6,000gpm at 150psi and 6,000gpm at 300psi. These incorporated features make the newest SFFD fireboat able to handle emergency situations that the older fireboats cannot. And with an inventory of now three fireboats, the San Francisco Fire Department could theoretically pump sea water inland on all three sides of the city in the event that major fires erupt in three different locations as a result from a devastating earthquake.
The new fireboat will have three interior decks: the top deck is the pilothouse; the main deck has a command center with a head (restroom) and an equipment storage room; and the bottom deck has a workshop, a storage room, an engine room, a steering gear room, and a forepeak storage space. The boat has no living or sleeping area, although it does have a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) filling, storage, and distribution area where operators could plug into the stations locally on the boat’s and breathe clean air when working onboard if necessary. The ship does not have a dedicated Decontamination (Shower) Room so a portable facility would be set up on deck or at the dock. The mast has a standard set of navigation lights and radar. The new fireboat will have a crew of three and four additional firefighters to either man the monitors or deploy from the RIB.
Estimated costs range from $9-$12 million dollars.
As of May 15, 2013, a $7.8 million Federal Grant was lost because the San Francisco Fire Department did not spend the money in the given time frame. The grant was awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2009 to San Francisco for Port Security, namely the funding of a new fireboat in which the City would have to match the grant funds to pay for the rest of the fireboat’s cost. The deal was that SFFD would have the boat built and in service in two-and-half years. Apparently, that didn’t happen. The SFFD had to first pick a design and one of the bidders dropped out due to a disagreement of the process used to award the contract. So it took more months to get a new $400,000 contract established. When the first round of construction bids went out, the City rejected two of the bids. Therefore, a second round of bids went out in February 2013 with a winning selection of $12 million to build the new fireboat. However, the deadline to have the new fireboat in service and to secure the Federal Grant is at the end of June 2013, and with construction not even started, it will be impossible to build the new fireboat in time. Even lobbying by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, was not enough to save the FEMA Grant deal. SFFD hopes to apply again for another grant for the fireboat.
According to Mindy Talmadge, the Public Affairs Officer for the San Francisco Fire Department.
“The Department was unable to make use of the original award given a variety of delays in the project (You must understand that there are multiple agencies involved in the advertising, scoring and awarding of a bid that the Fire Department has absolutely no control over. It is that process that took the extensive time that made it impossible for the Fire Department to make use of the funds in the allocated time), and the funding was reallocated throughout the region to other projects. However, in August of 2013, the Department was the recipient of a new Federal grant award for the project. Currently, contract negotiations have begun on the contract for the construction of the boat, and the Department hopes to begin construction of the vessel in the coming months.”
At the end of June 2014, “Jensen Maritime has been selected to provide detail production engineering and construction management for the production of one 88’ x 25’ Super Pumper NFPA Type II Fireboat for the San Francisco Fire Department. The fireboat contract-design was also completed by Jensen for the City of San Francisco in 2012. The vessel will be built at Vigor Industrial in Seattle and is expected to be completed during the late summer of 2015. The vessel will operate in San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean within five miles of shore and the adjoining inland waterways.”


Specs for the new SFFD Fireboat

Designer    Jensen Maritime
Builder    Vigor (Seattle)
Length o.a., molded     88 ft.
Breadth, Molded     25 ft.
Depth, Molded     14.3 ft.
Draft, Molded (approx. Max Load)     9 ft.
Speed in Full Load Condition     11.5 knots (Predicted)
Propulsion     2 x Caterpillar C18 ACERT engines
Engine Horsepower (each)     2 x 493 bhp
    at 2300 rpm
Crew Complement     3 crew + 4 firefighters
Fire Engine     1 x Caterpillar C18 ACERT engine
Fire Pumps     3 x CounterFire ESF 300-550
Pump Capacity     18,000 gpm
Fuel Oil Capacity     10,900 gal. @ 95%
Fresh Water Capacity     250 gal. @ 100%
Fire Fighting Foam (FFF) Capacity     1,000 gal.
    @ 95%
Lube Oil Capacity     175 gal. @ 95%
Displacement, Full Load     260 LT (Estimated)



(As published in the November 2014 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News -

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 126,  Nov 2015

Read Meet SFFD’s New Fireboat Technology in Pdf, Flash or Html5 edition of November 2015 Maritime Reporter

Other stories from November 2015 issue


Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.