North Fork Fireboat Turns 80

The Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum in Greenport is celebrating its 80th birthday this month and the village is hosting a variety of festivities.

Fire Fighter was active with the New York City Fire Department from 1938 to 2010, the year FDNY decommissioned and retired the ship. In 2012, ownership of Fire Fighter was transferred to the Fireboat Fire Museum, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the ship as a fully operational vessel, memorial, and teaching museum. She was then relocated to Greenport in February 2013 and docked next to the North Ferry, where she’ll live out her golden years.

In her prime, Fire Fighter’s crew fought over 50 major fires, including fires aboard the SS Normandie, El Estero, Esso Brussels, and Sea Witch, as well as several dozen major pier fires throughout New York Harbor. In perhaps her greatest single contribution New York City, Fire Fighter led the FDNY Marine Unit response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 by supplying water to emergency crews fighting fires at Ground Zero. She spent three weeks pumping at maximum capacity while her crew sought out damaged, but still-operational pumpers to use as inland pumping stations among the ruin of the Twin Towers. The ship was only released from her station at the foot of Albany Street in the Battery when enough landside water mains had been repaired to support the firefighting efforts.

Fire Fighter is the only fireboat to have received the Gallant Ship Award since its establishment in 1944. She is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places,

The three-day birthday celebration will run from August 24 to 26.

Kicking off the festivities on Friday, August 24, is a water display in Greenport Harbor beginning at 7 PM. On Saturday, August 25, free tours of the ship will be offered from 9 AM to 3 PM. Then from 10 AM to 3 PM, there will be a fire truck muster by the Eastern Long Island Antique Fire Apparatus Association near the East End Seaport Museum. Fire department and Coast Guard demonstrations will be part of the muster, and approximately 25 fire trucks from various North Fork fire departments will gather in Mitchell Park on the water in Greenport.

Wrapping up the celebration on Sunday, August 26, is a rechristening of Fire Fighter led by Susan Gibbs, the granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs, the ship’s architect. Tours will continue from 9 AM to noon and another water display will follow the rechristening ceremony.

Gibbs, a renowned naval architect, built Fire Fighter from the keel up. She is capable of pumping 20,000 gallons of water per-minute to nine topside fire monitors and was powered by one of the first diesel-electric powerplants ever fitted to a vessel of her size. Her design was so advanced and performance so impressive, that throughout her entire career, Fire Fighter remained in an essentially unchanged operational condition. She outlasted all of her contemporaries and even the majority of FDNY fireboats half her age.

The Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum is a 100-percent volunteer organization. Two cats, Iggy and Boo, are the official ship cats and call the vessel home.

[email protected]

More from Our Sister Sites