If you happened to look out over the Hudson River one afternoon last week, you may have been surprised to see a collection of red boats spouting fountains of water skyward in the area of the Port Imperial Ferry terminal. It was all part of an event to dedicate a new fireboat launched by North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR). The NHRFR services North Bergen, Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, and Weehawken.
The new vessel, Marine 1, was funded by a federal grant. “It’s through a port security grant we got in 2010,” said Department Chief Frank Montagne. “The grant was $1.2 million, for the boat and most of its equipment.”
“This boat, believe it or not, can operate in less than two feet of water,” said NHRFR Executive Director Jeffrey Welz. “It was specially designed by the chief because of our walkway, our buildings that are very close to the edge, and it can operate in areas where our other boats never could get. That’s why it cost a million dollars. There are no props. It’s jet propulsion.”
The boat carries four hose guns capable of supplying 4,250 gallons per minute, and 100 gallons of firefighting foam for combustible liquid fire.
The Marine 1 joins another, smaller boat owned and operated by the NHRFR. “A 27-foot boat, which also was another grant. That was two years ago maybe,” said Montagne. “The smaller boat is more of a quick response vessel. It can get into closer areas, smaller areas, shallow waters. The big boat has more capabilities as far as volumes of water and large foam capability.”
The new craft is also equipped with an infrared camera and night vision goggles, which allow the crew to see victims in the water day or night.
The new boat is equipped with four hoses that can pump over 4,000 gallons per minute, and infrared cameras to see victims in the water day or night.
“God forbid you have another accident like the plane that went down, we could grab 10, 15 people,” said Montagne. “We have an inflatable raft that could fit 25 people so we could grab a lot of people if we had to, and assist in the rescue.”
Coalition of mayors
“This is another major step in making this one of the best fire departments in the state,” said Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff at the dedication ceremony. “This waterfront property’s the most valuable property in all our North Hudson communities, and this gives us another tool to protect that property. It hopefully will not have to be used but it’s nice that we have it.”
“One of the things that you worry about here is that we have one major road in and out,” added Chairman of the Board of NY Waterway Armand Pohan. “And if there’s ever a real emergency it’s great to know that there’s a fireboat here that can address the crisis.”
“We have so much water activity now, with the new developments, the walkways, the marinas,” said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, “that all the mayors got together and decided it was worth pursuing a grant. We would not be able to buy this with all its modern equipment to fight fires and everything else if it wasn’t for our federal delegation.”
Turner is Chairman of the Management Board of NHRFR.
“We have to thank our U.S. Senator, Bob Menendez, and our representative, Albio Sires, for helping us receive this boat and all the grants that are involved to do it,” said North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “It didn’t cost us any money and we have really a first class situation here. Four power hoses strong enough from where the boat is now to go over the [ferry terminal] building.”
Four years in the making
The boat was designed and ordered when the grant was approved, back in 2010. Metal Craft Marine, the manufacturer, is located in Ontario, Canada. “They make anywhere from 20 foot boats to 100 foot boats,” said Montagne. “You decide what type of boat is best for your needs. It takes quite a few years to get it built.”
Keith Gonyou, a retired captain and now marine services consultant for NHRFR, has been involved since inception with the construction and transportation of the boat, traveling to Canada three times during the assembly process.
“First was the pre-build, then when the metal work was done I went up to inspect the metal work, then I went up the last time for the sea trials and brought it down from Canada,” he said. “I spent 14 days – 10 of them training on the boat and then four days bringing the boat down. It was a great experience.”
The two boats will likely be docked at Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, according to Montagne. Training will take a few weeks, and then teams of three or four will be assigned to each vessel, with backups at all times.
Turner noted that additional equipment has been ordered for land operations, “So the whole equipment for NHRFR is being updated, whether it’s on land or on sea.”
Also among those attending the dedication were West New York Mayor Felix Roque, NHRFR Co-director Michael DeOrio, Hudson County Freeholder-elect Anthony Vainieri, and fire officials from municipalities throughout northern New Jersey and New York City.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.