Thursday, June 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Destiny fireboat takes to the water

Tacoma’s waterways just got a little safer, with the christening of the “Destiny.” The 30-foot fireboat is the top of the line for its class of rescue and rapid response vessels. And another one is on the way.

The “Destiny” is a FireStorm 30 by Canadian boat builder MetalCraft Marine that takes to Tacoma waters through a partnership between the Port of Tacoma and the City of Tacoma. The $675,000 boat’s price tag was covered by local dollars and grants from Homeland Security that has the port technically owning the vessel and Tacoma operating it. Federal dollars covered about half the cost, while the port paid $123,000 and the city chipped in the remaining $188,000.

“We have been talking about this for a long time,” Port Commissioner Dick Marzano said, noting that informal talks about a city-port partnership to get a new rescue boat started in 1995.

The vessel will serve as the primary response boat for Tacoma Fire Department because it is faster, less expensive to operate and packs more power than its sister ship, the “Commencement,” which is nearing the end of its service life.

Topping out at 43 miles per hour, it can reach the Narrows Bridge from its dock along Commencement Bay in just 17 minutes and can pump some 1,800 gallons of water per minute while maneuvering in the water more like a sports car than a fireboat.

“We can put out quite a bit of water and stop on a dime,” firefighter Bill Dixon said.

The jet-propelled craft, for example, can jump from a dead stop to full throttle on its two 420-horsepower engines in seven seconds and stop from its top speed to still waters in just a few feet. It also has sonar, radar and night-vision equipment that will allow it to provide port security if called into regular patrol service.

The Destiny will be stationed at a facility along Thea Foss Waterway just under Murray Morgan Bridge, alongside the slower but heftier “Commencement,” which is a 1980s-era fireboat that was renovated and updated in 2005. The “Commencement” tops out at about 20 miles per hour but can deliver some 6,000 gallons a minute of water on fires. The former fireboat, “Defiance,” has been formally retired and is being sold for scrap. The department is working on plans to add another response craft in the coming years.