In 2004, Jensen Maritime Consultants (JMC) partnered with the City of Seattle’s Fire Department
to develop two vessels that will significantly upgrade the City’s marine fire fighting ability, as well as provide a mobile marine command vessel for operations in all manner of catastrophes, including bio-terrorist incidents. Seattle is a city that is almost surrounded by water – built between Elliot Bay, Lake Washington and Lake Union, it has innumerable rivers cutting through it, with more than 190 miles of navigable coastline. However, any vessels going from the salt water side of Puget Sound to the fresh water side of Lake Washington must
travel through the Chittenden Locks. Transiting these locks takes time, and hampers any type of emergency response from one side of the water to the other.
When these projects began, the marine resources of the department were two vessels, the Chief Seattle and the Alki. The Chief Seattle was built in the 1980s, and can pump close to 7,000 gpm. Capable of traveling at 16 knots, she is the department’s fast response vessel, and is moored at Station 5 on the Waterfront. The Alki was built in 1928, and is based in fresh water near Fisherman’s terminal. While her speed is significantly slower than that of the Chief’s, the maximum speed through much of the canal that connects the Locks to Lake Washington is 7 knots, and large vessels, even in an emergency, cannot travel much faster than that without causing damage to the multitude of houseboats moored along the waterway.
To provide a fast response vessel that would be capable of operations in both fresh and salt water, a small, 50-ft aluminum fast attack fireboat was developed. Built at Metalcraft in Kingston, Ontario, the vessel arrived in Seattle in August 2007, and went into service later that fall. Powered by a pair of 749-BHP Caterpillar C18 engines driving Hamilton Jet Model 364 drives, the vessel has a top speed of 30+ knots and a pumping capacity of 6,600 gpm. Engine 1 will be based at Station 5, and will provide first response from the Duwamish River up to Shilshole. Able to effectively operate with a crew of three, Engine 1 can be off and running in 5 minutes.
The second vessel is to provide an able replacement to the venerable Alki, as she is set to be retired after the Chief Seattle is overhauled. The 108-ft Leschi, built at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, was to be delivered to the City in the spring of 2007. Powered by a pair of 1555 BHP Detroit Diesel/MTU 8V series 4000 engines, with another pair of the same engines driving a total of 4 FFS SFP250x350 fire pumps, the Leschi has a pumping capability of over 20,000 gpm and a top speed in excess of 14 knots. This vessel is also equipped with a Command Center for incident control, as well as a fully equipped Medical Treatment Room for dealing with incident casualties. Like Engine 1, the Leschi will be based at Station 5. This will allow the Chief Seattle to be shifted to cover the fresh water side of Seattle.
Unique to these new vessels is their CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear and Environmental) capability. The first purpose built fire boats in the United States to be so equipped, each vessel has the capability to seal most of the internal areas of the vessel to prevent ingress of chemical, biological and radioactive agents that might be present at an incident. This will protect the crew and allow them to remain fully functional in an incident without being tethered to a breathing apparatus. The Leschi also has air locks capable of bringing people exposed to these agents aboard to be treated prior to being transported to shoreside facilities.
These two vessels provide for a significant upgrade to the City’s Fire Department’s ability to respond to all manner of marine and near shore incidents, whether they be natural or man-made.