On March 15, two restaurants, the historic Bowen’s Inn and the Lighthouse Inn caught fire on Solomon’s Island in Calvert County Maryland. The Solomon’s Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department
(VFD) arrived on scene at the three alarm fire and immediately recognized the need for additional firefighting resources. Winds out of the NW were steady at 30-35 knots with gusts up to 50 knots that quickly fanned the inferno and created satellite fires. McAllister Towing’s tugs A.J. McAllister
and Emily Anne McAllister were
crewed and underway. Mate Tom Marstin of the Emily Anne McAllister, with 23 years of experience as a member of Solomon’s VFD, coordinated getting the tugs into position and spraying water by 13:15. Reports have more than 70 firefighters from 4 counties at the scene; due to limited water hydrants and resources being spread thin, the fight was being lost. The Lighthouse Inn was completely engulfed and eventually collapsed.
The A.J. and the Emily Anne showered water at a rate of 11,000 gallons per minute a brought the fire under control within one half hour. At 13:45, the VFD’s Incident Commander called a halt to the tugs’ efforts so the situation could be assessed. During this time, the Emily Anne eased her way to shore so that Mate Marstin could obtain a radio from the Incident Commander for future instructions. The tugs were then ordered to sweep hot spots along the shore and further assist the VFD in dousing the numerous satellite fires that had arisen from the high powered winds.
There were no injuries to firefighting personnel or civilians. The damage suffered on Solomon’s Island has been estimated near $5 million. The community and firefighters both acknowledged the tugs’ efforts in containing the fire. Assistant Fire Chief Charles Nava of Solomon’s VFD said, “Big fire requires big water and the tugs provide big water. The tug operation enabled us to mitigate the further spreading of the fire in a matter of minutes versus the time it would have taken us.” Dick Devoe, a resident of the area, “My wife and I were watching from our yard when the tugs arrived and immediately got to work. Witnessing the power of the tugs cannons we knew it was only a matter of minutes before the fire would be suppressed. As far as the community is concerned the tugboats were the heroes of the day!”
Both the A.J. McAllister and Emily Anne McAllister are state of the art tugs that were specifically built for liquid natural gas terminals. Each tug is equipped with emergency response equipment that meets or exceeds the FiFi 1 standards of classification by the American Bureau of Shipping. The tugs were built to specifications set by Statoil, British Petroleum and Shell Oil for work at the Cove Point liquid natural gas terminal. The tugs’ firefighting equipment include (2) Skum MK-250EL/VR fire monitors with foam injection capability and a 1,100 gallon per minute deluge system. Each tug features Nijhuis HGT1 fire pumps (driven by Detroit Diesel 12V-925TI) capable of pumping 5,800 gallons of water per minute. This equipment is fully automated with controls in the pilot house. Both tugs are classed +A-1 firefighting (FiFi 1), Escort, +A-1 towing and +AMS by the American Bureau of Shipping.