Duluth Fire Department now expects spring delivery of new boat
The Duluth Fire Department was supposed to have a new emergency response boat in August, and it would have, too, if not for one minor complication — a lack of propulsion.
Lake Assault Boats in Superior completed work on the 31-foot vessel right on schedule, but it's still waiting on a pair of 300-horsepower Mercury Verado outboard motors to arrive.
Chad DuMars, vice president of operations for Lake Assault, explained that bruising back-to-back hurricane seasons damaged many boats in coastal communities, and the rush to repower disabled vessels has left large outboard motors in short supply nationwide. Given the current wait times, DuMars said he expects the backordered twin Mercs to arrive late this year or by early 2019.
The revised schedule now calls for Lake Assault to take the boat through spring sea trials shortly after ice-out this spring, dialing in navigation systems and putting the vessel through its paces before delivering it to the Duluth Fire Department.
Duluth Fire Chief Dennis Edwards said the boat will be named Marine 19 to honor the 19 firefighters who have died in the line of duty since the department's inception.
The boat is being referred to an "all-hazard response vessel," and it's expected to have a top speed of about 45 mph.
With a 10½-foot beam, the boat should provide a stable firefighting platform. Equipped with a 6-liter V8 engine to power its pumping system, the vessel should be able deliver up to 2,000 gallons per minute
The boat is designed to navigate the big waters of Lake Superior, as well as shallower inland areas. It features a special fold-out bow ramp to ease shoreland boarding.
The vessel cost nearly $450,000 to build. An additional $150,000 was raised locally to pay for a boat lift and to cover training costs.
"It took awhile, but our partners in the community have really stepped up, especially the Duluth Seaway Port Authority," Edwards said.
The Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation also provided a $30,000 grant to support training.
"To have the largest inland port in the country and not have fire coverage off the docks was a gap in our public safety network. So everybody — including the Coast Guard and the Port Authority — thought that this was a worthy project. And it also fit well with our mission as the Duluth Fire Department," Edwards said.
Firefighters will work through the winter to familiarize themselves with the boat's electronics. The vessel is equipped with a sophisticated navigation system that allows it to hold an exact position or chart a direct course It also boasts radar, thermal imaging and side-scan sonar equipment.
"We will train everybody up and be ready to use that vessel in the spring. Then, there will be ongoing training, as well," Edwards said.
Marine 19 will spend the winter in storage and will then be stationed at Pier B next to the waterfront hotel of the same name. The city will pay a nominal $1 annual fee to lease space for a boat lift at the head of the slip.
Edwards said the arrangement should allow firefighters to respond to any calls for maritime assistance "at a moment's notice."
"When we looked at where we wanted to put that boat, that was the No. 1 spot on our list, and Pier B really helped us out by allowing us to use that location," he said, calling it "the perfect location to respond from headquarters."
Sandy Hoff, one of the principal partners of Pier B, said he's happy to provide a home for Marine 19 alongside the Sundew, a retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter.
"Frankly, our investors and our management team simply want to be good corporate citizens," he said. "We see this as a win-win for everyone on the waterfront."