OCEAN CITY – After years of anticipation, Ocean City’s new and one-of-a-kind fire/rescue boat has been delivered.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore, Moore Boats, LLC President Leighton Moore and Vice President Mike Early, along with members of the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD), were on the scene at the new Ocean City Fire Rescue Boat berth on 13th Street and the Bay.
The new vessel has a unique ability to respond to fire and EMS incidents through areas normally deemed unnavigable to traditional fire boats. It was built specifically for its intended use as a fire/EMS operations platform in the Ocean City area and is designed to transverse sandbars with depths as shallow as six inches. The boat has become the department’s first vessel designed from the ground up to support the OCFDs daily mission on the area’s waterways.
“We have worked closely with Moore Boat throughout the building process,” Larmore said. “We are excited for the recent delivery of the vessel and proud to offer our residents and visitors such a special service in Ocean City’s uniquely shallow environment.”
According to OCFD Captain Josh Bunting, the process dates back to April of 2008 when the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCVFC) commissioned a study by the Band-Lavis Division of CDI Marine, out of Annapolis, to document the current waterborne fire/rescue responsibility and future needs of the OCVFC.
The study recapped several maritime fire and rescue challenges the OCFD faced, such as shallow and difficult navigation due to changing sandbars, heavy pleasure boat traffic in main channels during peak season, a densely populated shoreline with many buildings, numerous marinas and West Ocean City having a large opportunity for brush and marsh fires with limited access and hydrant water supply.
At that time, Ocean City Grant Coordinator Wayne Pryor began pursing grant opportunities and secured three successive annual Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Waterway Improvement Grants totaling $150,000 that required a 50/50 city match, which was covered by the OCFD and the city’s apparatus fund.
In July of 2009, a Fireboat Workgroup was assembled that included representatives from OCFD, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and Natural Resources Police (NRP), who were tasked with evaluating current OCFD marine resources, reviewing CDI Marine recommendations for vessel specs, coordinating with USCG and NRP to avoid duplication of capabilities and developing preliminary specifications and cost estimation to begin sourcing.
By spring of 2011, the workgroup had developed a comprehensive Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project to go out to bid that was approved by officials. Moore Boats was ultimately awarded the contract in May of 2011 and began building immediately.
A comprehensive location study was then conducted by OCFD staff to evaluate potential locations for the berth of the boat. After statistical incident locations, land and waterway access, staffing availability and costs were evaluated, it was determined 13th Street and the bay was the best location, as it was a city-owned street end.
The town applied for a DNR Waterway Improvement Grant to cover the cost of the dock, fencing, lift and equipment at the berth but the grant was not awarded. Moore stepped up to the plate along with Denny Sharp of High Tide Marine Construction and donated the dock, lift and installation at no cost to the taxpayers of Ocean City.
Between May 2011 and May 2013, Moore Boat built the vessel with input from OCFD Fireboat Workgroup members. Numerous features were upgraded and provided by Moore Boats at no additional cost in an effort to not only improve the end product as Moore Boats’ “flagship” vessel in their Fire/Rescue Line, but to provide the OCFD with the latest technology to support the department’s fire/rescue mission on the surrounding waterways. The total project cost is over $539,000.
Ocean City Fireboat 1 is a Moore Boat 32 model that holds twin Yanmar 8LV-350 diesel engines and twin American Turbine SD 301 Pumps for propulsion and fire pumping capability’s that will pump 1,250 gallons per minute. There is an integrated 25-gallon FoamPro AFFF Foam System for flammable liquid fires. Electronics include a radar/GPS, Sonar standard depth finder, FLIR Infrared Camera and VHF marine and 800 Mhtz fire department radio.
For safety, the vessel carries a cabin security system for high water, a smoke alarm and break in protection, engine compartment fire suppression system, redundant bilge pumps, a corrosion monitoring system, and a standard USCG Safety and Navigation equipment.
The boat also features on board EMS/patient care equipment, 500-pound Davit System, on-board rescue swimmer equipment, integrated dive equipment storage, LED scene lighting and diver/rescue swimmer platform with a dive ladder.
“Ocean City wanted a fire boat, and I wanted a challenge … we bid low enough to get the project and then spent whatever money it took to get the job completed to my satisfaction and to the fire department’s satisfaction,” said Moore, who is also the owner of Seacrets Bar & Grill. “We had a lot of fun designing and inventing something that was never done as far as the firefighting methodology of the pumping system, as well as storage and rescue capabilities. So, after Seacrets, this gave me the chance to build the most complicated boat I could imagine and that’s what we have there. It is complicated, it’s inventive, and it’s one of a kind.”
Moore pointed out prior to the new fire/rescue boat, OCFD was using a small skiff with a portable gas motor to cover the nine marinas in Ocean City’s fire district, which is home to 688 public boat slips and 465 boat racks.
Marinas store in excess of 54,000 gallons of gasoline and 93,000 gallons of diesel fuel during the tourist season. Also, 2,000 waterfront properties, nearly all residential with boat slips, are now safeguarded, officials said.
“When you have the world’s largest White Marlin tournament in your city, as well as numerous other waterborne activities and tournaments, or a fire could present itself in one of the bayside buildings, condominiums or houses, this boat would address all those needs,” Moore said.
A formal dedication of the Ocean City Fireboat 1 will take place on Thursday, June 27, at 2 p.m. Further information will be provided in the near future.