January 31, 1975 Lessons not learned?
Southern N.J. has just one fire boat - old and ill-equipped
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) - The lesson has of the Corinthos has not been
learned adequately, fire officials say.
On Jan. 31, 1975, that Greek tanker was rammed by the SS Edgar
M. Queeny near Marcus Hook, Pa., causing an explosion that killed
29 people, and spilled more than a quarter-million barrels of crude
oil into the Delaware River during a fire that lasted for three
After the Corinthos blaze, the Camden Fire Department got a
former Coast Guard boat for use as a fireboat.
The William Abels is still in service. It's slow, has leaky
hoses and limited firefighting power. And it's still the only New
Jersey-based firefighting craft between Wilmington, Del., and
"Disasters don't happen often, but when they happen, they're
really bad," Doug Dillon, executive director of the Tri-State
Marine Safety Association told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill for
Tuesday's editions. "When it happens, you're going to be very
The association funds the Delaware River Marine Firefighting
Task Force, which was formed in the aftermath of the Corinthos
incident to tie together all the area fireboats, including two
50-year-old vessels operated by the Philadelphia Fire Department.
But there aren't many of them. And the area to protect includes
the Philadelphia International Airport and oil refineries from
Philadelphia to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. It is the nation's
fifth-busiest port and the third-largest dealing with oil imports.
"If we had the same incident today, our firefighting efforts
wouldn't be that different" than in 1975, Dillon said. "In fact,
we'd probably have less resources because the Navy and Coast Guard
aren't here in the same numbers."
One struggle of the marine safety group is that there's no
single entity responsible for funding their efforts along the
The Delaware River Port Authority, the Delaware River Bay
Authority, the South Jersey Port Corp., the Philadelphia Port
Authority and the Diamond State Port Corp., in Delaware, all have
roles to play.
Earlier this year, the federal government made money available
for fireboats through the Department of Homeland Security.
But U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., said that money is
distributed by considering an area's population rather than its
"It also is an example of an underlying problem in our approach
to homeland security in this country," Andrews said. "We're not
focusing money where the problems are most likely."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)