FDNY's New Fire Boat to Honor 343 Bravest

More than a thousand miles away from Ground Zero on Florida's Gulf Coast, FDNY officials will be honoring their fallen comrades in a different way this Sept. 11.

At 10 a.m., members of the department's special operations and marine operations divisions will attend a ceremony in Panama City to launch the FDNY's first new fire boat of its size in 50 years.

The "Three Forty Three" -- a reference to the number of firefighters and paramedics killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- will serve as a monument to the department's fallen comrades.

The new boat is 140 feet long and 500 tons, making it the country's largest fire boat.

"On Sept. 11, we all saw how important fire boats are to New York City," Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said in a statement. "The FDNY Marine Division rescued and transported hundreds of citizens and provided the only supply of water to battle the fires at the World Trade Center for many days."

"The Three Forty Three will significantly improve our ability to respond to emergencies in and around New York Harbor, while also reminding us all of the incredible sacrifices so many of our members made eight years ago."

The boat is set to arrive in NYC in December and will be assigned to Marine 1 on the Hudson River in Manhattan, replacing the "John D. McKean." The "Fire Firefighter II" -- a similar ship currently under construction -- will replace the "Fire Fighter" and be assigned to Marine 9 on Staten Island.

Both boats were funded in part by over $40 million in DHS grants, according to the FDNY.

Back in 2007, the Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City was awarded the contract to build the boats.

"The shipyard is pretty proud of our contribution to this," Eastern Shipbuilding Project Manager Justin Smith told WJHG-TV. "They feel they are playing a small role in the events of 9-11 and the city of New York recovering from that."

Smith told the station that the letters spelling out 'Three Forty Three" were all cut from World Trade Center and welded on by the shipyard's workers.

Not only will the fire boat be the biggest, he said it also will be the highest in capacity, pumping close to 50 thousand gallons a minute -- equivalent to about 50 average size city fire engines.

"This thing as far as looking at fire fighting as a battle this thing's a nuclear weapon compared to what they've got," he said.

The ceremonial launch will consist of the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle across the bow, followed by the first splash down of the ship into the Gulf.

FDNY officials in attendance at the ceremony will include: Chief of Special Operations William Seelig, Chief of Marine Operations James Dalton, Battalion Chief of Marine Operations Michael Buckheit and Retired Chief of Special Operations William Siegel.

Quick Facts About the "Three Forty Three":

  • Designed to detect, and protect firefighters from, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents

  • Contains a pressurized area that filters the air supply, allowing crew members to operate in hostile environments

  • Features a forward ballast tank which lowers the boat in the water to match its deck with larger ferries that operate in the waters around New York City

  • Pilot house is configured to allow the Captain a 360-degree view of an operation

  • Command and control area allows officers to monitor and direct fire operations with the aid of remote cameras and state-of-the-art communication equipment

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