Safety Issues Solved, Virginia Fire Boat Back In Operation

ALEXDANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- It was unusual move for a fire department. Concerns about safety issues last November prompted Alexandria Fire Department Chief Adam Thiel to order the department's fire boat crews not to answer emergency calls.

On Thursday, the Marine Division was back in full operation for the first time in three months. Fire department officials say the move was necessary to retrain crews, retool safety procedures and make some personnel changes. Battalion Chief John North admits the long absence was unusual, but says it was an important step to ensure the safety of the public and the firefighters.

The crew from the city's main fire boat invited 9NEWS NOW to get a close up look of the boat's capabilities. Fire Boat 201 is a 30 foot Metalcraft Marine Rescue Boat with twin jet drives.

Captain Rodney Masser showed how the boat would connect to the standpipe system underneath the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the event of a fire or other emergency needing a continuous water supply. Alexandria's boat can pump about 2000 gallons-per-minute of water from the Potomac River.

Masser explained how the growth of the waterfront on both the Virginia and Maryland shores has increased the need for the waterfront emergency services. According to Masser, water taxi service between Alexandria and the new National Harbor complex in Prince George's County is frequent and expected to grow in the coming years. More people using the service is expected to translate into more emergency medical runs for the boat crew.

Captain Masser says with the recent retraining, the firefighters probably spent more time on the water in the past months than in previous winters.

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Courtesy WUSA 9