HOUSTON -- A two-week voyage through four Great Lakes and the Mississippi River will bring to the Port of Houston Authority the third of three high-performance emergency response vessels.
The new boats equip the Port Authority’s firefighting team with what some describe as the most sophisticated fleet in the world.
“The Port of Houston is one of the nation’s busiest ports, and protecting this national asset is essential to the economic well-being of Houston, Texas and the nation,” said Port Authority Executive Director Roger Guenther. “This vessel completes our new fleet, providing our firefighters with the advanced equipment needed to help save lives and property along the Houston Ship Channel.”
The Port of Houston Fire Department operates three fire stations, strategically stationed along the 52-mile-long Houston Ship Channel. Certified emergency professionals respond to marine and land fires and other emergencies along the upper ship channel.
A four-member crew, which includes two from the Port of Houston Authority’s Fire Department, is escorting the vessel home to Houston. The voyage is being made by Assistant Chief Mike Oder, Sr. a 34-year veteran of the Port Authority’s Fire Department, and Assistant Chief Jason Roberts, a 13-year veteran of the firefighting team. They are a part of a department of highly trained firefighters and Hazardous Materials Response Teams.
The firefighters are certified by the state of Texas as Structural Firefighter, Marine Firefighter, HazMat Technician and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). All pilots and captains are licensed U.S. Coast Guard mariners. The emergency response vessel journey is scheduled to take the following course from Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to Detroit, Mich. (May 16) and then across Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Chicago, Il. (May 18). From Chicago, the journey continues on the Cumberland River to Peoria, Il. (May 19).
Then following the Illinois River, the fireboat sails on to St. Louis, Mo. (May 20), where it will enter the Mississippi River and continue with stops in Memphis, Tenn. (May 22), Vicksburg, Tenn. (May 23) and from New Orleans (May 23). A final stop will be made at Galveston, Texas (May 24) before arriving at the Port of Houston on about May 28.
To travel along with the new emergency response vessel as it makes its way to Houston, follow posts by the Port Authority on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/PortofHouston or on Twitter @Portof_Houston.
The ship will be piloted on the trip by Captain Ron Peddle, an owner of MetalCraft Marine with 33 years of experience piloting ships and 35 years of building boats.
The new Firestorm 70 is a state-of-the-art command center and high-speed response vessel. Built by MetalCraft, each fireboat has powerful quad diesel inboard engines to propel the vessel at a swift 45 knots top speed.
The current fleet clocks in at 14 and 16 knots. Such an improvement in speed is important when providing fire protection for the ship channel. The new vessels are highly maneuverable, can make quick stops and change direction within three boat lengths.
Part firehouse, part boat, the vessel enables the crew to stay on station for extended periods. The cabin includes a primary care berth with four secondary berths in the cuddy.
Portable berths can be positioned in the aft equipment cabin to handle injuries during incident. Four firefighting pumps can produce flow meter results of 13,600 gallons per minute (GPM) at 150 pounds per square inch (PSI) and 17,000 GPM at 130 PSI and stream up to 450 feet with a roof-mounted Stang monitor. This is three times the discharge rate of any of the Port Authority fireboats being retired.