Hillsborough County, FL

09/12/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/12/2019 16:13

Grant Helps Float County's (Fire) Boat

Fast and versatile, Hillsborough County's 38-foot fire boat provides critical protection in a waterfront community with a major port and thousands of recreational boaters.

Fire Rescue launched the $700,000 vessel last year. Since then, it has responded to boat fires, medical calls, and other nautical emergencies. It is on standby for events such as the Gasparilla pirate 'invasion' and the MacDill Air Fest.

Working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and fire boats from Tampa, Manatee County, and St. Petersburg, the craft and its crew cover a 42-mile shipping channel and surrounding waters from Port Tampa Bay to a buoy seaward of Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Hillsborough County's ultra-modern, aluminum boat is powered by four 250-horsepower Yamaha outboard engines, and has a top speed of 49 mph. With twin hulls and a draft of just 28 inches, the craft can navigate shallow waters and even pull up to dredged spoils such as Beer Can Island, a destination popular with weekend recreational boaters.

The boat's bow drops forward, landing-craft style, for easy access. That's important for bringing aboard incapacitated people in medical emergencies.

County firefighters specially trained in marine rescue and combating waterside conflagrations operate the vessel and its equipment. They are assigned to Station 29 in Apollo Beach, near the fire boat's raised berth at Lands End Marina on Apollo Beach Boulevard.

The craft pumps seawater at a rate of 3,500 gallons a minute, and can accommodate two 265-gallon containers of foam retardant to battle fuel fires. Water and foam are sprayed with three mounted deck guns.

The need for such a vessel became apparent shortly before the Republican National Convention here in 2012. A Coast Guard assessment of the region's on-water firefighting capabilities found them lacking, and Hillsborough County applied for a matching Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to help pay for a vessel to supplement Fire Rescue's 27-foot Boston Whaler fire boat. A subsequent FEMA grant paid most of the boat's cost. The County contributed about $200,000.