After 36 years of service, a new Maritime Emergency Response Vessel is in the works with the help of a $750,000 allocation from Washington state.
Last week, South King Fire and Rescue announced the department received the final contract appropriating $750,000 from the 2020 Washington state operating budget to pay for a major portion of the new fire rescue boat. In the past, the department has applied for two federal funding grants in hopes of replacing the vessel, but was denied each time.
The new boat is a “night and day difference” from the current vessel, and includes updated satellite navigation equipment among other technological advancements, according to Assistant Chief of Special Operations Dave Mataftin, who said the boat is essentially “a floating fire engine.”
The grant, along with designated funds from the department’s 2021 budget, will be used to replace Marine 367 for a cost of nearly $1.3 million. The fire boat, originally built in 1985, will be housed at the Des Moines Marina and services all water or beach rescue missions in the middle of Seattle and Tacoma. The fire boat is also the only water resource of its kind between the two major cities.
Replacement of the boat allows SKFR to “continue our 30-year partnership with the Coast Guard on providing emergency response services in this area,” according to a department news release.
The Marine 367 vessel responds to incidents such as swimmers in distress, ferries or other watercrafts in distress, shoreline or beach fires, crises on Vashon Island or Maury Island, and the possibility of a downed aircraft in the water. On average, the marine team responds to about 25-30 incidents in the summer months that require use of the boat, Mataftin said.
The new 38-foot boat has firefighting capabilities of 3,000 gallons per minute (equivalent to two fire engines) and can shoot water 400-feet in distance. Created by Metal Shark, a leading boat manufacturing company specializing in military, police and fire vessels, the boat is expected to be completed within 240 days from purchase.
South King Fire is expecting the boat to be delivered by late June or early July. The boat will be in service around mid-August 2021 after members have had appropriate training and familiarization, said Mataftin.
The Marine Team is comprised of 13 certified marine pilots, supported by a number of trained deck hands, and is led by South King Fire and Rescue Captain Jerry Clos.
“On behalf of the Marine Team, I would like to say thank you to our administration, our local community partners and our regional partners for their support in making this possible,” said Clos. “This new vessel will allow us to increase our capabilities of providing professional maritime emergency services that our community members have come to know and expect.”
SKFR Fire Chief Vic Pennington said the appropriation of funds would not have been possible without the help and support of legislators from the 30th and 33rd Districts, noting specific thanks for Representatives Tina Orwall, Mike Pellicciotti, Jesse Johnson and Mia Gregerson; Senators Karen Keiser and Claire Wilson; and support from the cities of Des Moines and Federal Way.
“Success takes teamwork,” Pennington said. “Replacing Marine 367 will help save lives and protect property for those who live in our fire district and for those who travel on Puget Sound.”