Guardian of Marine Safety

By Captain William Cody

    Fire Boat No. 2 was built at the Los Angeles Shipyard and is of steel construction. It has nine engines, seven of which are 300 horsepower Winton gasoline engines and two are 25 horsepower generator engines. Engines 1 to 4 are used for pumping only while 5 and 6 are part of the marine unit, but can be disconnected from the propellers and connected to pumps 5 and 6 by clutches at each end of the engines. Engine 7 is used for propelling only.

    Boat No. 2 has one gasoline tank forward with a capacity of 1032 gallons. The after holds 1124 gallons making a total of 2156 gallons. The boat can throw 29 streams without siameseing. Thirty feet above the water is the tower which can be extended twelve feet more. Aboard are 18 type VB cylinders of CO2 which is piped to engine room, forward and after holds. It goes also to reels under each manifold.

    The boat carries 3,050 feet of hose; 1000 feet of 3 1/2-inch hose on after reel, 500 feet of 1 1/2-inch and 500 feet of 2 1/2-inch on starboard reel. The port reel handles 1000 feet of 2 1/2-inch. Other equipment includes 1 1/2-inch, 2 1/2-inch and 3 1/2-inch nozzles, Gibbs breathing apparatus, siamese and other fittings.

    One unusual fire which Boat 2 responded to was in a ship which had radioed in from sea that she had a fire in her forward hold and was heading into Los Angeles Harbor.

She docked at the vegetable oil docks and opened her hatches. Boat 2 responded whereupon the Captain of the ship informed that he had put the fire out with dry stream. Chief Baly was in charge of the Harbor District at the time and ordered the boat to stand by. We stood by for about two hours while longshoremen unloaded six-inch pipe with which the hatch was filled. They finally got down to the second deck hatch and removed the hatch covers.

    Captain Carl Miller, now retired, was in charge of the fire boat. He went down and crawled around and found a small fire in the lower hold.

    We returned and ordered a 1 1/2-inch line into the hold. Robert E. Brown and Leo E. Domas took the line into the hold and the water was turned on. The water carried enough oxygen to the fire, which had been smoldering for days, to cause a back draft and we lost a section. Also we very nearly lost Brown and Domas. Finally it required eighteen 3 1/2-inch lines with open butts to flood the hold and extinguish the blaze. No doubt these boys will remember this instance.

    Work aboard a fire boat includes many unusual and harrowing experiences. One of the most pathetic tasks which fell to Boat 2's lot was on a foggy Christmas Eve.

    We received a call to proceed tot he wharf near the California Yacht Club with our diving equipment. On arrival we found we were to dive for the bodies of a women and two small children.

    The story is that a man, his wife and two small children had driven to the California Yacht Club to borrow some money from a relative. This man had been out of work for months. He was successful in borrowing a hundred dollars from the relative and drove out of the Yacht Club in an old Model-T Ford coupe.

    In the thick fog he became confused and drove over the wharf plunging into the bay. When the car settled down into the water the man managed to get the door of the car open and started up with a small girl. Force of the water however closed the car door on her hand and held her there to drown. Of course the mother and the other child did not have a chance to escape.

    When the fire boat arrived at the scene we found the father swimming around and trying to dive down forty feet to his family.


This article appeared in the November 15, 1940 issue of THE GRAPE VINE.

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