By Donna Littlejohn
For three-quarters of a century, Fire Boat 2 has been on watch in the waters of Los Angeles Harbor.
The vessel has responded to countless fires and other emergencies over the years.
Its crew helped rescue injured victims in the port's biggest disaster of recent times -- when the oil tanker Sansinena exploded Dec. 17, 1976, shooting a fireball across the harbor and killing nine people.
City officials gathered Thursday on San Pedro's waterfront to announce the purchase of four new fireboats to replace Fire Boat 2 --formally named the Ralph J. Scott --and three smaller vessels now patrolling the Port of Los Angeles.
Along with top technology, the new boats, Los Angeles fire Battalion Chief Louis Roupoli said, will give firefighters quicker response time and more gallons of water per minute to fight fires.
The push to buy the new boats, which will provide onboard emergency medical equipment and cleaner diesel engine power, has been in the works for several years. Yet to be built, the boats are expected to be ready for service in 12 to 18 months.
"Today, the city of Los Angeles is making a firm commitment of maintaining a first-class Fire Department, not only on land but at sea," said Los Angeles City Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr.
"This has been a labor of love, a labor of intensity and sometimes a labor of a little nail-biting," he said. "But it all worked out."
Svorinich, who began working on securing funding for the boats several years ago, commended his deputy, Eric Moody, and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, chairwoman of the council's public safety committee, for helping move the $10 million project forward. Los Angeles Port and Fire department personnel also were instrumental in making sure the purchase was approved, he said.
A recent fire at Pier 300 would have resulted in a $10 million loss had the fireboats not been able to assist land crews in the effort, Deputy Chief Robert D. Neamy said.
Losses instead amounted to $3 million.
Still, there's a sadness in seeing the Ralph J. Scott retire.