The Vancouver Fire Department has a boat it uses on the Columbia River, but it would be inaccurate to call it a fire boat.
The small patrol boat, bought for $500 about five years ago after it was declared surplus by the Coast Guard, doesn’t meet standards set by the National Fire Protection Association.
For starters, it can’t be used to fight fires. The Coast Guard used it for harbor patrol.
“We have a bucket,” said Tom Coval, a fire captain who coordinates the department’s marine response unit. “And a fire extinguisher.”
In 2009, after testing the waters with the old patrol boat for a few years, Vancouver Fire Department leaders felt it was time for a more useful vessel, one properly equipped to respond to fires, medical calls, chemical spills and technical rescues. The Coast Guard, after conducting a study of regional needs, supported the city’s application for a Department of Homeland Security grant.