If the “big one” does hit the Pacific Northwest, Discovery, Vancouver Fire Department’s new quick-response boat, will be ready.
Named for Captain George Vancouver’s vessel, Discovery will be able to pump 3,000 gallons of water per minute on any resulting fires.
Though it will be equipped to respond to a natural disaster, Battalion Chief Stephen Eldred said he imagines Discovery will mainly respond to boaters in distress, house fires, body recovery operations and other more routine calls. In the last three years, the Vancouver Fire Department has averaged about 30 waterway calls a year.
The Vancouver City Council was expected to adopt a resolution Monday evening assigning the name Discovery to the vessel. It will be formally dedicated at 10:30 a.m. May 16 at Vancouver Landing.
Discovery gives the fire department a new ability to respond to incidents throughout the region. It was funded through a $2.7 million Federal Emergency Management Agency port security grant, which also provided new boats to Clark County Fire & Rescue and the Astoria, Ore., fire department. Vancouver received $1.8 million from the grant.
Eldred said that no city funds were used to purchase the boat, the city’s first true fireboat. The city’s current boat, a small patrol boat, is not equipped to fight fires and is used primarily for rescue calls.
On Monday morning, Eldred was out knocking on doors to raise money for a maintenance fund for Discovery. So far, the fire department has raised $400,000 to put toward any future costs for the boat. Eldred said the vessel should last 25 years before major expenditures are needed.
The fire department is working on a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Coast Guard and the other two boats in the area to work together on any unexpected events, from a possible oil fire to terrorism.
“Our goal is to respond to all hazards. It’s not just a fireboat,” Eldred said.
Discovery is equipped with forward-looking infrared sensors that will help rescuers spot anyone who may be in the water. The boat also has the capability to measure depth, is equipped with night vision electronics and has the ability to communicate with other boats. It also has a camera that allows an incident command post on land can see what is happening on the water.
Crews are drawn from on-duty firefighters who can respond to the boat when there is a call. Firefighters are being trained to use the boat, which could be on duty sometime late summer or fall.
The public is welcome to check out the new boat from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 17 at Vancouver Landing, which is just downstream from the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.