Friday, November 18, 2011

Opportunity Rings

While shooting pictures at the PLT testing event, my phone rang. It was a guy that I used to work with, one that was assigned to my station, on the other shift. Despite being busy, I picked up.

"Hey Schmoe, do you remember that guy from LAFD, the one from the event that you shot for me? Well, he is a captain on a fire boat and he has invited me to come in for a tour. Are you in?"

He didn't have to ask twice. "Heck yeah" I replied. "Let me know when."

Well, yesterday was the day. Boy am I glad I picked up the phone. Working in the desert precludes us from having a harbor, much less a fire boat.

The front of the station looks pretty much like any other, with an engine inside, pointed to the street. The inside appeared to be a normal house as well, similar to dozens that I have been in over the years. It was when we got to the rear of the station that the difference was apparent.

I believe that a large portion of the population has some instinctual fascination with the sea. Whether it is an urge to fish, an urge to sail or an urge to swim, I think those urges are somehow linked to our past connection with the sea and our dependence on it. I am one of those people who enjoys being on the water, even though I don't own a boat. I knew the second I saw LAFD boat #4 that I was going to enjoy this tour.

The harbor in Los Angeles is kind of a looped affair, with two separate ports, one belonging to the city of Los Angeles and the other to the city of Long Beach. They share port protection duties, with each handling the small stuff within their boundaries and both responding to the major stuff.

The first stop on our tour was another fire boat station, the one housing Boat #2. Boat #2 is the newest boat in LAFD's fleet, but the cool thing is that old boat #2 is sitting dry, next to the station.  There is hope that a museum can be created out of it.

Due to the history involved, I hope that they are successful. The U.S.S. Iowa, a WWII era battleship will be coming to Los Angeles and will be converted to a museum. It is going to be docked next to the station where old boat #2 is positioned, they might make a good historical pairing.

Fire boat #2, as is boat #4 are staffed with five personnel. A pilot guides the boat, two engineers operate the engines, pumps and other machinery, a mate and the captain. Boat #2 is the newest of the LAFD fleet and bears a remarkable resemblance to several tugboats based in the area.

 The tour continued and we headed toward the entrance to the harbor.  A tanker, laden with oil or some petroleum product was headed into the harbor. A tug was headed out to meet it.

In the port of Los Angeles, as well as in Long Beach, container ships and tankers make up most of the marine traffic.

In the port of Los Angeles, every tanker must be inspected by the Fire Department before it can be unloaded. It is the crews of fire boat #4 and #2 who perform this function.

The tanker inspection requirement is a result of the Sansinena disaster, an oil tanker explosion that occurred in the port of Los Angeles in 1976.

While on the Long Beach side of the harbor, we came across a Long Beach fire boat as the crew was performing some duties aboard the craft.

We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our way.

Obviously, the operation of a fire boat requires a vast nautical and mechanical knowledge base as well as firefighting skills. I was impressed with the way the crew handled the boat, though the large wharf fire I was hoping for didn't materialize while I was there so I couldn't see them in action.

Boats are extremely maintenance intensive, fire boats even more so as they are complex and must be ready to go at all times. This vessel was in immaculate condition, it is obvious that they spend vast amounts of time cleaning and maintaining it. The cleanliness extended to all areas of the boat.

After returning to quarters, we spotted boat #3 backing into to a slip next to boat #4's quarters. LAFD operates three of these small boats and although they can pump water, they are mainly used for dive and rescue operations. Apparently, the guys on the big boats don't consider the small boats fire boats, but as far as I'm concerned, if it's red and can move water, it's a fire boat.

 After the tour, we were invited to lunch with the crews. We dined on swordfish, purchased from the dock where the fishing boats unload their catches. Another bonus of working in the harbor!

This was an awesome trip, many thanks to the crews of sta. #49 and the boats. You guys rock!

Thanks to you for reading,


  1. Schmoe, do you have a Flickr site or other online galleries? I'd love to see more of your photos.

  2. These are excellent pics! The post is great - my thanks for your efforts. I've always been curious about fire boats, but I've never seen one up close and personal.

    Your point about maintenance is very well taken. The word boat is an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand - dollars, that is. Fire boats are likely some of the smartest money our beloved government spends.

    Thanks again for the good job.

  3. Joe - actually I do, though I rarely put anything on it. Flickr is a little cumbersome - I need to get more serious about it. So far what little that is on it has been posted on this blog. If and when I ever get serious about it I will post a link.

    mad Jack - When you look at the value of what they protect, both direct value and indirect value, the boats a probably a pretty good deal,

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. Schmoe,

    I would certainly love to see more of your photos as well, what you've posted so far look great.

    YYC Dispatcher

  5. Thanks YYC, one of these days I'm going to have to re-vamp this blog. Maybe when I do, I'll set up a smug-mug or similar page as well.

    I'm just not that happy with flickr, I know there's something better out there.

    Thanks for the comment.