Harbor Area


End nears for Historic L.A. Boat

Fire Boat 2, at right will be replaced by new fireboats ordered Thursday by Los Angeles officials.  The history boat, called the Ralph J. Scott, has been serving Los Angeles Harbor since 1925.

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.

This has been a labor of love, a labor of intensity and
sometimes a labor of a little nail-biting"

L.A. City Councilman

"You get connected to it," said retired Pilot Bill Dahlquist of Laguna Niguel, who served on the 99-foot-long vessel from 1972-92.  That's how it is with boats.  But you have to face the future."

    Built for $33,000 at what later became know as Todd Shipyard in San Pedro Fire Boat 2 was launched Oct. 20, 1925, and was declared a national historic landmark in 1989.

    It was later named the Ralph J. Scott, after the Los Angeles Fire Department's chief engineer from 1920-40.  The Ralph J. Scott is believed to be the second-oldest fireboat in service in the United States.

    "From day one, it had all the ingredients for a perfect fireboat," Dahlquist said.

    While it remains the showcase of the harbor's fireboat fleet, the vessel has had to undergo numerous upgrades over the years to keep pace with technology.

    The 105-foot-long vessel that will replace it can pump about 30 percent more water.

    "It's served its purpose," Roupoli said. "It's a wonderful boat"

    The smaller boats, built in 1962 probably will be auctioned by the city.

    But Dahlquist and members of the city Fire Department's Historical Society are lobbying to place the Ralph J. Scott in dry dock near the Los Angeles Maritime Museum as a museum and tourist attraction.

    "This boat has a pretty rich history," said Fire Department engineer Dough Moore.  "It's been the backbone of fire protection in this port for years."

    Dahlquist, the boat's pilot for 17 years before he retired in 1992, still chokes up when he talks about

Daily Breeze, March, 23, 2001

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