Covington Fire Boat to Have New Home, New Name

When a runaway barge demolished the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club recently, Covington firefighters rushed to the scene in a 35-ft. rescue boat.

Covington Fire Boat 1 - powered by two 300-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC engines and armed with a 1,000 gallon-per-minute fire pump - has been dispatched 18 times already this year for emergencies on the Ohio and Licking rivers.

Over the years, Covington firefighters on the boat have rescued survivors of boat collisions, put out boat fires, recovered bodies, and floated nearby as people threatened to jump off bridges. It also patrols Riverfest and other big riverfront events.

"With rivers on two of Covington's borders, it's a critical piece of equipment, and one we need to be able to get into service quickly," Covington Fire Chief Mark Pierce said.

Unfortunately, the boat has never had a permanent home, bouncing around since its arrival in 2010 among several docks, including its current temporary mooring at the BB Riverboats dock in Newport, courtesy of the Bernstein family.

But that nomadic existence is about to end.

Using a $75,000 grant it received from the Port Security and a $25,000 city match, the department is acquiring a home on a soon-to-be-built dock near Smale Park in Cincinnati.

Part of the dock will be open to the public, but it will also have a secured "Public Safety Section" for Cincinnati first responders, Pierce said.

In addition to the stability of a permanent home, the dock will give Covington's Fire Department's rescue boat two big advantages: 

  • Firefighters will be able to get to the new dock quicker than they can to the boat's current location.
  • And it will have better access to electricity and other maintenance equipment needed to do things like charge batteries and heaters, he said. 

"We're thrilled about the new arrangement and can't wait to move," he said.

With an array of in-house cross-training, most of Covington's firefighters are trained to operate some aspect of the boat, whether it's driving it, operating the water cannon, or staffing it. It's overseen by Battalion Chief Chris Alsip, who is in charge of special operations.

Covington's boat is one of several to patrol this section of the Ohio and Licking rivers, and "at one time was the largest boat here," Pierce said. The department also has a much smaller inflatable Zodiac Milpro ERB 380 for quick response on not just the rivers but also Banklick Creek, ponds and lakes.

"These are just valuable, valuable pieces of equipment that greatly expand our ability to keep the public safe," he said.

Next year, the department plans to hold a ceremony to christen the 35-foot rescue boat - which is currently called just Fire Boat 1 - with a new, formal name, Pierce said. 

That new name has not yet been determined.

-Staff report