Fireboats in Houston

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The City of Houston and the Houston Port Authority have operated seven fireboats in Houston.[1] The Port authority currently manages three fireboats in Houston.[2]

The Port Houston, completed in 1926, was the first fireboat in Houston.[1] She was retired, in 1950, when she was replaced by the Captain Crotty.

In 1971 the Texas legislature added new responsibilities to the Port Authority, which acquired an additional vessel, in 1973, the Captain W.L Farnsworth. In 1983 the Captain Crotty was retired when she was replaced by the J.S. Bracewell and the Howard T. Tellepsen.

The three most recent vessels were built by Metalcraft Marine, of Kingston, Ontario, and delivered in 2013 and 2014.[3][4] They replaced three older, slower, and less capable vessels, commissioned in 1973 and 1983.

The new vessels are 70 ft (21.34 m) long, have a top speed of 45 knots.[3][4] They can each project 14,000 US gallons of water per minute, more than all three vessels of the previous fleet, put together.

The vessels are powered by four diesel engines each producing 1,138 horsepower, and have a draft of just 34 inch (0.86 m).[3][4] They have a sophisticated suite of sensors, which can detect the heat signatures of fires, and also for search and rescue, when searching for people who are drifting in the water. Their sensors can see through fog, or in the dark, and will be useful in the vessel's secondary role - countering chemical disasters or attacks. They vessels have berths, for sleeping, for extended missions, and an infirmary, for injured rescue victims. Their internal cabins are pressurized, useful when the vessels are enveloped in heavy smoke, or when countering chemical, biological or radiological attacks.

The vessels built in 1983, the Captain W.L. Farnsworth, the J.S. Bracewell and the Howard T. Tellepsen were named after officials who worked for the Houston Port Authority, while the new vessels are known simply as Fireboat 1, Fireboat 2, Fireboat 3.


  1. 1.0 1.1 State-of-the-Art Emergency Response Vessel Headed Home, Port of Houston Authority, 2014-05-14. Retrieved on 2019-08-30. “In 1924, a fire in the hold of a steamship carrying cotton prompted the Houston Fire Commissioner to declare that the Port of Houston needed adequate firefighting apparatus to attack fires from water as well as land. A bond election to pay for the city's first fireboat passed with a wide margin. This election occurred just one day after a fire along the banks of the Houston Ship Channel spread to oil on the water and burned for more than two hours, with flames as high as 40 feet.”
  2. Houston Fireboat to Navigate From Lake Michigan to Texas, Firehouse magazine, 2014-05-16. Retrieved on 2019-08-30. “A two-week voyage through four Great Lakes and the Mississippi River will bring to the Port of Houston Authority the third of three high-performance emergency response vessels.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ken Hocke. MetalCraft delivers first of three new fireboats to the Port of Houston, Workboat magazine, 2013-06-13. Retrieved on 2019-08-30. “Main propulsion comes from four Caterpillar C18 diesels, producing 1,150 hp at 2,300 rpm each. The Cats connect to four Hamilton Jet 403 waterjets through ZF Marine 665 marine gears. The cruising speed is 35 knots, and top speed is 45 knots.”
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Port Welcomes New Fireboats, Bay Area Houston magazine, 2014-03-14. Retrieved on 2019-08-30. “With a price tag of just under $5 million each, the three new fireboats recently purchased by the Port of Houston Fire Department represent the state-of-the-art in firefighting equipment.”