Charleston christens first firefighting vessel

Wielding a bottle of extra-dry champagne, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley on Friday christened the city’s first firefighting boat, a $1 million vessel that brings a new dimension of safety to the city.

“Our first responsibility is to make our community safe and of course this fireboat is a part of that,” Riley said.

The Charleston Fire Department’s firefighting vessel joins a similar boat stationed in the City of North Charleston and another manned by the St. Johns Fire District. Charleston’s fireboat is named in honor of the late Louis Behrens, the city’s longest-serving fire chief.

As a young man, Behrens battled blazes during the devastating Charleston earthquake of 1886. He was responsible for the city’s first building inspection program during his 26 years as chief, Riley said.

The 40-foot vessel Behrens can pump 3,800 gallons of water per minute. A 980-horsepower diesel engine provides the power.

“It’s awesome. This is my hometown and I am excited to protect it,” said Fire Capt. Rob Fulmer of Engine Company 2, who will pilot the boat.

The vessel will be located at the Charleston Harbor Pilots base.

Major funding for the fireboat came from an $825,000 federal grant. The city also contributed $33,000.

In addition to firefighting, it will be used for EMS and dive rescue calls.

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