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Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Buffalo Fire Boat Edward M. Cotter

By Brian Wroblewski

Engine 20 of the Buffalo Fire Department is now named after Edward M. Cotter, a long time firefighter union president. She was originally launched as the William S. Grattan in 1900 at Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Cotter had a coal fired steam plant and large, slender stacks in her first configuration. Life was pretty routine for the new boat until the night of July 27th, 1928. The Grattan was fighting a fire aboard the oil barge Cahill on the Buffalo River when the mooring lines burned through. The barge drifted across the channel and hit the tanker McColl. The McColl exploded with a huge fireball that engulfed the fireboat. The Grattan's boilers eventually ran dry and blew up causing the ship to burn to the hull.

She was then rebuilt at Buffalo Dry dock with a lower profile and new pump equipment. The Grattan sailed in this form until 1953 when she was converted to diesel power and renamed Edward M. Cotter. On October 7th, 1960 she became the only fireboat to cross and international boundary to fight a fire. She steamed for over an hour that night with a Coast Guard cutter alongside to the Maple Leaf Mill in Port Colborne, Ontario. Once there she helped put down a blaze that had previously been totally out of control.

During the 70's and 80's she fought many waterfront fires, some untouchable by any other means. In the early 90's there was a push to give her landmark status but the city fought it off. They were afraid it might limit their ability to update or convert her. She came under fire for her operating expenses a few years later and was taken out of service as an active fireboat.

She was retained for her icebreaking ability and this proved to be a prudent decision. Without the fireboat waterfront insurance rates skyrocketed. With the fear of loosing badly needed industrial jobs the city restored the ship to active service.

The deck of the Cotter is fitted with numerous fire monitors able to deliver 15,000 gallons of water per minute. The turret platform on the stern is able to raise and lower via a hydraulic ram.

The Cotter was recently overhauled at Port Weller Dry Docks and is once again fully operational. She can be seen breaking ice on the Buffalo River at least once a week during the winter and is often open for free public tours during "Fleet Week" over the summer. She is currently the oldest operating fireboat in the country.

Overall dimensions
Length 118'00"
Draft 10'10"
Top Speed 11.5 mph
Water pumped per minute 15,000 gallons
Length of the water stream 600 feet

Water show at sunset Brian Wroblewski

Docked. Mike Nicholls

Open house series. Roger LeLievre









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