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Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- Buffalo Fire Boat Edward M.
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.
|Water pumped per minute
|Length of the water stream