The Trident, the Port of Astoria's new security, surveying and firefighting vessel, has monitors on the bow and stern both capable of shooting 1,500 gallons of water per minute.
John Dean, a maintenance worker with the Port of Astoria, comes aboard Thursday to look at the port's new fire boat. A likeness of Neptune adorns the cabin rooftop.
Water cannons are mounted on the bow and the stern of the Trident, the Port of Astoria's new fire boat.
John Dean, a maintenance worker with the Port of Astoria, comes aboard Thursday to look at the Port’s vessel. A likeness of Neptune adorns the cabin rooftop.
The lower Columbia River now has a new source of waterborne firefighting and search and rescue capabilities, courtesy of the federal government.
The Port of Astoria recently received its federally funded quick response vessel, the Trident, which shoots thousands of gallons of water per minute, can scan the river bottom and sees heat signals as well as in the dark.
“It was handling pretty good out there,” said interim Executive Director Mike Weston last week, after he, Port staff members and pilots from North River took the vessel out for a spin in front of Pier 39 to test the water cannons, also known as water monitors in nautical terms. “We were able to maintain position while we were firing both cannons.”
Such a vessel has long been a point of discussion in the Astoria-Warrenton area, which has suffered several large waterfront fires in recent years, be it No. 1 and 10 Sixth St. in 2010 or Pacific Coast Seafood last year. It hasn’t had a boat to fight fires in nearly a decade.
“There’s not a property owner on the waterfront that won’t like this,” exclaimed Floyd Holcom, a former Port Commissioner, after snapping pictures of the boat as it fired streams of water hundreds of feet long in front of Pier 39. Holcom owns that pier and it is one of the largest structures on pilings along the Columbia River.
In April 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River’s Area Maritime Security Committee approved a $2.7 million Port Security Grant Program project to purchase three “Regional Response Vessels” with firefighting capability for the lower Columbia River.
The Port received one, and the other two went to Clark County (Wash.) Fire and Rescue and the Vancouver Fire Department.
Named after the Port’s 100-year symbol Neptune, who carried a trident that’s emblazoned on either side of it, Trident was built by Almar of North River Boats of Roseburg. The vessel is a Sounder model, 34 feet in length with an aluminum hull. It’s powered by twin 300-horsepower outboard diesel engines.
Often called a “fireboat” by supporters of its acquisition and Port staff, the Trident includes monitors near its bow and stern, both powered by a 350-horsepower motor in the vessel’s hull. Both are capable of spraying out 1,500 gallons of water per minute, sending it hundreds of feet to battle flames.
The vessel can be used with searches and rescues, with an onboard forward looking infrared radiometer (FLIR) system capable of rotating 360 degrees and identifying people and other heat signals, along with night vision.
“The deepest points (around Astoria) are 90 feet, and we can see that,” said Mike Pritchard, maintenance foreman for the Port, about the Simrad navigation system onboard the Trident.
Weston said the Simrad allows the boat to pick up logs, anchors and other underwater objects, helping it survey for incoming and outgoing vessels and for reports the Port files with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Oregon Department of State Lands and other agencies.
“We were able to pull up to the Hanthorn Cannery (Pier 39), and I can see all the features (underwater),” Weston added of the test ride last week.
An expensive necessity
The Harry Steinbock, Astoria’s last fireboat, rusted out from electrolysis and became unusable by 2005.
Former Fire Chief Lenard Hansen attended Port meetings as an apparent cheerleader for a new fireboat. He lamented his department’s lack of enough water to adequately fight the fire at No. 1 and 10 Sixth St., which displaced 27 businesses and caused millions in damage.
Hansen said the land-based engines battling them ran out of water from fire hydrants but could have been fed by the Steinbock. With a nozzle on the back end, the Trident can fill that support role for land-based engines.
In February 2012, Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen read a letter expressing the City Council’s support for the application for the vessel.
The boat is an unknown for Astoria Fire Chief Ted Ames, who started last year and hasn’t heard about the boat from the Port.
“We’ve got an engine and a ladder truck getting woefully old,” said Ames. “There’s not a tremendous amount of funding available to help support the Port on that.”
While it’s become clear that the city likely can’t offer financial support, there have been discussions about the AFD providing trained firefighters in an emergency, albeit prior to Ames’ tenure.
“There have been people here that have been on boats,” said Ames, adding that he fished commercially for 25 years.
Ames said the city hasn’t seen any formal agreement, and Weston added that he’ll be approaching the city to discuss one.
Herb Florer, the Port’s former director of the seaport division, assembled a report in late 2012 estimating the vessel’s annual cost to the Port. It included operation and training at more than $40,000, $17,000 for maintenance and another $17,000 in insurance, among other charges.
“We’ve got this new hot vessel; I don’t know how we’ll pay for it,” said Hunsinger at the Feb. 13 Port meeting, after Weston announced the vessel had arrived.
He added that the Port should look into anchorage service for ships parked in the Columbia outside Astoria, an idea echoed previously by Commissioner Jack Bland. Commissioner Gerttula cautioned that the Port doesn’t have the licenses necessary to haul passengers, and Chairman James Campbell cautioned against competing with existing anchorage services.
Weston said the Port is still figuring out the specifics of the vessel’s operation and opportunities.
“We can afford the maintenance,” he said. “It should be fairly maintenance-free for the first two years.”