A former U.S. Coast Guard boat that arrived in Santa Cruz on Monday will help Santa Cruz firefighters attack fires, clean up hazardous materials spills and hasten evacuations at the wharf during a fire.
The Santa Cruz Fire Department bought the 35-foot Willard boat from the Alameda Fire Department for $1 after that agency downsized its equipment, according to Santa Cruz Fire Capt. Rob Oatey. Alameda had bought the vessel from the Coast Guard in Alaska.
Although agencies like the Coast Guard, State Parks, Harbor Patrol have rescue boats that serve Santa Cruz County, the new boat is the only one with firefighting capability.
It can shoot foam and up to 500 gallons of seawater per minute from a gun on its deck. Firefighters also can attack blazes in hard-to-reach spots such as the lower decks of the wharf in Capitola and Santa Cruz and on sailboats and other vessels.
“This is a way for us to get closer to fires and be more effective,” said Oatey, who worked to bring the boat to Santa Cruz for about a year. “The boat gives us extra eyes below deck and the ability to suppress fires.”
Now dry-docked at the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, the boat needs to be sanded, repainted and tuned up mechanically before its expected launch in March. That work will be done by firefighters, seasonal lifeguards and Aquarius Boat Works.
The Coast Guard in Monterey has the closest boat with firefighting capability, so this boat would mean faster response times.
“It’s a Santa Cruz resource but it’s definitely something that’s going to be offered up in mutual aid with the rest of the county,” Oatey said.
The boat was trucked to Santa Cruz for about $1,000. The initial cost of transportation, repairs and maintenance is expected to be less than $5,000. Santa Cruz Fire leaders have pledged $10,000 annually to operate and maintain it, Oatey said.
Oatey said he hopes the public will help to name the vessel before it launches in March. Ideas have been tossed around like Surf City 1.
“I want the public to have some ownership of this boat,” he said.