Fireboat in Greenport celebrates 75th birthday, crew looking for volunteers

The fireboat Fire Fighter at Greenport earlier this summer.
The fireboat Fire Fighter at Greenport earlier this summer.

The New York City fireboat Fire Fighter, which is now a floating museum that has been docked in Greenport since last winter, celebrated its 75th birthday on Monday, and its crew is hoping the anniversary will spur East Enders to rally behind their floating piece of history.

The boat, which, among many other events in its storied history, aided the New York Fire Department on Sept. 11, 2001, was launched at United Shipyards in Staten Island “as New York’s finest and most powerful fireboat” on Aug. 26, 1938, said Fire Fighter Museum’s director and president, Charles Ritchie, in a message to supporters this week. The boat has been a National Historic Landmark since 1989.

Mr. Ritchie said volunteers at the museum plan to celebrate the boat’s birthday over Labor Day Weekend with tours and demonstrations of the boat’s capabilities.

Firefighter has depended on an all-volunteer crew to give tours, scrape paint, work on the mechanicals and otherwise care for the boat since it was brought to Greenport the morning after this February’s monster blizzard, Nemo.

Mr. Ritchie said the fireboat needs volunteers and donations now more than ever to convince the Village of Greenport and Suffolk County to allow the boat to stay at the Greenport railroad dock.

Fire Fighter's engine room
Fire Fighter’s engine room

The boat has been at Greenport’s East Pier since it first came to town. At the time, the village had planned to move Fire Fighter to the dock behind the Greenport railroad station, which is owned by Suffolk County but overseen by the village, but fishermen who dock their boats there have raised a fuss over sharing the space with the fireboat.

The village usually uses East Pier, which underwent an extensive electrical upgrade this spring, to berth yachts that pay a pretty penny for the space, while the fireboat crew is paying a nominal fee with the understanding that East Pier will not be their permanent berth.

The boat also needs to be taken to the Brooklyn Navy Yard this fall for inspections and maintenance.

Mr. Ritchie is asking anyone interested in donating to send a check to P.O. Box 457, Greenport, NY 11944.

“The volunteers and board of the Fire Fighter Museum have been very happy with the people of Greenport, its officials, and the marina staff. We look forward to growing our relationships as we build this grassroots museum and develop its programs, volunteers and funders,” he said in an email to supporters last week. “However, we have certainly received our share of detractors from our efforts who want to see the Fighter evicted from her berth. We will not let a vessel with the history of Fire Fighter be so unceremoniously sent off without a fight.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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