The new rescue ship “Zenith” is expected to have a regional impact


To get to South King Fire and Rescue’s new fire boat, you must pass the old boat that sits in the Des Moines Marina.

Despite providing rescue services in southern Puget Sound for nearly 40 years, the 32-foot white fireboat, built in 1985, looks far less powerful than its sleek 43-foot aluminum replacement at the end of the pier.

South King Fire’s new marine emergency response vessel, Fire Boat 367 known as “Zenith,” holds 300 gallons of fuel and can pump 3,000 gallons of water per minute, which is equivalent to roughly two fire engines.

“This will help people along the southern Puget Sound corridor between Seattle and Tacoma,” said Fire Chief Dave Mataftin. “It’s a regional asset.”

Fire officials say Zenith will serve communities beyond SKFR’s main jurisdictions of Federal Way and Des Moines.

The fireboat is especially useful for transporting patients to the mainland from Vashon Island and Maury Island who would otherwise have to be airlifted or transported by ferry, Mataftin said, adding that the boat fire engine has the capacity to transport several sick or injured people at the same time. weather under any weather conditions 24/7.

Station 67 firefighters and crew members from the department’s marine team are working to learn the details of their state-of-the-art vessel and its technology. No date has been set for the service to begin.

The marine team consists of 13 certified marine pilots, supported by a number of trained deckhands, and is led by South King Fire and Rescue Captain Jerry Clos.

Zenith has three water cannons, towing poles, a radar and a rotating thermal camera, according to Metal Shark Boats, the Louisiana-based company that built the boat. The five-seat interior features spacious work areas to allow crews to easily move from bow to stern and hold additional passengers as service calls.

In 2013, the department responded to a fire at the Des Moines Marina with the fireboat, battling flames that burned two people and damaged several boats. That was the last major incident that required fireboat power, South King Fire Capt. Brad Chaney said.

Typically, the fire boat is used to tow watercraft in distress, tend to coastal or beach fires, or assist swimmers in distress. With the new vessel, the department can assist others in firefighting, water rescues with surface water swimmers and rescue divers, area searches with infrared camera equipment and transporting police and equipment to areas in the water.

“Generally speaking, water-based emergencies are problematic by nature. A safety crew can have a very long response time that requires another vessel,” he said. “When I built the specifications for this vessel, I tried to approach the project with as much regional responsiveness as possible in mind.”

In the South King response area, several homes on or near the water pose extreme difficulties for ground fire vehicles to access during an emergency, Mataftin said.

“We now have the ability to fight fire directly from water or provide an endless source of water supply to ground fire crews,” he said.

Although the department initially planned to have the new fireboat in service by August 2021, the project started with a slight delay due to a backlog of pre-orders at the factory, following a shortage of manpower of additional work caused by the pandemic, Mataftin said.

“When our ship went into production, the factory encountered long lead times for critical components,” Mataftin said. “This included diesel engines and fire pumps.”

Funding for the fireboat comes from a $750,000 Department of Commerce grant from the 2020 Washington State operating budget, in addition to funds from SKFR’s 2021 budget. In total, the boat cost $1,320,618, according to the department.

The vessel will be in service after the members have had adequate training and familiarization, according to SKFR.

Marine 367 ‘Zenith’ is replacing the previous fireboat built in 1985. (Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror)

The Marine 367

Marine 367 ‘Zenith’ replaces previous fireboat built in 1985. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Members of South King Fire and Rescue give Chesapeake, Virginia firefighters a tour of the new boat.  Olivia Sullivan/The Mirror

Members of South King Fire and Rescue give Chesapeake, Virginia firefighters a tour of the new boat. Olivia Sullivan/The Mirror



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Jennifer Ahdout

Jennifer Ahdout

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