Marine Firefighting Inc.


Newsletter # 32
Please do not reprint in any form without the permission of the author.

Fireboat and Marina Fire Training

for the Harbormasters and First Responders of Massachusetts

Marine Firefighting Inc. (MFI) was asked to provide Small Boat and Marina Fire Training and also Emergency Operations with Small Fireboats training to the Harbormasters all along the beautiful Massachusetts coast. The training was being made possible through a grant from the Humane Society to the Massachusetts Harbormasters Association. Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story of the Rockport Harbormasters office set up the dates, locations, and logistics for this project. It wasn't easy but they got it done in grand style.

In 4-days we trained over 70 Harbormasters and First Responders. The training started out in Newburyport. On day one, in addition to the Newburyport Harbormasters and some Newburyport Firefighters and Police Officers there were also Harbormasters from these surrounding municipalities, Salisbury, Salem, Danveils, Amesbury, Rowley, and Rockport. The Marina Firefighting training was conducted at the Newburyport Public Library and the town Marina.

The "Small Boat and Marina Fire" training which was conducted in Newburyport, Hingham and Harwich, consisted of 4 -hours of classroom training followed by a familiarization and pre-fire plan walk through of a local marina.

During the classroom session conducted by Tom Guldner of MFI (photo 2 left), the attendees were shown some of the many dangers associated with a fire in a marina. From electrical hazards to hazards involving any fuels stored and/or dispensed at a marina.

The students were not only shown the dangers but also the assets they could use which were located in most marinas. They were told to look for anything that would hurt you or anything that could help you during a marina fire. Quite often these things might not be readily visible if you were not specifically looking for them. Many in the classroom were surprised about the amount of information needed to be properly prepared for a marina fire.

After a break for lunch the class assembled at a local marina for a pre-fire plan tour at each of the three locations. Safety measures and marina features which were discussed in the classroom were pointed out during this marina walk-through. In the classroom the students were instructed to shut all electrical power to the involved dock during a fire. During the walk-through these electrical shutoffs as well as the fuel shutoffs were located and procedures needed for securing them were discussed.

In photo 3 on the right, the students, standing on the fuel dock, were shown the danger of any fuel remaining in the pump's hoses even after closing remote fuel valves.

Pictured 3rd from left is Tom Guldner, President of MFI., explaining the importance of the fuel shutoffs as well as shutting the power to the shore power pedestals. Both of which were located on this dock.

We then conducted 2-days of training in Hingham. In addition to the "Small Boat and Marina Fire" training I just mentioned, MFI. also conducted a second day of training dealing with, "Emergency Operations with Small Fireboats".

Joining the Hingham Harbormasters, were Harbormasters, Firefighters, and Police Officers from Hull, Norwell, Plymouth, Cohasset, Weymouth, Scituate, Braintree, and Harwich. The training in Hingham was conducted in the Town Center and at the Hingham Shipyard.

Day one was the same "Small Boat and Marina Fire" training we just conducted in Newburyport.

On day two, after a morning classroom session dealing with the details of working with small fireboats in emergency situations, the class headed out in fireboats from Hingham and Weymouth, under the direction of each boat's Captain to try out the new techniques they just learned.

In photo 1 at the beginning of this article, with the beautiful Boston skyline in the background, the Weymouth Harbormaster boat is attempting to keep its boat in place while using its powerful firefighting water stream from its bow monitor.

That's not as easy as it seems. Both current and wind add to the back pressure from the fire monitor (photo 4 left) to push the boat out of position.

Using several of the "Tricks of the Trade" taught in the morning classroom training we were able to find ways to compensate for these other forces. This skill is vital when attempting to extinguish a boat fire while that boat is in the middle of the waterway.

Next, the boats were used to tow each other in a review of the different towing procedures covered in the classroom. This can be a dangerous procedure if several safety measures, which were covered in the classroom training, are not applied to the evolution.

Even in the calm waters just outside Hingham Harbor the dangers were present. Wind and sea conditions are not the only dangers. Boat traffic in the area must also be taken into account. Whether it's a sail boat gliding past or the high speed Boston to Hingham ferry, the Harbormasters and all marine first responders must be aware of their surroundings.

In photo 5 on the right one boat is being towed behind or, "On a Line". This method is used when towing a disabled vessel for long distances. There were several restrictions mentioned in the class as to when this method might not be the best or the safest method to use.

If towing On-a-Line is unsafe for any reason or, if another towing method might be more convenient, the class was shown how to tow a boat alongside or in a, "Hip Tow".

Many of the more experienced Harbormasters know about, and use, these two methods already. However, they admitted that a refresher and a different look at a common task can be very helpful. For some of the newer Assistant Harbormasters and personnel from other agencies it was a good learning experience and new training.

The "Hip Tow" (photo 6 left) is used when towing in confined areas as well as other times covered in the classroom. Sometimes both towing from behind "On a Line" and towing alongside "On the Hip" are used in the same tow.


To tow "On the Hip", the disabled boat was brought alongside the vessel doing the towing. Fenders and lines had to be placed in the correct order to allow the two boats to act as one when while making turns, stopping, and starting. If it is not done correctly the steering can be very sloppy and if the boats are not positioned correctly the towing vessel may only be able to turn in one direction.

The Harbormasters were shown one method of tying up (making up) the lines to secure boat boats together. The procedure was done several times and some of the Harbormasters had their own version of making up the lines.

As was brought out in the classroom, there are many ways to accomplish any task. As long as it gets the job done and it is safe then they should go with what they know. It was agreed however, that it is good to know several other ways of getting this job done.

On day 4 we moved out onto beautiful Cape Cod. Our destination was the town of Harwich, which is about halfway out on the south shore of the Cape. The Harwich Harbormaster, John Rendon, was joined by Harbormasters and Firefighters from Dennis, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Chatham, Wareham, Barnstable, Centerville, Mashpee, Dartmouth, Provincetown, Hyannis, Scituate, and Eastham.

We were again training on "Small Boat and Marina Fires" and the classroom session was conducted at the Harwich Community Center with an afternoon marina visit for a pre-fire-plan walk through took place at the Saquatucket Municipal Marina.

At the end of 4-days of training, over 70 Harbormasters, Firefighters, Police, and Marina employees from over 28 coastal Massachusetts communities were trained. In the photo on the right a few of the 70 students hold up the certificates presented to them after completing the training.

The Massachusetts coastal communities should be very proud of their dedicated and very professional Harbormasters and First Responders. They all showed an interest in the training and a willingness to risk their lives to help save the public. Hopefully my training will reduce some of the risks they are taking.

Until next time - Stay safe out there!


Why not let Marine Firefighting Inc. set up your own Marine Firefighting Training for firefighting on ships or boats of all sizes or our Liquefied Natural Gas for First Responders training. We can design a program to meet your Fire Department or Marine Company's needs.

Tom Guldner is a retired Lieutenant of the New York City Fire Department's Marine Division. Tom held a US Coast Guard License as a Ships Master and is certified as a Fire instructor both within New York State and Nationally in the USA.

He is currently a participating member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) Fishing Vessel Operations and Safety panel and their Small Working Vessel Operations and Safety panel.

Tom is also a Principal Member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Merchant Vessels and is certified by the NFPA as completing training in "Responding to Gaseous Fueled Vehicle Incidents" (LNG)

His articles on Marine Firefighting have been published both nationally and internationally and he is a Contributing Editor to International Firefighter Magazine

Tom is certified by BNSF Railroad in "LNG Awareness and Emergency Response" and in "Railroad Emergency Response HazMat Awareness"

You can contact Tom at

Please leave you comments about this article (Good or Bad) in my Guest Book. Or give me your comments about any future topics you would like to see. If you prefer, you can e-mail me by clicking on the letter to the right.

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Why not have MFI deliver one of our Marine Firefighting training presentations at your next seminar, convention, or training session?

Don't forget that we can also consult with your Fire Department or Marine Company on setting up your own ongoing Marine Firefighting Training program, Port risk analysis or emergency scenario. E-mail us now!

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Previous Newsletters:

Newsletter # 1 "Marine Firefighting Training, Who needs it!"

Newsletter # 2 "Shipboard Basics"

Newsletter # 3 "Straight Stream Vs Fog Stream"

Newsletter #4 "Immigrants in Shipping Containers"

Newsletter #5 "Hazards of Refrigeration in the Shipping Industry"

Newsletter #6 "Stability at Shipboard Fires"

Newsletter #7 "2 in 2 out at Shipboard Fires"

Newsletter #8 "What Happened To the Air"

Newsletter #9 "What Else Can Fireboats Do - WTC Response"

Newsletter #10 "Port Security - Are We Missing the Boat"

Newsletter # 11 "Let the Coast Guard Handle It"

Newsletter # 12 "Marina Fires ... We've Gotcha Covered!"

Newsletter # 13 "Shipboard Security -- The shocking Truth"

Newsletter # 14 "Just Because It Hasn't Happened Yet!"

Newsletter # 15 "What's In Those Shipping Containers"

Newsletter # 16 "Some Problems at a Marina Fire"

Newsletter # 17 "Maneuvering Your Fireboat Near Large Ships"

Newsletter # 18 "Something New at Ship Fires - Auto Exposure

Newsletter # 19 Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)

Newsletter # 20 Use Caution at Tow Boat and Barge Fires

Newsletter # 21 Cruise Ships as Floating Hotels?

Newsletter # 22 Is Your Crew Ready for a Fire?

Newsletter # 23 Deep Fryers and Vessel Fires

Newsletter # 24 Fighting Ship Fires for the Army?

Newsletter # 25 I'm a Mariner; I Know All About Watertight Doors!

Newsletter # 26 How High's the Water Mama

Newsletter # 27 LNG Where You Least Expect It

Newsletter # 28 Not Another Drill!

Newsletter # 29 LNG for the First Responder

Newsletter # 30 Vessel Fire Plans

Newsletter # 31 Firefighters On Tow Boats and Barges