Insurance company threatens to drop coverage on Fire Fighter

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Fire Fighter is currently docked at the railroad dock with out permission.

Just when the situation looked like it couldn’t get worse for the Historic New York City fireboat Fire Fighter docked in Greenport, its insurance company is threatening to drop its coverage by the end of the month, museum president Charlie Ritchie said Wednesday.

The decommissioned fireboat-turned-nonprofit museum now needs to raise roughly $100,000 by January to have the boat raised out of the water and properly inspected, or risk losing its policy.

The blow comes just weeks after the county’s attorney office issued a letter stating that the vessel would need to vacate the commercial dock, or county would pursue “all means available” to remove it.

As the clock ticks down, Mr. Ritchie said his priority now is to raise the money needed to inspect the 134-foot vessel.

“Our focus has shifted to finding a berth to try to raise the money and get the boat to a shipyard to have this survey done,” he said. “So, it’s a little bit of a waiting game and we’re basically running out of time. The insurance company is only going to allow us coverage until January if we don’t get the survey. Now we have to worry about getting the money, or we could lose the boat.”

When the boat left its original port at Mitchell Park Marina in September, with the blessing of the Village board, Mr. Ritchie expected the Fire Fighter to become a community staple at the railroad dock.

However, area fisherman instantly criticized the decision, saying moving the boat to a dock intended for commercial fishing was unfair. Opponents also pointed to the potential damage the boat could cause to the dock and the shellfish beds below, should it sink or begin leaking fuel.

The fishermen’s concerns were echoed in last month’s letter from the county letter and now by the boat’s own insurance provider, Northport-based Hartt Insurance Co. The company is requesting the boat be completely removed from the water in order to test its integrity.

Now with the possible lapse of insurance on the boat, County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said it’s even more urgent that the boat be moved.

“It is a concern especially now that they might not have insurance,” Mr. Krupski said Wednesday. “At this point it would be the county’s liability as far as it sinking and the environmental damage and it actually damaging the dock.”

Meanwhile, the county is struggling to map out its next step toward evicting Fire Fighter from the commercial railroad dock, where it remains moored, despite its eviction date of last Friday.

“We are still trying to get word from our legal department about how we’re going to handle it,” Mr. Krupski said.

Fire Fighter was christened in 1938 and was used to fight fires along the New York City waterfront for more than 70 years before being retired in 2010.

The vessel spent two years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before being transferred to the museum in October 2012. It’s the third-oldest fireboat in the country and the fifth oldest in the world, according to the museum.