Greenport Fire Department seeks federal grant for modern fire rescue boat

Greenport Fire Department is asking newly elected Congressman Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) to help the department secure a grant to buy a critically needed fire rescue boat.

In spite of Greenport having one of the busiest waterfronts on Long Island, the village fire department does not have a boat that can do large-scale marine rescues or fight waterfront fires from a boat in the harbor.

The department’s current fire boat, a 21-foot former lobster boat with no waterside pumping capacity, sits on a trailer behind the Third Street firehouse due to engine problems. The department also has a 12-foot inflatable boat — not exactly appropriate for rescuing people from a marine accident.

“We have to modernize and get the kind of boat this village must have,” said former fire department captain Bob Jester. He is chairman of a department committee seeking a federal grant to purchase a boat. “And we need it now. We have been lucky to avoid any disasters so far.”

Mr. Jester has helped organize a new unit in the department that will be certified by the U.S Coast Guard in all rescue and communications issues. And he is the driving force behind a petition drive to show Mr. LaLota that village officials and residents are behind it.

As the 1st District representative, Mr. LaLota has the discretion to apply for a grant from the Federal Community Project Fund. The department is asking for approximately $900,000 to purchase a $670,000 rescue boat, with the added funds to be used for upkeep, training and other items.

In an email, Mr. LaLota said, “I appreciate the hardworking volunteers from the Greenport Fire Department taking the time to contact my office regarding their grant eligibility. My staff and I will work with the department to make sure they are aware of every resource available to them and will be helpful however we can.”

Mr. Jester said he has received support from hundreds of village residents and businesses who see the need for such a boat. The department has set up a petition on its website — — to secure names to send to Mr. LaLota this month. A video on the site shows the kind of boat the department will purchase if the grant is funded.

The Greenport Fire Department is seeking federal funding for a much-needed marine rescue vessel.

“If we have a major fire on the waterfront, we have no capability to fight it from the waterfront,” he said. “We’d call Shelter Island as they have a boat that can pump water onto a fire. This new boat will be a portable fire truck.”

Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, whose family owns Alice’s Fish Market, said that the village “supports this 100%.”

“Our firefighters have a real need for this. We had a fire in the 1990s” at the fish market, she said. “The dock was burning. [Her husband, Mark Phillips] was on his way in to unload porgies. They tried to fight it from the land side, but it would have been put out a lot quicker from the waterside. We lost the dock and a cooler.

“This fire showed the village what we needed,” she added. “We have a lot more boat traffic than we used to have. We have to be prepared. Everyone realizes it is important to work towards this. The village is totally behind it.”

The department’s efforts go back about 20 months, Mr. Jester said. They have worked with all area public officials and received unanimous support. Meanwhile, the department has set up a marine fire rescue squad to receive specific training from the Coast Guard on how to use the boat.

As seen in the above video, a modern rescue boat is 31-feet in length and can pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute onto a fire. Such a boat has a drop-down door in the front for loading and offloading beach vehicles and is equipped with infrared cameras to find people in the water at night. Such a boat would be available to other area departments when the need arises.

“In the summer here, we have million-dollar yachts and tremendous boat and ferry traffic,” Mr. Jester said. “Not having a substantial vessel to do rescues, or putting out a waterfront fire, is poor planning on our part. These new rescue boats are designed specifically for that.

“This is something we have to have in the village,” he added.