By 1957, three fireboats had monitored Baltimore’s ports for 35 years. However, the fleet of steam fireboats — the Cataract built in 1891 and reconstructed in 1914; the Deluge, which began its duties in 1911 and the Torrent manufactured in 1921 — were fast becoming aged. Then-Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., permitted the Baltimore Board of Fire Commissioners to construct a new vessel to handle additional emergencies at the city’s waterside locations, according to the January 1957 issue of The American City. The new fireboat, named “Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro Jr.,” measured 103 feet in length, was powered by a 660-hp Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine, traveled 17 miles per hour at full speed and could throw 12,000 gallons of water per minute. By replacing one of the city’s older boats, the new $500,000 vessel was expected to pay for itself in seven years.
Today, the Baltimore City Fire Department operates two fireboats and two fire rescue boats. The fireboat unit also assists the Urban Area Work Group, a coalition of fire, police, emergency medical service and public works crew members that serves multiple jurisdictions, including Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, and patrols areas such as the Port of Maryland and Chesapeake Bay. In August, the department added a new fireboat to its fleet, its first in more than 40 years. The $6.25 million fireboat, named for renowned Baltimore Fire Chief John R. Frazier, measures 87 feet in length and can travel 16 knots at full speed. Its four water cannons can pump 7,000 gallons per minute. The “John R. Frazier” is expected to serve the city for 50 years.