Retrofitted Refuge Boat Makes a Splash on Fires

August, 2008

This summer, national wildlife refuges in the Columbia River Basin in Washington and Oregon are using a new tool to fight fires.  The Mid Columbia Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex recently converted a government jet boat to a fire boat complete with a high volume pump, a turret, hundreds of feet of hose, hand tools, food and drinking water as well as other items necessary to support fire suppression activities.

The boat can be used for a variety of tasks. The water pump and large turret allow crews to spray water directly from a river or lake to knock down flames burning within 100 feet of the water’s edge. The boat can also be used to as a platform to pump water to a line of hose going from the river to a fire some distance away. Firefighters can also transport fire personnel and equipment across water with the boat or use it to scout and monitor the fire.

The fire boat was used extensively on two of the five large fires the refuge complex has had this season. During both the 262 and 730 Fires, which ignited in late July, firefighters tested the effectiveness and efficiency of the fire boat. The boat was primarily used to knock down flames during both incidents. It proved to be a very useful tool helping firefighters gain the upper hand on both blazes by allowing crews get water into hard to reach, thick vegetation that typically grows along the edge of water.

The Mid Columbia Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex is home to extensive waterfowl and migratory bird populations. The boat allows refuge managers a unique opportunity to access and protect critical habitat.

This is the first boat to be constructed and deployed as a tactical fire suppression resource in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region, which encompasses refuges in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, and Guam. Cooperators from other federal, state, county and local fire agencies have requested the fire boat to support fire suppression efforts on their incidents.

fireboat use on water
Fireboat spraying fire
A firefighter from the Mid Columbia National Wildlife Refuge Complex uses the pump and nozzle to spray water from the fire boat.
Firefighters from the Mid Columbia National Wildlife Refuge Complex use a jet boat converted to a fire boat complete with tools, a pump, hose, and other gear needed to support firefighting operations to spray water onto a fire.


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