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Inspector General says fireboat capability in nation's capital obsolete. Says DC Fire & EMS Department has no plans to replace 50-year-old vessel.

Metropolitan Police Department surveillance vide of Fireboat John H. Glenn Jr. being struck by the Spirit of Washington on January 31, 2009.

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Read about Melbourne, Australia’s fireboat problem

Last week we showed you the impact of a major city failing to provide adequate firefighting cability on its waterfront. The bad publicity from the fire department being unable to extinguish a burning yacht at its Dockside community has forced government officials in Melbournce, Australia to address the issue. In Washington, DC, an IG investigation has focused on a similar lack of resources and warns the city may not be prepared for a major waterfront emergency.

The Washington Examiner reports that the DC Fire and EMS Department’s 50-year-old Fireboat John H. Glenn Jr. has been neglected and is obsolete. Reporter Liz Farmer cites a preliminary report from the Office of The Inspector General that indicates the diminished capabilites impact the nation’s capital’s abililty to repond to a terrorist attack on water.

In 2003 I took a ride on the John H. Glenn Jr. during an ice-breaking mission.

The report also says the fire department has not made plans to replace the boat. FDNY launched the boat in 1962 and DC put it in service in 1977.

More from The Washington Examiner:

 When asked about the report, at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson, said the findings showed the District did “not have the same capabilities” as other major cities. The report notes Boston and San Francisco both applied for federal grant money to update their fleets with boats that are faster and pump twice as much water. 

“There’s no reason why, as the nation’s capital, that we don’t have the best in any apparatus for fire and rescue,” said Mendelson, whose committee oversees the city’s Fire and EMS Department.

 The department has until Monday to issue its response to the inspector general and a spokesman last week did not return requests for comment

On January 31, 2009 the Glenn’s hull was severely damaged when it was struck by the dinner cruise ship Spirit of Washington (see video above). The fireboat is the primary vessel used for ice breaking on the Potomac during the winter months.

Read entire article from The Washington Examiner

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Comments - Add Yours

  • DCFD

    I’m sure ellerbe told them that we dont need anything. Just like he tells grey. There wasn’t an increase in the mayor’s budget budget for the FD but MPD sure got one.

  • pipeman

    I wonder if ‘DCFD’ has been scraped off the boat. It seems like that’s the priority these days.

  • Another DCFD Member

    Way to go LRB……You have found another reason to make the department look bad. By the way, are the short sleeve shirts in yet????


    My theory:
    There are few things in life that ooze testosterone more than a fireboat. And, LRB, being quite proud of his testosterone, based on his history of “checking out” his female underlings, can not bring even himself to emblazen “FEMS” all over a fireboat.
    So, better to just do without one…

  • InTheKnow

    Previously the Apparatus Replacement Plan called for $7-8 million dollars for several years in row- of which the departmet is now the benificiary with newer equipment (engines, ladder trucks, heavy duty rescue squads, ambulances) but this replacement plan seems to have been stopped or not funded for what ever reason (maybe a lack of vision). The aged Fireboat was damaged, placed OOS, but refurbished & recertified in 2008 with an expectation to be replaced in 4 or 5 years – that time is NOW, but NO plan to do so – this department needs leadership, management & appropriate funding.

  • Former Chief

    The FEMS Administrator is too busy worrying about patches and decals and belittleing the people in DCFD who actually do their jobs and work hard to be bothered by such trivial matters as protecting the public.

  • mark

    As Former Chief stated, there is no story here. The IG is an idiot. There are much more important things to be concerned about than a stupid fireboat. FEMS, for one. Beer-swilling firemen is another, and those chiefs who don’t properly discipline them. Then there is lying about &70K worth of wasted uniforms sitting in a warehouse.

    Next up, nametags for all the female members so he can “read” those nametags, because that is his heritage.

    I’m sure I missed something, but that’s for a start anyways.

    So, quit yer bellyaching, the MAN has more important stuff to do.

    • Scallywag


      Perhaps your tone would change if you were the unfortunate person stranded on the river, and the fireboat sank on its way to rescue you. Your type of narrow-minded, non-issue focused thinking is why FEMS remains in the state it is. Focus on change management, not shirts. Leadership, not patches. And additional funding, not complaining.

      God bless the men and women of FEMS.

      • mark

        Dearest Scallywag, I would like to suggest you look up “sarcasm” in Webster’s. Or “tongue-in-cheek”.

        As that is what my comment was. I was using recent moments of stupidity on Ellerbe’s watch that have shown what an incompetent moron he is. And that’s being polite.

        PS My apologies, I’ll make sure to let everyone know when I am being sarcastic next time. Maybe.

  • mark

    Shoot, forgot to add (wish one could edit one’s reply), anyone who blames this on the current “chief” is obviously a racist.

    Besides, Ellerbe was obviously tricked by the former administration.

  • ukfbbuff

    My 2 cents from Calif..

    It’s readily apparent that Mr. Ellerbe has his priorities all
    mixed up and unfortunately the “Mayor” of DC seems to back him allowing him to appear as a:

    “Loose Canon on the Deck of a Ship”.

    It’s apparent that DCFD under (Lack of) Ellerbe’s Leadership is moving “Backwards” as a Fire Service Agency much to the Dismay of the DCFD FF’s and those who care about what’s happening.

  • ltfd seattle

    Let’s see, what are the chances of ever needing a functional fireboat in, or near, our nation’s capital:
    2 rivers- Potomac & Anacostia
    Waterfront occupancies- like the Navy Yard & other industries, commercial & residential buildings, parks & recreation areas
    Flight paths- Ronald Reagan Airport (R.I.P. Air Florida Flt 90)
    Bridges over water- I-295 & I-395; Highways 1 & 50; numerous road bridges

    Not to worry.

  • Inside looking in

    Funny how years of mediocrity and mismanagement gets peoples attention in one year. Only in America.

    • me

      It’s always easiest to blame it on a previous administration isn’t it?

      Our race toward mediocrity began when LRB started administrating.

  • Anonymous

    I think “The Rube” hot wired the Spirit of Washington and crashed into the fireboat knowing good and well Ellerb@!&% would have to deal with it. The trickery never ends does it?

  • Iron Duke

    The IG report is correct only from a narrow DC point-of-view, and what is not stated (and is not known to the majority of DC area residents) is that DCFD has mutual aid agreements with the other jurisdictions that share fire and rescue duties on the Potomac.

    While nobody disputes the fact that the Glenn needs replacing, DC DOES have a smaller, very capable fireboat. In addition, Alexandria, PG County, Fairfax County and OWL (Occoquan, Woodbridge, Lorton) all have virtually identical fireboats (purchased post-9/11 with FEMA funds) that could all be on-scene at any major Potomac or Anacostia emergency within an hour. This impressive tally does not include the flotilla of DC police boats, the watercraft at DCA and the two Defender class USCG boats kept at the marina at Bolling AFB.

    The IG should be MUCH more concerned about the complete inability of DC agencies to quickly to evacuate the downtown area, than any potential waterborne emergency scenario.