MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy told City Council Tuesday the department’s fire-rescue boat was putting firefighters’ lives at risk. He also told them the equipment was not adequate for future rescue and fire incidents and would be decommissioned.
The 22-foot Pathfinder sports fisherman used by Marco Island’s Fire Department answered a powerboat explosion call at 11 a.m., Feb. 17, in Caxambas Pass.
“Our personnel did an outstanding job,” said Murphy. “I was the first one on that scene. We had so many 9-1-1 calls on this incident, but the fireboat failed to perform. We had adequate personnel but could only pump 100 gallon per minute.”
In addition, firefighters had to get very close to fight back the flames.
“We endangered our own personnel with the boat we used for response,” Murphy said.
The fire occurred when a 27-foot Rinker was powered up after refueling. Two men on the exploding boat jumped to safety leaving the boat unmanned. The vessel came ashore on the breakwaters in front of Dela Park Place condominiums on South Collier Boulevard.
The two men were unharmed and swam to safety. Although Marco Island’s fireboat arrived first on the scene, it was ineffective in subduing the blaze, Murphy said. Firefighters had to wait approximately one hour for help from neighboring districts to arrive and extinguish the flames with foam.
During that time, an onshore breeze drove smoke into condominium units at Dela Park Place and onto the roof. Smoke and soot entered air conditioning ducts and seeped into lanais. Residents of the building were advised to shut off air conditioners and close lanai shutters. They also were advised not to stay in units until air conditioning ducts were cleaned. In all, 53 condo units were affected by the smoke.
“Plastic and byproducts of fire are a health hazard,” Murphy explained. Those contaminants were deposited in air conditioners and ducts requiring proper cleaning.
Murphy estimated the damage at more than half a million dollars to the building and individual units. The building’s condominium association said it will wash the building’s facade and clean each lanai.
Murphy said the fireboat also was inadequate for rescues because it did not have a platform for retrieving injured victims from the water. Rescue personnel have to lift victims over the side, a maneuver virtually impossible if the victim was on a backboard, he said.
Councilor Wayne Waldack asked for statistics on the island’s boating community. Murphy told council Collier County has more than 22,000 registered boats with approximately 6,000 boats on Marco Island. The island has 22 miles of shoreline with 180 miles of waterways.
“We put a little pump on a boat and then call it a fireboat,” Waldack said.
Council agreed to take up the matter at a future council meeting.
“I think before action is taken, it should be part of our overall budget,” Councilor Joe Batte added.