Historic fireboat testing biodiesel

By | October 01, 2004
Throughout its 72-year history, the John J. Harvey fireboat has been present at many historic events and witnessed a significant amount of change. Now biodiesel is slated to become part of its history.

A group of owners are considering using waste fry oil from nearby restaurants as a feedstock to create B100 for the ship. The historic vessel uses about 10,000 gallons of fuel annually.

The boat, which is considered the first modern fireboat, was launched Oct. 6, 1932, and named after a fireman killed while on the boat. The boat was used for decades to help put out fires on shore and in the waters around New York City.

The boat was decommissioned from the New York City Fire Department in 1995 and left at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for almost four years. However, 66 years to the day the ship's namesake was killed, a group of 12 people bought the boat shortly before it was to be dismantled. Six months later they had the ship back in operating condition.

The fireboat was pulled out of retirement following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. The John J. Harvey helped ferry 150 trapped people and acted as a staging area for volunteers. The boat was then called into service pumping water to control the fires since fire hydrants were inoperable. The John J. Harvey celebrated its 70th birthday just three weeks after leaving the World Trade Center site.
Now boat operators are experimenting with biodiesel. The five original gasoline engines installed in 1931 were replaced with 600-horsepower diesel engines in 1957. The diesel engines provide the power for both propulsion and pumping water.

"We run five diesel engines," said Tim Ivory, chief engineer of the John J. Harvey. "From an environmental level, it's just not a poster child."
Ivory said a small site in the Brooklyn Navy Yard could be used to create biodiesel after addressing environmental and safety issues. The owners have set a goal of using biodiesel in an alliance of five historic vessels. B100 was already tested in another boat this summer.
"The reaction is incredibly enthusiastic," co-owner Huntley Gill said. "We plan on pursuing it seriously. There has been no downside as far as public relations."

More information about the John J. Harvey can be found at www.fireboat.org
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