For most of my journalistic career, I’ve written about motorized fire apparatus that operate on land. This month’s column will take a different approach: I will still report on a motorized apparatus, but this one operates on land and water.
Sealegs, a New Zealand-based company that’s marketing its products worldwide, has introduced a line of amphibious marine crafts that I think will revolutionize the fire/rescue industry. If your department’s response area includes a lake, ocean, river or any other body of water, then you need to check them out.
According to Peter Hanratty–president of Firematic, a Long Island-based fire equipment dealer and Northeast distributor for Sealegs–this new boat facilitates a fast response for emergency services personnel who need to travel to an area that most boats can’t access. Specifically, the boat can operate on both land and water, navigating through mud, over rocks, etc. You can access critical areas where traditional vessels are impeded by shallow water, debris and other obstructions. Further, you can reduce response times by driving into and out of the water without the need for a docking facility.
The boat comes with a trailer for transport, but if one of your fire stations is located near a body of water, you can basically drive the boat from your station to the water in no time, greatly reducing response times.
Sealegs boats feature a patented adjustable wheel and propeller propulsion system, and they have three retractable, hydraulically powered 24″ wheels–similar to landing gear on an aircraft.
The boat comes in three different configurations (6.1-m D-Tube, 6.1-m RIB and 7.1-m RIB). The 6.1-m D-Tube features an all-aluminum D-Tube chamber construction, and the other two feature an aluminum hull and commercial-grade inflatable tubes.
The two 6.1-m boats can travel 40 mph on water and 6 mph on land, and the 7.1-m boat can travel 48 mph on water and 6 mph on land. The fire/rescue model can be outfitted with a portable 500-gpm pump, a front-mounted turret and a 2½” discharge. There’s also room for a Stokes basket.
Sealegs boats are constructed in New Zealand and shipped to the Sealegs North American Headquarters in Hingham, Mass., where they are then outfitted to a fire/rescue configuration at the local dealer. According to Hanratty, the Sealegs North American base in Massachusetts even has a training facility where you can try to put a boat through its paces.
While gathering information for this story, I was able to take part in a hands-on demonstration involving a Sealegs boat. I have to say, I was impressed. These little boats are fast and highly maneuverable in all types of water and terrain. If you’re still not convinced, check out the videos on their website or, better yet, visit Firematic or a dealer in your area to see what I’m talking about firsthand.
Bob Vaccaro has more than 40 years of fire-service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (N.Y.) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. Vaccaro is a life member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.