Coast Guard investigates qualifications of L.A. fireboat operators

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Criminal investigators with the Coast Guard are probing an elite group of Los Angeles firefighters at the city's port to see whether the highly paid operators of the “world’s most powerful fireboat” were actually qualified.

The specially trained and equipped fireboat units under scrutiny conduct search-and-rescue operations at sea and fight waterfront fires, such as a wharf blaze in the city’s Wilmington neighborhood in September that paralyzed commerce and sent toxic smoke into neighboring communities.

The teams include scuba divers trained for underwater firefighting, as well as crews that operate the LAFD harbor-based fleet, including a 105-foot, water cannon-equipped boat described as “the world’s most powerful fireboat.”

In June, a special agent of the Coast Guard Investigative Service requested 10 years of Los Angeles Fire Department logs, journals and other records that document the operation of the department's fleet of five fireboats, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Officials with the Coast Guard and the LAFD confirmed the investigation Tuesday, but declined to provide details because the inquiry is ongoing.

LAFD spokesman Peter Sanders said his agency is "cooperating fully" with the investigation and holding off on any internal review of the matter until federal agents have completed their work.

The inquiry comes as the LAFD has been trying to restore confidence in the way new department recruits are selected after a Times investigation that raised concerns about nepotism and unfairness.

Under city rules, pilots and mates assigned to the boats must first secure Coast Guard-issued licenses that involve specialized training, a written exam and verification of hundreds of hours of experience at sea.

Chris Volkle, a commercial ship captain who heads Marine Fire Training, a Seattle-area academy that provides training for on-the-water firefighters, said most private maritime companies and fire departments have record books where training hours are documented.

"If that person driving that fireboat is unqualified" and lacks experience, Volkle said, "he could kill people.”

LAFD fireboat jobs are highly paid assignments. Last year, the 15 pilots and mates at the port earned more than $210,000, on average, nearly half of that from overtime, according to a Times analysis of city payroll data.

Related

KVH Introduces TracPhone LTE-1

The new communications system provides connectivity up to 20 miles offshore in more than 150 countries.

Supreme Builds First Boat in New Facility

The towboat builder moved to the new 160,000-sqare-foot plant in Georgia earlier this year and plans to produce two boats a day.

Continued Growth at Vetus

The manufacturer had its best sales month in its 57-year history and promoted longtime employee Ray Browning to U.K. branch manager.

Suzuki Powers Forest River’s New Nepallo Pontoon Boats

The new Nepallo line of pontoon boats with Suzuki engines will be sold at select Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors stores.

West Marine CEO to Keynote Annual MRA Event

With a “Climate for Change” theme, the Marine Recreation Association’s Educational Conference and Trade Show is set for Oct. 11-13.

Skeeter Owner’s Tourney Held on Lake Fork

A field of 2,000 anglers in 1,000 boats saw a nearly 10-pound bass capture first place in the annual Skeeter owner’s tournament.

Email Remains a Vital Marketing Tool for Dealers

A content marketing staple, emails can consistently deliver valuable and relevant information, if done correctly.