South King Fire and Rescue recently launched its new Fire Boat “Zenith” into Puget Sound, which is now serving the waters near Des Moines.

The 38-foot “Defiant” model vessel from Metal Shark cost a total of $1.3 million with $750,000 being funded by an appropriation from the 2020 State Operating Budget. This funding is through a grant from Washington State and was included in the Operating Budget that was passed shortly before the Legislature adjourned in 2020.

The new boat will be a big improvement over the technology from 1985 as it replaces the 36-year-old Marine 367 that was previously used by South King Fire and Rescue.

The new Maritime Emergency Response Vessel’s (MERV) firefighting capability, for example, is 3000 Gallons Per Minute (GPM) and it can shoot water 400’. That is higher than the tallest container ship or cruise liner traversing Puget Sound’s waterways. Currently Marine 367’s capabilities are only 300 GPM and 100’.

This new MERV is the only such vessel that is based in the busy waterway between Seattle and Tacoma. It will allow us to continue our 30-year partnership with the Coast Guard on providing emergency response services in this area. These responses range anywhere from swimmers in distress, ferries or other vessel in distress, shoreline fires, rescue divers, searching with infrared camera equipment, and even the possibility of a downed aircraft in the water. This vessel will be moored at Des Moines Marina and will be closer to SeaTac Airport than any other MERV.

“Fire Chief Mataftin and the Board of Fire Commissioners are very thankful for the leadership of our Legislative delegation in the 30th and 33rd Districts,” South King Fire said. “Each of those legislators worked together to get this item in the budget. Without the efforts of Representatives Tina Orwall, Mike Pellicciotti, Jesse Johnson, and Mia Gregerson– along with Senators Karen Keiser and Claire Wilson – this appropriation would not have happened. We also had strong support from the Cities of Des Moines and Federal Way.”

Here’s more info from your local firefighters:

Metal Shark is a leading boat manufacturing company that specializes in military, law enforcement, fire and rescue vessels, and has an outstanding reputation for quality products.

We also recognize that this boat is a regional asset, as an example, if there is a need to transport a sick or injured person off of Vashon Island there are three ways to do it. Using a land-based unit on a State Ferry, however, that after about midnight can take time due to needing a crew to staff the boat after hours. Using a Helicopter, this is limited by the weather conditions and availability of the aircraft. Our Fireboat has the ability to transport several sick or injured at one time under any weather conditions 24/7. We currently are revamping an older agreement with King County Medic One for this purpose.

The Marine Team responds from Station 67 located in Des Moines, Wash. to the Des Moines Marina and serves the greater Puget Sound region between the cities of Tacoma and Seattle. The Marine Team is comprised of 13 certified marine pilots, supported by a number of trained deck hands, and is led by South King Fire and Rescue Captain Jerry Clos.

“On behalf of the Marine Team I would like to say thank you to our administration, our local community partners and our regional partners for their support in making this possible. This new vessel will allow us to increase our capabilities of providing professional maritime emergency services that our community members have come to know and expect,” said Captain Clos.

The upgraded technology and capabilities required training and familiarization for all personnel responsible for responding on the vessel. Training is now complete and the vessel is officially “in service” and protecting the waterways of the Puget Sound. This regional asset will serve the community for decades to come.

Below are photos of the new boat, courtesy South King Fire & Rescue: