PORTLAND – The city’s new $32 million fireboat is repaired and back in service, 3½ months after it hit a submerged ledge during a rescue mission.

The 65-foot boat was returned to the city on Friday from a shipyard in Rockport. Equipment has been transferred from the old City of Portland III to the new boat.

The new City of Portland IV sustained about $90,000 worth of damage when it hit a rock in Whitehead Passage on Nov. 7, according to the city. The city had insurance but was responsible for a $25,000 deductible.

The incident happened as Portland firefighters, the Coast Guard and the Maine Marine Patrol worked to rescue a couple off Jewel Island, after an elderly duck hunter fell in the water.

The rescue was hampered by nightfall and an extremely low tide. A Coast Guard response boat and a Fire Department skiff were beached on the island. The City of Portland IV, having been in service for just two months, was returning to Portland for additional manpower when it hit the rock.

The impact pushed the rudder into the hull, punching a hole slightly larger than a softball, and cut two crescents into one of the propeller blades. The supports that hold the propeller to the hull ripped free.

The department began investigating the cause of the crash, assisted by the Coast Guard. The investigation is not yet complete, because the new boat had to be back in service to get a full analysis, according to the city.

The firefighter who was piloting the boat, Richard Wurfel, is an experienced mariner, according to the Fire Department. However, the preliminary investigation by the department deemed the crash a preventable accident. It was treated as a personnel matter with the potential for discipline, so it was kept confidential, Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne said at the time.

Wurfel has since retired from the department.

The new boat was purchased with the help of federal funds to replace the 50-year-old City of Portland III. Although the city plans to get rid of the older boat, it was able to use it while the new boat was repaired. The old boat is expensive to maintain, which is one of the reasons it will be decommissioned.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]