I think what the fire boat hit was the wreck of the six-masted schooner Edward J. Lawrence, which sank Dec. 25,1927. I have written stories about the Lawrence for Skin Diver magazine and Underwater USA. The Lawrence burned and the Coast Guard tried to push it up on the reef out of the way of traffic. But after getting the stern on the reef, the Coast Guard was unable to get the bow up on the reef because an anchor let go and held the bow in deep water. The stern is in 12 feet of water, but the bow is in 40 feet.

I think there are two problems with this wreck: first, I don’t believe the wreck mark is in the correct location on the chart. Second, when the Lawrence was afloat it measured 410 feet from the bow sprit to the spanker boom. Just the hull itself is 285 feet long and about 60 feet wide. One wreck mark on the chart is not big enough to cover the whole location of the wreck. The fire boat crews need to go out at low tide and see first-hand where the wreck is. And they need to do this often enough to be familiar with the entire length of the wreck. It is huge!

The massive ribs can be seen just below the surface at low tide.

Civilians can be a distraction for the pilot on the fire boat. But the fire boat has to carry civilians on emergency runs. So, it seems to me that they should be training with civilians on board at times to get used to dealing with the distractions. Maybe what is actually needed is more training runs near the wreck and more training runs with civilians on board.

Thomas O’Connor

Falmouth

It’s hard to believe that the chief of the Portland Fire Department doesn’t see the outrageousness of his captain using a city fire resource as a party boat.

Every kid raised on Casco Bay, with access to a boat, knows about the Diamond Ledge. How a $50,000-dollar-a-year pilot could run aground on that ledge and deprive the city of a vital piece of fire-fighting equipment and not be terminated is unfathomable.

John K. McManamy

Venice Beach, Calif.

(formerly of Cape Elizabeth)

I hope that the recent fire boat accident doesn’t obscure the risks and sacrifices made on a daily basis by Portland firefighters. Residents have been, and should continue to be, grateful to them – which is why the most recent fire boat incident was so disappointing. I suggest that in developing the details of a new policy the city look across the harbor and adopt the procedures used by the U.S. Coast Guard for the use of their vessels.

That would include the requirement for a minimum crew size when under way.  What would those two crew members have had to do if they were required to fight a fire that day?

Training requirements for all crew members, including regular requalification, should be standard. Crew members should be familiar with the area in which the vessel operates and recognize that every member is responsible for keeping the boat out of harm’s way. Detailed ship’s logs should be standard, and rigid guidelines regarding passengers are obviously required.

This won’t guarantee that the fire boat will never have another accident on the water. Nearly everyone who has piloted a vessel of any size in Casco Bay – including very experienced captains, pilots and even members of the Coast Guard – has had an incident, or at least a close call, that resulted from being in the wrong place at the wrong tide.

But it would be reassuring to me as a Portland taxpayer if the city looked to the experience of the Coast Guard in determining how to prudently manage the use of our new fire boat. That would help restore the public regard of the fire department to its well-deserved high level as quickly as possible.

Dan Abbott

Portland

As more facts surface in the matter of the fire boat outing, I find myself both embarrassed and mortified for the city of Portland. It is certainly not an image of a professional fire- fighting crew and a state-of-the art fire boat.

As Chief Fred LaMontagne and the union circle the wagons, stumble over each other stiff-arming the emerging facts, while trying to keep a look of innocence and a “who me?” attitude about the matter, nobody is asking the hard questions.

What if an alarm came in while this on-duty piece of apparatus was pleasure-cruising the harbor and it had to respond?

Women and children put in harm’s way as the boat responds and goes into action?
I hope the city’s insurance policy is paid up! I don’t even want to consider if refreshments were on board during this outing.

The chief’s explanation that there are no clear guidelines or written policy in place concerning civilians on board is laughable, if it weren’t so serious. How about some common sense?

In retrospect, while I don’t think that the two firefighters on board should have lost their jobs over this pleasure cruise that certainly has occurred before, they were indeed fortunate to only receive suspensions of 10 and three days.

Having been both a paid fireman and life-long volunteer from another state, my opinion in this matter is that the city manager is right. The lack of professionalism exhibited here is indeed appalling.

Jim Brown

Edgecomb

School Committee race is on the Portland ballot, too

It would be great to have The Portland Press Herald take a day or two off from covering the mayoral candidates and instead give consideration to candidates in the other city-wide races on the Nov. 8 ballot.

You can start with Josephine Okot, a Sudanese refugee and USM graduate running for the open at-large seat for the Portland school board.

Her aptitude, leadership qualities and policy ideas should give you enough to fill at least one column in an article about all of the candidates in the school board elections.

It’s important that the public can be educated on all races, not just the one with the most candidates.

Andrew Bourgoin

Portland