Crews train to fight fires on — and with — Pittsburgh’s rivers
Nearly two dozen firefighters took to the Monongahela River near the South Side on Wednesday to practice fighting fires on and with water from the city’s largest water supply — its rivers.
The training gave 22 more firefighters the skills needed to operate the city’s fire boat, named after former Mayor Sophie Masloff and purchased in 2017 for $540,000.
“One of the big takeaways from this is the partnerships that we build out here on the river, so if there is a big event and everybody comes together, they sing from the same hymnal, if you will,” said Brad Williams, a trainer with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). “They all speak the same language, and they do the tasks the same way, and everybody understands how things work.”
Trainers from NASBLA were in Pittsburgh to help train the crews on fighting fires from the water.
The training exercises touched on three potential situations, said Assistant Chief Brian Kokkila: Attacking a fire on the shore from the boat, extinguishing a fire on a boat that’s adrift and supplying water to a fire truck that is on land.
Crews spent hours on the water wrangling a practice boat as though it were on fire and laying hose that supplied water from the fire boat to a fire truck on the shore.
“As commodities have changed in the region, there are a substantial amount of hazardous materials that flow up and down via barge traffic,” he said. “But also there’s a substantial amount of commodities traveling by rail, and most of the rail lines run parallel with the water.”
Having access to the boat and its capabilities along the often-secluded shoreline is crucial.
“The fire boat gives us the ability to deliver water close to and from the river, and also to supply water in the event there was a water-system failure,” Kokkila said.
Pittsburgh is the second-largest inland port in the country.
“People think of coastal areas as being important for waterborne fire capabilities, but Pittsburgh is basically surrounded by rivers,” Williams said.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .