08 August 2002

Historic fireboat drops by
Retired vessel aided firefighters at WTC


by Scott Cornell

Visitors aboard the John J. Harvey went from enjoying a cool breeze coming off the river to a cold shower from the boat's powerful hoses.

"It was a lot of fun," said Chelsea Owen-Kraft, a 10-year-old Beacon resident who came to Waryas Park in the City of Poughkeepsie Wednesday afternoon to see the historic fireboat. "I liked getting sprayed and getting wet."

The John J. Harvey, retired from duty with the New York City Fire Department, docked at Waryas Park for a few hours Wednesday, offering water displays, guided tours and information about the boat's structure and operations.

Soaking wet

The pumping demonstrations left those on deck soaked with Hudson River water sprayed from the boat's hoses.

The fireboat, retired in 1994, is on a tour of river communities between New York City and Albany.

It's the second year the nonprofit group that owns the boat has made the tour to promote awareness of historic ships and vessels. The group of 14 boat enthusiasts bought the boat at auction in 1999.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the John J. Harvey was put into service again. Since its pumping capacity equals that of 20 fire trucks, the boat provided a great deal of water directly to firefighters at the World Trade Center for three days.

"Last year, the John J. Harvey was only a piece of history on the river," Poughkeepsie Mayor Colette Lafuente said. "This year, it is part of our immediate history because it helped at the World Trade Center."

Lafuente, who attended the Waryas Park event, said the John J. Harvey helps educate the public about the history of the New York City Fire Department, as well as inform them about fireboats.

"Something like this gets us out here to enjoy the great river," Lafuente said. "I hope the John J. Harvey will return again next year so more people get a chance to see it."

Those at Wednesday's event were treated to near-perfect conditions: A warm, breezy August afternoon.

Hundreds came down to the waterfront park to see the boat, and many of them took advantage of the free tours, coming back to shore soaked.

"This is the first, fresh-water day during the boat's trip, and we've had about 160 people from Poughkeepsie onboard," said Huntley Gill, one of the 14 owners of the fireboat. "A good number of Poughkeepsie-ites got wet today."

Chelsea Owen-Kraft's grandmother, Florence Hourican, felt a bit of the history and importance onboard the fireboat.

"I've been trying to actually visualize the boat helping out during Sept. 11," Hourican, 69, said. "It's good to see that they're trying to do nice things like this around the riverfront."

Hourican, a Beacon resident, said she would like to see similar events in riverfront communities.

Barbara Gruntler of Poughkeepsie, who went to see the boat with her husband and grandchildren, feels the same way.

"I thought it was interesting to see the boat since we knew firefighters who helped during Sept. 11," said Amanda Gruntler, Barbara's granddaughter.

Relevant Web link
The fireboat John J. Harvey is traveling up the Hudson River this week and will stop at 1 p.m. Sunday at Kingston's waterfront. Free tours and demonstrations will be offered. For information on the John J. Harvey and its schedule, visit www.fireboat.org.

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