Bellingham Fire Department closer to getting new fireboat

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 5, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Bellingham Fire Department is two steps closer to getting a new, $1 million fireboat after City Council approved accepting a federal grant for it and Port of Bellingham commissioners voted Tuesday night, Nov. 5, to offer to pay for 50 percent of matching funds.

In early September the fire department received a $750,000 grant for the boat from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that requires $250,000 in local matching funds. The department was not told it received the grant until about three weeks later, Fire Chief Roger Christensen told the City Council at its Oct. 28 meeting.

The department had 90 days from Sept. 1 to accept the grant, with permission of the city. Christensen asked the council to accept the grant without many details about how matching funds would be paid for or what the city would be expected to cover because of the time crunch.

On Tuesday, the port commission approved a letter to Mayor Kelli Linville offering moorage for the boat and $125,000 of the matching funds, though it was not clear whether any of the match would be covered by the moorage. The letter also states the port would be willing to pay for expenses directly linked to an incident response at the waterfront, though the city would be expected to pay for staffing, operations and training costs.

The city decommissioned and sold its old fire boat, the Fire Belle, in late 2011, after officials decided it wasn't getting used enough to justify the cost to keep it. The boat had been in operation since 1985.

Just five months after the boat was taken out of service, a fire in Squalicum Harbor killed a Bellingham couple living aboard their boat at G Dock East, about a quarter mile from shore. That fire took hours to extinguish without help from the Fire Belle and destroyed 10 other yachts and a series of boathouses.

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-756-2803 or samantha.wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com.

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