South King Fire’s Merrick McGinnis demonstrates the water canon on fire boat “Zenith” on May 26. (Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror)

South King Fire’s Merrick McGinnis demonstrates the water canon on fire boat “Zenith” on May 26. (Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror)

New rescue boat ‘Zenith’ expected to make regional impact

Vessel will serve communities beyond South King Fire’s main jurisdictions of Federal Way and Des Moines, including Vashon Island and Maury Island.

To reach South King Fire and Rescue’s new fire boat, you have to walk past the old vessel housed at the Des Moines Marina.

Despite providing rescue services in south Puget Sound for almost 40 years, the white 32-foot fire boat, built in 1985, looks far less powerful than its sleek aluminum 43-foot replacement poised at the end of the dock.

South King Fire’s new Maritime Emergency Response Vessel — fire boat 367 known as “Zenith” — holds 300 gallons of fuel and can pump 3,000 gallons of water per minute, which is equivalent to approximately two fire engines.

“This will help people along the south Puget Sound corridor, between Seattle and Tacoma,” said Fire Chief Dave Mataftin. “It’s a regional asset.”

Fire officials say Zenith will serve communities beyond SKFR’s main jurisdictions of Federal Way and Des Moines.

The fire boat is especially helpful in transporting patients to the mainland from Vashon Island and Maury Island, who otherwise would need to be airlifted or transported via ferry, said Mataftin, adding that the fire boat has the ability to transport several sick or injured at one time under any weather conditions 24/7.

Firefighters at station 67 and crew members of the department’s marine team are working to learn the ins and outs of their state-of-the-art vessel and its technology. A date for beginning service has not been set.

The Marine Team is comprised of 13 certified marine pilots, supported by a number of trained deckhands, and is led by South King Fire and Rescue Captain Jerry Clos.

Zenith has three water canons, tow posts, a radar, and a rotating thermal camera, according to Metal Shark Boats, the Louisiana-based company that built the vessel. The five-seat interior has spacious work areas to allow crews to move easily from bow to stern, and hold additional passengers as duty calls.

In 2013, the department responded to a fire in the Des Moines Marina with the fire boat, battling flames that burned two people and damaged several vessels. That was the last major incident needing the fire boat’s power, said Capt. Brad Chaney of South King Fire.

Typically, the fire boat is used to tow watercrafts in distress, tend to shoreline or beach fires or assist swimmers in distress. With the new boat, the department can assist others in firefighting, water rescues with surface water swimmers and rescue divers, area searching with infrared camera equipment, and the transportation of police and equipment to areas on the water.

“In general terms, water-based emergencies are problematic by nature. A backup crew can be a very long response time away requiring another boat,” he said. “When I built the specifications for this boat, I tried to address the project with as much regional response capability in mind as possible.”

In the South King response area, several homes on or close to the water pose extreme difficulties for land-based fire engines to access during an emergency, Mataftin said.

“We now have the ability to either fight the fire directly from the water or provide an endless source of water supply to land-based fire crews,” he said.

While the department originally planned for the new fire boat to be in service in August 2021, the project started with a slight delay due to a backlog of prior orders at the factory, then additional labor shortages caused by the pandemic, Mataftin said.

“When our boat went into production the factory encountered long lead times for critical components,” Mataftin said. “This included the diesel engines and fire pumps.”

Funding for the fire boat comes from a $750,000 Department of Commerce grant from the 2020 Washington state operating budget, in addition to funds from SKFR’s 2021 budget. In total, the vessel cost $1,320,618, according to the department.

The boat will be in service after members have had appropriate training and familiarization, according to SKFR.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Marine 367 “Zenith” is replacing the previous fire boat built in 1985. (Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror)

Marine 367 “Zenith” is replacing the previous fire boat built in 1985. (Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror)

Marine 367 “Zenith” is replacing the previous fire boat built in 1985. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Marine 367 “Zenith” is replacing the previous fire boat built in 1985. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

South King Fire and Rescue members provide a tour of the new vessel to firefighters from Chesapeake, Virginia. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

South King Fire and Rescue members provide a tour of the new vessel to firefighters from Chesapeake, Virginia. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

More in News

Courtesy Photo, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Judge finds probable cause to hold Kent man for kidnapping girl

Man, 40, reportedly grabbed 6-year-old girl in East Hill apartment complex parking lot

t
King County residential property values rise 12.4% in SE Kent

King County Assessor John Wilson begins to release 2024 numbers

t
Three 11-year-old girls in Kent help stop kidnapping of 6-year-old girl

40-year-old man reportedly grabbed girl in apartment complex parking lot on East Hill

t
Kent Police seek male teen driver in fatal hit-and-run on East Hill | Update

Teen reportedly driving stolen vehicle and fleeing police during Saturday, July 13 incident; victim identified

t
13-year-old boy fatally shot in Kent on East Hill near Turnkey Park | Update

Boy found shot near apartment complex Tuesday night, July 16 identified by medical examiner

t
Kent School Board votes 3-1 to send levy to voters in November

Capital projects and technology levy reduced from $192 million to $97 million after previous failures

t
Kiwanis clubs to place painted rocks at downtown Kent parks

Purpose is to ‘spread joy and positivity’

t
Driver caught on I-5 in Kent using fake passenger in HOV lane

Driver called it a ‘training aid’ after State Patrol trooper pulled her over near South 272nd Street

t
Kent Police seek public’s help to find woman missing since 2009

Release sketch of what Alyssa McLemore might look like today as detectives seek to solve case

Courtesy Image, Sound Transit
Far right lane of southbound I-5 in Kent to close for 2 weeks

July 21 to Aug. 5 between South 259th Street and South 272nd Street for light rail drainage work

t
Kent firefighters extinguish three separate brush fires on West Hill

Fire breaks out early Friday morning, July 12 in wooded area west of Interstate 5