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Fireboat Edward M Cotter

sian, west wales 03 Aug 12 - 04:58 PM
Dave Ruch 03 Aug 12 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Aug 12 - 05:24 PM
sian, west wales 03 Aug 12 - 06:57 PM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Aug 12 - 10:29 AM
GUEST,999 04 Aug 12 - 10:37 AM
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Subject: Fireboat Edward M Cotter
From: sian, west wales
Date: 03 Aug 12 - 04:58 PM

Well, it's Canal Days in Port Colborne, Ontario (about 25 miles west of Buffalo) and the town is bustling; a fair bit of tat and bad music, but some interesting ships and (who knows?) might even hear a few good bands before the weekend is out.

I was reading the brochure and there's a piece on one of the visiting boats, Fireboat Edward M Cotter. Let me share the blurb with you:

"Three years before Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, Buffalo's fireboat, currently named the Edward M Cotter, began her 100plus years of service to the City of Buffalo and its fire department.

"Built and commissioned during an era when Buffalo's waterfront and port were booming, the Cotter has been an invaluable asset of fire protection for the numerous warehouses, grain elevators and other facilities that line Buffalo's shores.

"On October 7, 1960, an unprecedented event occurred in American history. On that night, at the age of 60, the Edward M Cotter's extraordinary firefighting abilities were called upon to help Buffalo's fellow firefighters in another country.

"A blaze had erupted in the eight-story Maple Leaf Milling Company, a grain and milling complex in Port Colborne. Despite their efforts, with no fireboat protection of their own, the fire was soon out of control. The Port Colborne Fire Dept desperately needed help and the call went out requesting the Cotter.

"At approximately 8.30 p.m., with no radar of her own to help her navigate, the Cotter began her dangerous trek across the often treacherous waters of Lake Erie, escorted by a Coast Guard cutter. Two hours after receiving the call, the Cotter arrived. With all her guns brought to bear, she fought for more than four hours until the blaze was finally extinguished. On that day, the Edward M Cotter became the first fireboat in the United States to cross the international line to fight a fire."

I remember that night, and I remember seeing the Cotter silhouetted against the deadly glow of the fire - and the arcs of water from the water cannons.

My mum was out playing cards and my Uncle Bud roared into our driveway with his 5 kids packed into his station wagon. He loaded us two and my dad in, and away we sped to see the fire from the west shore of Gravelly Bay. It was amazing. Mum and her card buddies had also downed cards and were somewhere along the same stretch. A rumour went 'round that someone was trapped and dying inside (I don't know if this was true) so we all went home and hoped for the best.

A school friend told us a couple of days later that HIS dad who worked at the mill phoned home and told them to get in the basement and stay there until he told them it was 'all clear'. Apparently, if the fire had reached the flour silos, there was some sort of gas that could have exploded and smashed every pane of glass in the town. And there we were standing on the shore watching ... Duh.

I don't know if it was true at the time but, when my Great Uncle was Second Miller there, it was the biggest flour mill in the British Empire.

Anyway, I'm just mentioning this as I thought, when reading the blurb, how sad that we don't write ballads so much anymore. This story would make a crackin' good one, wouldn't it?

sian, west wales
but currently living back in Port Colborne, Ont.


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Subject: RE: Fireboat Edward M Cotter
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 03 Aug 12 - 05:12 PM

Great story, Sian. Being that this occurred some 60+ years ago, perhaps someone local to the event did write something. I wonder if Port Colborne newspapers of that time are searchable online.

I have toured the Cotter at an event here in Buffalo several years ago. It's a real icon of the Buffalo waterfront.


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Subject: RE: Fireboat Edward M Cotter
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Aug 12 - 05:24 PM

Thank you for sharing that gripping tale, Sian.

I'm from the Midwest, and I know that the Great Lakes are dangerous, and a fireboat was surely in greater danger than most boats, because it was never intended to brave the rough waves of the open lakes.

Yes, it's true there could have been an explosion. But there's no 'gas' involved. What explodes is the flour itself - a finely divided, combustible, organic powder.

There was a terrible explosion not too long ago in Atchison, Kansas which killed six men.


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Subject: RE: Fireboat Edward M Cotter
From: sian, west wales
Date: 03 Aug 12 - 06:57 PM

Oi, Ruch! Don't make me (and the story) older than I (it) have (has) to be! That would be about ... 52 years ago. I'll have a poke around the local museum for any press coverage. Have you been to our mini heritage village? Petit and bijou. And does a fine cup of tea with scones and jam.

Leeneia, thanks for the science lesson. I am a self confessed duffer in these things. I just remember that something involving the silos could have gone kaboom.

I thought the bit about 'treacherous waters' was pushing it just a tad as I assumed it kept fairly close to shore. I know we have a few dangerous currents, but not like Lake Huron or Superior. Still, it was a big trip for a li'l boat so ... more power to its elbow.

I hope I can get on board but, even if it's just a view from the pier, it will be very interesting!

s.


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Subject: RE: Fireboat Edward M Cotter
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Aug 12 - 10:29 AM

Just a minute while I get out the atlas...

I see, I see. The Cotter would have gone west, parallel to the shore of Ontario from Buffalo to Port Colborne. Depending on the waves, rocks and water depts, that could have been a dicey proposition. I'm not surprised that the Coast Guard decided to go along.

I see there is a Rock Point Provincial Park just west of Port Colborne. A sailor wouldn't like the sound of that. Where there's one rocky point, there could be others below the waves.

I know from reading history that compared to the ocean, the Great Lakes are treacherous.

I hope some good bands show up in time.


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Subject: RE: Fireboat Edward M Cotter
From: GUEST,999
Date: 04 Aug 12 - 10:37 AM

"Three years before Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, Buffalo's fireboat, currently named the Edward M. Cotter, began her 100-plus years of service to the City of Buffalo and it's fire department.

Built and commissioned during an era when Buffalo's waterfront and port were booming, the Cotter has been an invaluable asset of fire protection for the numerous warehouses, grain elevators and other facilities that line Buffalo's shores. Many of these structures pose unique challenges for firefighters and would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach using conventional land equipment. With her pumping capacity equal to that of 11 firetrucks, her importance is immeasurable.

In addition to her extraordinary firefighting capabilities, the Cotter serves another critical role as the city's sole ice-breaking resource. By breaking up ice jams in the Buffalo River, the water and ice in its upstream tributaries can flow freely, helping to prevent flooding - not only in Buffalo, but in neighboring communities as well.

In 1996, the Edward M. Cotter was designated a National Historic Landmark.

As the world's oldest working fireboat, she has borne three names, survived a devastating explosion and, as she proudly begins her second century of service, stands ready to protect our vessels and shorelines for many more years to come."


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