Sophie Masloff (fireboat)

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In December 16, 2016, Pittsburgh officials announced that half a million dollars had been budgeted to a acquire a fireboat that was eventually named the Sophie Masloff.[1][2] The new vessel was built by Lake Assault Boats, a Wisconsin firm with experience building fireboats.[3] She was named in honor of Pittsburgh's first female mayor.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the vessel will be equipped with "sonar, forward-looking infrared cameras, and a state-of-the-art electronic suite". She will be 30 feet (9.1 m) long and able to pump a modest 3,000 gallons per minute.[3]

Two recent fires, a boat fire in 2015, and fire on a bridge undergoing maintenance, in 2016, convinced officials of the need for a fireboat.[2][4][5] In May of 2016 local media reported that the new vessel had been provisionally budgeted at $400,000.[6] In 1973 the city sold its previous fireboat, named after former mayor Cornelius D. Scully, to Tampa, Florida, for $50,000.[7][8]

The vessel would be staffed by the crew of one of the city's regular fire-trucks, not by its own full-time crew.[7]

On June 1, 2016, Brian O'Neill, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, characterized the purchase decision as "yet another case of an undersized city taking on metropolitan tasks with no help from the greater metro area," suggesting that, once built, the fireboat would routinely be called upon to deal with emergencies in neighboring municipalities that weren't sharing its costs.[9]

On January 11, 2017, Lake Assault Boats, of Superior, Wiscconsin, was awarded a contract to build the boat, for $542,750.[10] The firm beat out two competing bids.

The vessel was delivered in August, 2017.[2] Firefighters underwent training so there would be a pool of trained personnel so the vessel could go operational in September, 2017

In July 2018 Andy Sheehan of KDKA reported that Ralph Sicuro, the president of Pittsburgh Firefighters’ Union, was voicing concern that the policy of sending the crew of a fireboat to man the Sophie Masloff meant it could never respond quickly to an emergency call.[11] One hundred firefighters had been trained to crew the fireboat. The nearest fire station is a mile and half from where the fireboat is moored, so it will always take at least 10 minutes for the boat to get underway.

Sheehan also reported the vessel's maintenance costs had been higher than anticipated.[11]

In 2019 Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh's Public Safety director, responsible for both the Fire Department and the River Rescue office, announced that the city would spend another half million dollars on a river rescue vessel, from Lake Assault, the manufacturer of the Sophie Masloff.[12] The new rescue vessel will replace two smaller, aging vessels. The Sophie Masloff had been accompanying the aging rescue vessels.


  1. "Fire boat will soon be cruising Pittsburgh's rivers". Pittsburgh: WPXI. 2016-12-16. Archived from the original on 2020-11-08. Retrieved 2016-12-17. "The boat, which will be built by Wisconsin-based Lake Assault Boats, will have the capacity to pump 3,000 of water per minute and supply water from the rivers to on-shore fire-fighting operations. It will also be equipped with sonar and forward looking infrared cameras, according to the release." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bob Bauder (2017-08-03). "Pittsburgh's new fire boat is powerful enough to spray a bridge fire". Tribune Live. Retrieved 2017-08-03. "A fire on the Liberty Bridge in September cinched the city's decision to purchase the $540,000 fireboat from Wisconsin-based Lake Assault Boats. The fire sparked by a contractor's welding torch damaged the steel structure and nearly caused a collapse while firefighters were on the span." 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jonathan D. Silver (2016-12-16). "Pittsburgh accepts $542,750 bid from Wisconsin firm to build fireboat". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  4. "Pittsburgh's brand new fire boat". WTAE. 2016-12-18. Archived from the original on 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  5. Bob Allen (2015-11-07). "Boat Catches Fire On Ohio River, Prompts Discussion About Fire Boat Necessity". CBS News. Archived from the original on 2017-02-12. Retrieved 2016-12-18. "Meanwhile, firefighters tried to run hoses and spray water from a ladder truck, but the burning craft was too far out in the water." 
  6. "Pittsburgh considering purchase of fire boat". WPXI. 2016-05-12. Archived from the original on 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2016-12-14. "Target 11 has learned that the city’s equipment leasing authority has allocated $400,000 to buy a fire boat." 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Lexi Belculfine (2016-05-12). "City wants to buy fireboat for riverfront safety". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-18. "The city gave up an inactive fireboat in 1973, budget director and voting member Bill Urbanic noted during the meeting." 
  8. Bob Bauder (2016-05-13). "City of Pittsburgh eyes fireboat costing $400K". Tribune Live. Retrieved 2016-12-14. "Pittsburgh retired its last fireboat — christened the C.D. Scully in honor of former Mayor Cornelius D. Scully — and sold it in 1973 to Tampa for $50,000." 
  9. Brian O'Neill (2016-06-01). "That $400,000 city fireboat serves a fluid population". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-14. "Emergency response is the city’s, not the county’s responsibility. That’s true for any municipality, but this boat will be able to cover more than 24 river miles without encountering any locks and dams. From the Point, it can go 6.7 miles up the Allegheny to Aspinwall, 11.3 miles up the Mon to Braddock and 6.2 miles down the Ohio to Emsworth." 
  10. Jonathon D. Silver (2016-01-11). "Pittsburgh accepts $542,750 bid from Superior, Wis., firm to build fireboat". Superior Telegram. Archived from the original on 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2017-01-15. "The proposed 30-foot boat, meant to fight fires along Pittsburgh's three rivers, would be decked out with sonar, "forward-looking infrared cameras" and a state-of-the-art electronic suite. It would be able to pump 3,000 gallons of water per minute and supply water to on-shore operations." 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Andy Sheehan (2018-07-23). "KDKA Investigates: Concerns Growing About Pittsburgh Fireboat’s Maintenance Costs, Usage". KDKA (Pittsburgh). Archived from the original on 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2021-07-03. "The city’s trained more than 100 firefighters on how to operate the boat, but a policy on how they will be deployed is a problem. Right now, firefighters would be called from the closest fire station on 18th Street on the South Side, which is about a mile and half away." 
  12. Bob Bauder (2019-02-27). "Pittsburgh poised to spend nearly $1M on water safety training, new rescue boat". Tribune Live. Archived from the original on 2021-07-04. Retrieved 2021-07-03. "Pittsburgh in 2017 bought its first fire boat since 1973 and christened it the Sophie Masloff after a former mayor. The same company that built the Masloff — Lake Assault Boats of Superior, Wis. — is building the River Rescue craft."