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Guardian Comes to San Francisco

Guardian Comes to San Francisco

The Guardian was a gift to the people of San Francisco from two anonymous and very generous donors from the Marina district who gave $300,000 towards the purchase of the vessel shortly after the earthquake of October 17, 1989. It was their way of saying "thank you" for a job well done by the Phoenix, which pumped water from the St. Francis Yacht Harbor into the S.F.F.D.'s Portable Water System to the conflagration at Beach and Divisadero Streets. Without the water supplied by the Phoenix, many more Marina residents would have lost their homes. Guardian, a fine boat with exceptional firefighting capacity, and had previously served as a fireboat for the city of Vancouver, B.C. She had been declared surplus and was in the hands of a salvage dealer waiting to be dismantled and sold for scrap. Time was running out, but fortunately through the interest and perseverance of Fire Commissioner Sharon Bretz, the way was quickly cleared for her purchase. But then we had to get the boat to San Francisco. . .

Three pilots from the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association volunteered to crew the boat on its 1,200 mile journey. Because of his almost legendary ability to fix equipment under the most adverse conditions, Phoenix Engineer Nate Hardy was assigned to get the boat ready and keep it running. A $50,000 donation from Shinnyo-En, a Buddhist organization in the Marina, helped defray travel costs, including fuel and oil, outfitting and supplies, and the repairs to make Guardian seaworthy for the long ocean voyage.

The trip to San Francisco was not a pleasure cruise: there were no bunks, no galley, no gourmet food and no comfortable furnishings. Hardy had bought a microwave, a small fridge, lots of microwavable food, some fresh fruit, stacks of sodas and piles of paper plates and plastic knives and forks. The crew each had a foam pad to sleep on and little else. Furthermore, a heavy storm was heading toward the coast as the crew set out. They decided it was best to hold back a bit to see how the storm developed. Their first stop in American waters was in Blaine, Washington - just over the border - where they fueled up to capacity and avoided Canadian taxes. From Blaine their route took them through the beautiful San Juan Islands. On the third day they reached the pilot station at Port Angeles and stopped to talk to the pilot on duty. It was blowing hard, but from satellite photos it looked like the storm was clearing in the area of central Oregon. The crew was eager to get back to San Francisco and decided to proceed on and take a look at the storm first hand. They continued west through the Strait of Juan De Fuca toward the Pacific Ocean. Very quickly they got far enough into the storm that they couldn't turn back. Seas of 24 feet slowed their progress, but the fireboat rode them well. It took the crew a while, though, to get their sea legs. As soon as they cleared the northern tip of Washington and were out in the ocean, they pointed the boat south and hung on. Hardy monitored the gauges constantly. He had to be ready for anything.

The boat's water supply quickly turned to mud, and they had not brought much bottled water. Coffee was out of the question, and the sodas soon lost their appeal. While the storm did clear as expected, some electrical problems sent sparks flying and necessitated shutting down one engine until a belt could be replaced. Then hydraulic fluid started coming out of the steering system, and it had to be shut down. As the pilot steered the boat using the engines only, Hardy was able to repair a broken flange. At another point Guardian lost one of her two generators. Fortunately, the fuel system performed flawlessly. Fireboat Phoenix water display

Next stop was Eureka where the crew checked the fuel level, bought bottled water, and walked on dry ground. Citizens were startled to see a fireboat from Vancouver in their harbor. The crew sprayed a little water before they left, partly to amuse the locals and partly to make sure the pumps and monitors were in order before they entered the Bay to meet Phoenix. Then they set out on their final run for home. Following seas pushed the boat along at about 15 knots, and they surfed down the waves to San Francisco. One of the most exciting and emotional moments was seeing the Phoenix coming out to meet them with a beautiful water display. Guardian answered in kind. The crew was happy and relieved to be home, and the City gave them a hero's welcome.

At the time of her arrival, Guardian was known only as "Fireboat #2", her Vancouver name. At the request of the donors, her new name was chosen by the grade school children of San Francisco. Christopher Smith, age 6, of St. Cecilia's school submitted the winning name. Unknown to the judges, Christopher's father was a SF firefighter.

Year Built:  1951

Builder:  Yarrows, Ldt, Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Description:  Built as a fireboat for the Vancouver Fire Department with two deck turrets, one pilot house turret, and one forward deck turret, two on-deck house reels with 1000 feet of 3 inch hose each, a carbon dioxide system with fourteen 75 lb. CO2 cylinders.


Length: 88 feet
Beam: 21.6 feet
Draft: 7 feet
Displacement: 188 tons

Propulsion: twin screw

Service History:
1951    Vancouver Fire Department, Fireboat 2
1990    Placed our of service and sold for scrap
1990    Purchased from the scrap yard and donated to the San Francisco Fire Department
1990 to present  Fireboat Company No. 2, presently in an unmanned reserve status, Embarcadero at the foot of Harrison Street, Pier 22 ½, also the quarters of Fireboat Co. No. 1

Recall Crew as ordered by the Chief of Department: 1 fireboat officer, 1 fireboat pilot, 1 fireboat engineer, 1 company officer, and firefighters 

1951    Two Kermath 12 cylinder gasoline, 525 HP each for propulsion
              Three Kermath 12 cylinder gasoline, 525 HP each for pumping

  1. Rebuilt with two GM Detroit Diesel 12 cylinder engines, 456 BHP @ 2100 RPM each, for propulsion or pump and three GM Detroit Diesel 12 cylinder engines, 456 BHP each, for pump mode only.

Five single stage centrifugal (capacity only), each rated at 3,672 Imperial gallon/minute (18,360 imp gallon/minute total)

6,500 gallons
Aft tanks: 6500 gallons #2 diesel
Day tank: 250 gallons

1000 feet of 3 inch hose on 2 reels on main deck
700 feet of 1 ½ inch hose in forward hold

Forward of pilot house, 9000 GPM
Aft., port & starboard,  9000 GPM
Tip sizes: 3 inch, 4 inch, 4 ½ inch and 5 ½ inch
Tower (top of pilot house), 2000 GPM
Tip sizes: 1 ½ inch, 2 inch and 2 ½ inch

Underwharf Nozzles: none

Maneuvering jets: currently not in operation condition

Foam system:
1 - 2 ½ inch eductor
1 - 1 ½ inch eductor
10 - 5 gallon pails of AFFF 3-6% ATC, in forward hold #4
55 - gallon drums of Navy AFFF 6%, on main deck

CO2 system:
14 - 75# cylinders on main deck controlled from pilot house and engine room (all compartments covered)
1 -150 foot reel line on main deck

Dry chemical extinguisher:
1 - 300 lb. ABC extinguisher with 75 lb. nitrogen tank and 10 feet of 3/4" hose

Hydraulic system:
Ships steering: jog lever 3 station control

Air Compressor:
2 - Quincey 340 rated at 150 PSI

Compressed Air:
Ship's whistle
Gear box and throttle control

Crane: not operating

SFFD:  1 - Motorola 12 channel UHF (only 5 used)
1 - Motorola 32 channel VHF (only 3 used) OES mutual aid
Marine: 2 - Raytheon 'Ray 901 VHF marine radio­telephones
P.A./Hailer: 1 - Raytheon 'Ray 410

Depth Sounders:
1 - Furono model FCV661 color display
1 - Apelco model XCD 241

Furuno Model 805 D with 48 mile capability

Pilot House:
Pilot's console - throttle and gear box controls
Steering controls
Radar scope and controls
Engine room telegraph system
Earmark duplex communication system between pilot house and engineer
Communications equipment
All radios

Engineer's Console:
Engine room only, not operating

1-12 foot skiff with 9 HP outboard motor
8 - SCBA (Scott 30 minute PD)
1 - Resuscitator and medical supplies
Forcible entry tools and other misc. firefighting tools
Oxy/acetylene cutting outfit (portable unit)

Flood lights:
11 - 500 watt flood lights (mounted on boat)

Search lights:
2 - Perko 8" 500 watt, mounted on pilot house

Portable lighting:
4 - 200 watt portable lights
2 -100 foot extension cords
1 -1500 watt portable generator

1 - Submersible electric pump with 1 ½ inch discharge

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