Here’s a post I did on McClintic and another I did on Cotter.

Today’s post comes out of a response I received yesterday from retired FDNY dispatcher and historian, Al Trojanowicz, who wrote, “The full photo is fire aboard SAUGUS, American Export Lines (1919) with fireboat WILLIAM F GAYNOR (1914) alongside, and a mystery vessel off to left.  Appears to be similar configuration to the quarantine tug, and original print shows and what looks like a government pennant displayed with a circular or ships-wheel design.  The information below is all I have found on this fire, and was the caption pasted to the back of the print.  Those ladders seen on forward well deck may be accessing the hold – or from another vessel rafted on the port side.”

The caption pasted on the back reads:  “10/2/1926 Fire in freighter Saugus. Photo caption READS  “FIREBOATS STAGE SPECTACULAR BATTLE AND SAVE FREIGHTER!”    Fireboats fought a brilliant battle, October 2nd, and saved the freighter Saugus from burning to the water’s edge in the East River, New York. The cause of the fire is unknown, but the rolls of thick black smoke issuing from the hold, attracted passing craft, and fire patrols. This photo shows the ship which was loaded mostly with cotton, removed frantically by the hands, off New York City.”  (10-2-26) [Photo shows fireboat William J. Gaynor alongside Saugus. An unknown launch is rafted outboard of Gaynor, and an unknown vessel to the left.]  

The caption says . . . East River, but the background to me looks like Staten Island seen from mid-Upper Bay.

0at1SAUGUS fire c1923

So here’s a closer up of that unknown vessel.  Is it flying the USPHS flag?

I’d speculate that this is a US PHS cutter.  I’ve been unable to find a listing of these–like McClintic–based in New York.  Also, although today’s FDNY boats have medical response equipment on board and FDNY personnel receive first responder training, back in 1926 they probably did not.  And this raises another whole set of questions like, what was training like in the 1926 FDNY, what medical equipment if any was there on board FDNY vessels, and would USPHS vessels have a role in assisting during fires on the water and along the shores and docks?  It ask strikes me that–given the amount of smoke emanating from the stacks of these steamers made a fire on the water look very different from one today, where all the smoke you see is from the emergency, not the routine use of fuel.   Finally, I’m guessing this fire was not catastrophic consequence given that no story appears in the NYTimes archives and SS Saugus continued in service until 1946, when it as scrapped.

0at2Saugus tug Oct 2 1926

Al also sent along this photo of the Buffalo fireboat Cotter (1900), still in service.  Here is a photo of it in 1924, probably in Buffalo.   At that date it was still known by its original name, William S. Grattan.  In 1928, while fighting a fire on the Buffalo River, it was heavily damaged and rebuilt.

0at3grattan 2 c 1924

Many thanks to Al Trojanowicz for these photos and questions.  Click here and scroll for more information from Al on FDNY Marine division.

Note:  This is day 13 of December, tugster’s classic/historic vessel month.  If you have photos/stories to share that fit the “classic” parameters, please get in touch.

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