A fireboat is a specialized watercraft with pumps and nozzles designed for fighting shoreline and shipboard fires. The first fireboats, dating to the late 18th century, were tugboats, retrofitted with firefighting equipment. Older designs derived from tugboats and modern fireboats more closely resembling seafaring ships can both be found in service today. Some departments would give their multi-purpose craft the title of "fireboat" also.
They are frequently used for fighting fires on docks and shore side warehouses as they can directly attack fires in the supporting underpinnings of these structures. They also have an effectively unlimited supply of water available, pumping directly from below the hull. Fireboats can be used to assist shore-based firefighters when other water is in low supply or is unavailable, for example, due to earthquake breakage of water mains, as happened in San Francisco due to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Some modern fireboats are capable of pumping tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute. An example is Fire Boat #2 of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Warner Lawrence, with the capability to pump up to 38,000 US gallons per minute (2.4 m3/s; 32,000 imp gal/min) and up to 400 feet (122 m) in the air.
Fireboats are most usually seen by the public when welcoming a fleet or historical ships with a display of their water moving capabilities, throwing large arcs of water in every direction.
Occasionally fireboats are used to carry firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, and a physician with their equipment to islands and other boats. Some may be used as icebreakers, like the Chicago Fire Department's Victor L. Schlaeger which can break 8 to 12 inch ice. They may also carry divers or surface water rescue workers. Passengers from ships in danger can be also transferred to various kind of rescue boats. Rescue boats may be used also for oil and chemical destruction on rivers, lakes and seas.For example, the Helsinki Rescue Department in Helsinki, Finland has various kinds of boats for various kind of firefighting, rescue, and oil destruction tasks.
Cities with fireboats are usually located on a large body of water with port facilities. Smaller fire departments lacking resources will use rigid-hulled inflatable boat or borrow boats from local rescue agencies (EMS, coast guard, military).
The first recorded fire-float was built in 1765 for the Sun Fire Insurance Company in London. This was a manual pump in a small boat, rowed by its crew to the scene of the fire. A similar craft was built in Bristol by James Hillhouse for the Imperial Fire Insurance Office in the 1780s. All fire fighting in Bristol was carried out either by private insurance companies or the Docks Company until the formation of the Bristol Fire Brigade as a branch of the police in 1876. In New York City, a small boat with a hand-pump was used to fight marine fires as early as 1809. By the middle of the nineteenth century, self-propelled steam-fire-floats were beginning to be introduced. The FDNY leased the salvage tug John Fuller as the city's first powered fireboat in 1866. Prior to the "John Fuller", as early as the late 1700s, the FDNY used hand-pumpers mounted to barges and large rowboats. The first purpose built steam driven boats were introduced by Boston Fire Department (William F. Flanders) and FDNY (William F. Havenmeyer) in 1873 and 1875 respectively. The first European fireboat to appear in Bristol was the Fire Queen, built by Shand Mason & Co., London, in 1884 for service in the city docks. The 53 ft. (16.61 m.) long craft was equipped with a three-cylinder steam pump supplying two large hose reels; one of these was replaced with a monitor, or water cannon, in 1900. Fire Queen served until 1922.
List of famous fireboats
- Abram S. Hewitt – FDNY (New York City) (1903–1958) (retired and abandon at Witte Marine Scrapyard in Rossville, Staten Island).
- Deluge – Fireboat/Tug (New Orleans) (retired)
- Duwamish – (Seattle) 1909 (retired)
- Edward M. Cotter – Fireboat/Icebreaker (Buffalo, New York) (active) The oldest active fireboat.
- Tacoma Fireboat #1 – (Tacoma, Washington) (retired)
- Fire Fighter – (NYC) 1938
- Fire Fighter II – FDNY (New York City) (2010) the United States' largest fireboat (Active)
- Governor Irwin – Fireboat/Tug (San Francisco) (1878–1909) Fireboat participated in 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. (retired and scrapped)
- Governor Markham – Fireboat/Tug (San Francisco) Fireboat participated in 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. (retired and scrapped)
- Hoga – US Navy – Fireboat/Tug (Pearl Harbor attack) and City of Oakland 1940–1996 (retired)
- John Fuller – steam salvage tug (NYC) – 1866 boat had 2000GPM pump and hose. Considered first modern fireboat. 
- John J. Harvey – (New York City) (1931–1959) (Temporary reinstatement 9/11/2001) (retired)(Museum ship)
- Massey Shaw – (London, England) (retired)
- Phoenix – (San Francisco) (active)
- Pyronaut – moored at Bristol Harbour Railway and Industrial Museum (Bristol, England) (retired)
- Ralph J. Scott – (Los Angeles) (retired)
- Sir Alexander Grantham – (Hong Kong) (retired)
- St. Mungo (fireboat) – Glasgow/Strathclyde (retired)
- Three Forty Three – FDNY (New York City) (2009) Country’s largest fireboat, twin to Fire Fighter II. (Active)
- Warner Lawrence – Los Angeles (active)
- William F. Flanders – (Boston) 1873
- William F. Havenmeyer – (NYC) 1875–1901 (retired)
- William Lyon Mackenzie – (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) (active)
- William O. Bird II – Sandusky Fire Department (Sandusky, Ohio) (active)
- USS Active / USS Lively – US Navy – Fireboat/Tug (1888–1945) Fireboat participated in 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. (retired and scrapped)
- USS Fortune – US Army / US Navy – Fireboat/Tug (1865–1922) Fireboat participated in 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. (retired and scrapped)
- USS Leslie – US Army / US Navy – Fireboat/Tug (1861) Fireboat participated in 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. (retired and scrapped)
Departments with fireboats
- Baltimore City Fire Department – 4
- Boston Fire Department – 2
- Bowers Fire Company (DE) – 1
- Buffalo Fire Department – 1
- Charlotte Fire Department – 1
- Chicago Fire Department – 2
- Cincinnati Fire Department – 3
- Cleveland Fire Department – 1
- Detroit Fire Department – 1
- District of Columbia Fire Department – 3
- Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department – 2, 1 frontline, 1 reserve
- General Fire Brigade of Guangdong – 1
- Georgina Fire and Resuce – 1 (uses a York Regional Police patrol boat equipped with water nozzle)
- Hendersonville, TN Fire Department – 1
- Hong Kong Fire Services/Hong Kong International Airport – 8 and 4 support vessels (command, 2 diving units, speedboat)
- Honolulu Fire Department – 1
- Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department – 3
- Jersey City Fire Department – 1
- London Fire Brigade – 2
- Los Angeles Fire Department – 5
- Macau International Airport Fire Services – 1
- Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department – 1
- Massachusetts Port Authority – 2, with third being delivered September 2011.* Nashville Fire Department – 1
- Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department-2 (Fireboats back in Service)
- Nagasaki Fire Department – 1
- Newark Fire Department (NJ) – 1
- New York City Fire Department#Fireboats – 3; 1 reserve
- Newport News (VA) Fire Department
- Philadelphia Fire Dept – 3
- Portland (ME) Fire Department – 1
- Portland (OR) Fire & Rescue – 2
- Port of Houston Authority Marine Fire Department – 3
- Prince George's County Volunteer Fire Department – 2
- San Francisco Fire Department – 2
- Sandusky Fire Department – 1
- Scappoose Fire District – 1
- Seattle Fire Department – 3; 1 reserve
- Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Management Department – 1 on order
- Singapore Changi Airport Airport Emergency Services Sea – 2 hovercrafts used for marine rescue and firefighting
- St. Louis Fire Department - 4
- South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service – 1
- Tacoma (WA) Fire Department – 2; 1 reserve
- Toronto Fire Services – 3; 2nd boat is a light utility boat and third built fitted to replace current utility boat. See Fireboats of Toronto.
- Tokyo Fire Department – 9
- Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services – 5
- Virginia Beach Fire Department – 1
- Westville Fire Department, NJ-1
- São Paulo Fire Department – 2
- Yonkers Fire Department – 1
Government and military with fireboats
- Japan Coast Guard – 9; 230 patrol boats with water cannons or firefighting support systems
- United States Coast Guard
- Fire class fireboat of the Royal Canadian Navy's auxiliary fleet (2):
- James Delgado (1988). "Duwamish Fireboat: National Historic Landmark Study". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2009-12-29.
- "The Schlaeger". Chicago Fire Department. 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-12-13.
- "Pelastuslaitos". Helsingin kaupunki.
- "Boatyard Ruins – Photographs by Shaun O'Boyle". Oboylephoto.com. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "San Francisco Fire Department Museum ~ Fireboats ~ Governor Irwin". Guardiansofthecity.org. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "San Francisco Fire Department 1906 Earthquake and Fire Operations". Sfmuseum.org. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "Navy Firefighting Operations". Sfmuseum.org. 1906-04-30. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "USFS Chicago 1906 Fire Operations". Sfmuseum.org. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "Massport Boston Boat". Capecodfd.com. 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- CA. "Meteghan company building fireboat – Fisheries – The Vanguard". Thevanguard.ca. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "5.3 Million Dollar Massport Airport Fireboat Ready to Launch – CNN iReport". Ireport.cnn.com. 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "A.F.Theriault". A.F.Theriault. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- CA. "Shipyard builds fireboat for Portland – Manufacturing". Nova News Now. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- "Firefighters to get uncapsizable boat" (in Korean). Koreaherald.com. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fireboat.|
- "Smoke Eaters On Water", May 1931, Popular Science detailed article about New York city fireboats of that era
- "Diesel Fire Boat Shoots Seventeen Streams" Popular Mechanics, August 1937—i.e. article on Chicago Fire Department fire boat Fred A. Busse (fireboat)
- Painting of the fireboat “The New Yorker,” 1893, in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collections Database
- type=Manufacturer “New type of fireboats”