After being launched last spring and having already served in several missions, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department's Fire Boat 420 is now officially the "Gunston Hall."
Christening ceremonies took place at Pohick Bay Regional Park June 22 when Gerald E. Connolly, chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Gerald "Gerry" Hyland, Mount Vernon district supervisor, smashed a bottle of champagne on her bow. "This greatly adds to the capabilities of our river safety," Connolly said.
"This boat has everything. It serves as a wonderful platform for our rescue and safety efforts. I'm very grateful for the support given by the Board of Supervisors and the citizens of Fairfax County," he said.
"This is an exciting day for all those that live in Fairfax County and particularly for those that live in this part of the county," Hyland said.
"I've been accused of trying to keep the 'Fairfax County Navy' afloat. But the other part of this is still on the table. That is a boathouse facility to properly house this equipment," he said.
The new fire boat is larger than its predecessor which is kept at the Gunston Hall Fire Station and transported to Pohick Bay boat ramp when needed. This boat is docked just beyond the boat ramp in a slip formed by a new floating dock and the permanent dock at the park.
COUNTY FIRE Chief Michael P. Neuhard recognized that fact during his remarks at the ceremony by thanking the Northern Virginia Park Authority "for providing a dock for our boat. Without all our private and public partners we never could have provided the service we do. These partnerships are essential."
In naming the boat "Gunston Hall," the department was honoring George Mason who served on the Fairfax County Committee on Public Safety during the Colonial era, according to Neuhard. Gunston Hall Plantation was George Mason's home. It is located adjacent to the south side of the park.
"This department remains committed to protecting our 175 miles of county shoreline. We are protecting the thousands of residents and visitors who visit this body of water everyday and the property along this shoreline," Neuhard said.
He also praised Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department's Captain James M. Chinn of the Gunston Station "for his efforts and leadership" in the acquisition of the new boat. He serves as head of B-Shift at Station 20, Gunston.
Serving as master of ceremonies for the event, which drew a contingent of firefighters, guests, and dignitaries, Chinn pointed out that "the christening of a boat is based on history. It is believed to make the boat safe." This was also inherent in the invocation given by the Rev. Tony Santore.
BOTH CONNOLLY and Hyland were made honorary crew members and presented with caps bearing the name Fire Boat 420 "Gunston Hall." They also received a framed color photo of the new fire boat blasting its five on-board water cannons.
Built by MetalCraft Marine, Inc., Kingston, Canada, Fire Boat 420 has a 36-foot aluminum custom-built hull, heated and air conditioned cabin, and state-of-the-art electronics including a forward looking infrared camera that can detect people in the water day or night.
It is powered by twin Cummins 430 horsepower turbo diesels that operate on a jet air principle rather than propellers. This enables the boat to maneuver next to an individual in the water without threat of harming them. It also increases the boat's overall maneuverability.
The five water cannons can disperse 1,750 gallons per minute while being remotely operated from within the cabin. It is capable of carrying three patients on backboards inside the cabin and one on the back deck. There are oxygen and full ALS capabilities on board.
Also participating in the christening ceremony were the department color guard and Technician Francis O. Mensah who sang the national anthem a cappella. Following the christening dignitaries, including former state Sen. Joseph Gartlan, were treated to a ride and demonstration of the water cannons capabilities.