The fire boat that sunk in a training exercise is refloated off Gibson Island. Photo: Anne Arundel County Fire Dept.

Sunken Fire Boat Refloated off Gibson Island

The Anne Arundel County fire boat that that sank amid gale warnings last Monday has successfully been recovered from 22 feet down in the Bay, though we still don’t know exactly what caused it to go down.

Four Anne Arundel County Fire crew members were conducting training exercises in very windy conditions on the water March 28. Fire department Boat # 41, based in Shady Side, Md., began taking on water and all four crew on board had to be rescued. Thankfully they were all wearing life jackets and exposure suits, the department told Bay Bulletin, and the four were all safe and back on duty the same evening.

On Saturday morning, salvage crews found a brief weather window to attempt to refloat the fire boat. A crew of six on two TowBoatUS Annapolis-Baltimore vessels responded to the spot near Craighill Channel—within sight of the stranded container ship Ever Forward—where the fire boat sank.

TowBoatUS owner Christine Plummer tells Bay Bulletin they timed the salvage for Saturday morning’s low winds and slack tide. As they found it, the fire boat was stern down, stuck in the muddy bottom in about 22 feet of water, Plummer says.

“Divers rigged the vessel with airbags to bring the vessel to the surface. Once refloated, additional airbags were added to support the vessel,” Plummer explains. But salvage crews knew higher winds were on the way on Saturday, so they towed the fire boat to more protected waters to complete the operation.

Once there, crews pumped the vessel dry. It was to be towed and hauled Monday at Matapeake State Park on Kent Island.

After the fire boat was recovered, the fire department thanked all the emergency responders involved in saving their crew and the boat and said, “A thorough investigation will be conducted into the cause of the sinking.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano