A Bit of Arthritis Aside, an Old Fireboat is Fitted for the Future

To some it may seem that New York City never changes, that its institutions evolve at their own ponderous speed while those of smaller and perhaps younger cities move nimbly into the future, or at least the present. Those who believe this, rightly or wrongly, would be reassured by the story of a thick-hulled fireboat and its sometimes bumpy efforts to chug into the 21st century in the waters around Manhattan. The boat, the 134-foot Fire Fighter, was launched in 1938 and is still very much in service. To board it is to experience life when the television and the air conditioner were making their debuts at the World's Fair, and when the New York Fire Department was ushering in two-way radios and ushering out volunteer firefighters. It was a time when fireboat crews navigated entirely by charts -- as the crew of the Fire Fighter did until last month.

By IAN URBINA

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