Saturday 6 October 2012


An always welcomed participant at Canal Days in Port Colborne and a ship that has truly earned the right to be there, is Buffalo, New York Fire Department's famous fireboat, the 118' EDWARD M. COTTER. If there ever was a boat that should be featured on the History Channel's "Hero Ships", it's the built in 1900 EDWARD M. COTTER and let me tell you why. I was 8 years old on the evening of October 6, 1960 and had just returned home from polishing a mess of Macintosh apples (the fruit, that is) in preparation of the next day's cub scouts' "Apple Day". In Port Colborne then, when a fire occurred, a loud siren would blow from the tall International Nickel Company's smoke stack to summon the volunteer fire fighters. I still recall the shreaking fire whistle that blew several times that night followed by ongoing sirens because as it turned out, the Maple Leaf flour mill located at the south entrance to the Welland Canal had exploded and was on fire.
At the time, the Maple Leaf Mill was the largest flour mill in the British Empire producing over one million tonnes of flour daily but like I said, I was only 8 years old and big fire or not, I had to go to bed. As I slept though, the mill continued to burn and apparently the glow from the raging flames could be seen for miles. Despite every effort by Port Colborne's volunteer firefighters and those from nearby communities responding to the request for aid, even more help was desperately needed. Hence an historic and unprecedented event occurred when the call from the Port Colborne's Fire Department went out requesting that the Buffalo Fire Department send it's fireboat, EDWARD M. COTTER. At approximately 8:30 pm, with no radar of her own to help her navigate, EDWARD M. COTTER began her dangerous trek across the often treacherous waters of Lake Erie, escorted by a United States Coast Guard cutter. Apparently two hours after receiving the call, the COTTER arrived and with all her water cannons brought to bear, she fought the fully engulfed eight storey inferno for more than four hours until the blaze was finally extinguished. The estimated eight million dollar fire and explosion destroyed everything except the adjoining grain elevator and warehouse. One person perished and eight were seriously injured, but one can only imagine what may have happened had the COTTER and her brave American firefighting crew on board, hadn't arrived when she did? On that day, the EDWARD M. COTTER became the first fireboat in United States history to cross the international line to fight a fire. 
Like I said, she is truly a 'Hero Ship' and a good friend to anyone who lives or has lived in Port Colborne, Ontario. It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and I want to thank all my family and friends from all over, who have come to my aid in the past and especially this year. Your being there is always greatly appreciated. Meanwhile, take care and SALUTE!! 


  1. Nice! She is currently the oldest operational fireboat in the world.

    1. Good to know. Thanks Brian and have a great weekend.