The volunteer marine responder team will soon have a purpose-built fire boat. Photo: Marine Emergency Team 21

All-Volunteer Marine Response Team to Get New Fireboat

Marine Emergency Team 21 (MET21) is a homegrown community of volunteer emergency responders on the waters of the upper Bay. The Bowleys Quarters-based team responds to everything from marina fires and boat collisions to flood rescues.

That’s why it was especially concerning when the team’s fire boat “abruptly and unexpectedly reached the end of its useful life.” Marine Unit 219 is the team’s largest, specialized fire/rescue boat that serves the upper Chesapeake, tributaries, and in and around Baltimore year-round. The boat, a 1997 Grady-White recreational boat converted to a fire rescue vessel, has been out of service since June after two major engine failures.

The team wasn’t expecting to replace the Grady-White so soon, and the timing wasn’t so good. it was scheduled for replacement in fiscal year 2024, and a four-year fundraising effort was launched in August 2019.

“We are in unprecedented times, experiencing major financial cutbacks, and then this happens, four years early,” says MET21 Chief Shannon Stallings. “It takes years to raise this kind of money.”

Thankfully, the volunteers were able to find a replacement vessel up north, for sale by the Patchogue Fire District in Long Island, New York, for less than the $700,000 a brand new fire boat would cost. The aluminum 2005 Thomas Marine Fire Boat was reconditioned in 2017, an involved process that leaves the boat “like new,” according to MET21.

If cared for properly, boats like this one can have a life expectancy of 30 to 50 years. This one was kept out of the water on a lift.

“With the replacement vessel, MET21 will be able to expand upon our current capability in order to improve response time, and increase safety of both our emergency responders, and the citizens we are trying to assist,” Stallings says.

With the funds raised so far, MET21 still needs to raise $41,500 for the fire boat, which they hope to cover with local grants and partnerships.

The Marine Emergency Team says the new boat will allow its volunteer EMTs to give lifesaving care during transport to medical centers on land. Nicknamed, “Protectors of the Chesapeake,” MET21 describe themselves as an ambulance on the water.

If you want to support Marine Emergency Team 21’s efforts, visit them online.

-Meg Walburn Viviano