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SFFD Fireboats:

Governor Irwin

Built: 1878
Company Organized: June 26, 1878
In Service: July 1, 1878

Governor Irwin

Description: A tugboat owned by the State of California and fitted with pumps, a turret, hose discharge outlets, and hose lockers



1878 May 21
In part
It is considered that the Harbor Commissioners' new fire boat Governor Irwin is equal to an addition of eight ! first-class fire engines to the Fire Department.
Source:Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 7, Number 9, 21 May 1878 SAN FRANCISCO ITEMS. [ARTICLE]

Length: 86 feet
Beam: 19 feet 6-inches
Draft: 10 feet 6-inches
Displacement: 80 tons
Diameter of propeller: 9 feet

Engines: Two coal-burning, non-condensing steam engines, with cylinder 18 inches in diameter and 18 inch stroke.

Pumps: Two Hooker piston pumps, with a capacity of sixty-five thousand (65,000) gallons of water per hour at fair working speed. Can supply 8 heavy streams.

Carries: Twelve hundred (1,200) feet of 2 1/2 inch Carbolized Hose

Crew: The Captain, First officer, Engineer and one Fireman are permanently employed. These, together with eight Extramen, who do duty only when alarmed, constitute the entire Company

Service History
1878 Fireboat Company No. 1, Broadway Street Wharf
1879 August 1st, placed out of service
1879 Ran as Engine Company No. 12
1880 May 1st, Fireboat Company No. 1 re-organized, Broadway Street Wharf
1880 May 1st, Hose Company No. 9 assigned to quarters to give a land supply of hose for the fireboat
1892 Assigned to new quarters at Embarcadero the foot of Mission Street
1909 The Fireboat Governor Irwin was de-commissioned and retired from service
1909 The Governor Irwin was sold for scrap.

1879 Alarms
Alarms Service Time
22 11 hours 20 minutes

1878 – Foreman Captain R. F. Pippy
1888 - Captain B. D. Van Pelt



1878 May 8
The Harbor Commissioners met yesterday in conference with the Fire Department, to commit in reference to the employment of the Governor Irwin as an accessory to the Fire Department, to protect the water front. There were present Mayor Bryant, Captains Burns, Blandlng and Lee of the Harbor Commissioners, David Scannell of the Fire Department, Fire Commissioners Sloss and Fields, Supervisor Farren, and Mr. Rainey. After a long discussion and general interchange of views, partialpated in by all present, It was decided that the use of the boat should be accepted by the Fire Department. In case of a fire, Chief Scannell should have absolute control over it and Its crew. A new company should be formed, to consist of twelve men, the present crew to have the option of being members. The Department will appoint an extra engineer and stoker ; and the Captain, they, and the crew, will receive extra remuneration for their services, not exceeding $45 a month each for the officers ; the State to pay for the fuel. The boat will be moored off Broadway Wharf and connected with the Fire Department by a gong, at which the watchman will be stationed. As at present, the facilities for obtaining fresh water are not as they should be, Chief Scannell, at the suggestion of the Mayor, promised to arrange for an improvement in this respect. A practical trial of the capabilities of the Governor Irwin will be made on Tues. day morning next, at an early hour, in order to enable Chief Scannell and his assistants to thoroughly learn the points of this latent addition to the efficiency of the Fire Department of San Francisco.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 30, Number 10254, 8 May 1878


1878 May 21
In part
It is considered that the Harbor Commissioners’ new fire boat – the Governor Irwin – is equal to an addition of eight first-class fire engines to the Fire Department.
Source: Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 7, Number 9, 21 May 1878 — SAN FRANCISCO ITEMS. [ARTICLE]



1880 April 1
The joint Committees of Finance and Fire Department of the Board of Supervisors met yesterday afternoon, Mr. Stetson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presiding, to consider, a communication received from the Board of Fire Commissioners, requesting authority to organize an additional fire company for service on the Harbor Commissioners' tug-boat, Governor Irwin, There were present, of the Finance Committee, beside the Chairman, Messrs. Taylor and Bayly ; and Fraser (Chairman), Torroy and Sohottler, of the Fire Department Committee ; G. E. Sloss, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners, and Chief Engineer Scannell.

Mr. Stetson said he understood that the Harbor Commissioners had offered the use of their tug for fire purposes, subject to certain rules to be agreed upon between them and the Fire Department.

Chief Scannell stated that in company with the Chairman of the Fire Committee, and the President of the Fire Department, he waited on the Harbor Commissioners recently, and that some arrangements looking to the use the tug as a fire-boat were discussed, but not completed. The Harbor Commissioners had expressed their willingness to make arrangements. The Chief stated that, since the 1st of August last—the tug having been withdrawn by the former Board of Harbor Commissioners—she had been of no service whatever at fires along the water front and among 1st the shipping. Under the former arrangement, sixty pounds of steam were kept up on the tug ; after the 1st of August, only thirty pounds. The present Board were disposed to


And all that was needed was the fire company necessary to man the boat, and the purchase of a thousand feet of hose to equip her. The Chief said the hose carried by the tug would burst at ninety pounds pressure, and was therefore useless for actual fire purposes. No hose was kept in the service of the Department that would not stand one hundred and twelve pounds. The Harbor Commissioners would not allow their tug to go out of the hands of their own engineer and crew, as was the case under the former arrangement ; but, with that exception, the boat would be placed at the service of the Fire Department. All that would be required on the part of the Fire Department would be a hose company for service on the boat. The company would occupy the house at the foot of Broadway, built expressly for that purpose, and go aboard the tug at night in case of a fire, or during the day the tug would drop her work in the bay (towing the scows) and proceed to a wharf in the vicinity of a fire. The Harbor Commissioners would maintain control of the boat, except that, in the event of a fire, she would be under the orders of the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department. All the expenses of the boat would be paid by the Harbor Commissioners. The only cost to the city would be the salary of the hose company, to be paid out of the General Fund, and the hose, to be purchased out of the Fire Department Fund. The necessary arrangements could be agreed upon between the Commissioners, the Chairman of the Fire Committee, and the officers of the Fire Department.

The committees then took the matter under advisement. It has been estimated that a first-class fire-boat would cost the city, for construction and equipment, about $76,000, and that the operating expenses and salaries would amount to about $2,000 per month.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 32, Number 10944, 1 April 1880 — A FIRE-BOAT. [ARTICLE]


1880 March 25
A Joint Committee of the Fire Underwriters, the Fire and Water Committee of the Board of Supervisors and the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department, consulted with the Board, yesterday, as to the necessity of a fire boat for the use of the Fire Department, and requested that the tug Gov. Irwin be replaced in the service of the Fire Department. The request of the Committee was acceded to, and at a future meeting the conditions of the agreement will be established.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 32, Number 10937, 25 March 1880 HARBOR COMMISSIONERS.


1888 September 10
As soon as it became evident that the fire General Alarm was steadily progressing towards the water, a prodigious excitement was noticeable among the shipping. Captains and officers who had been spending the day up town posted down to their ships in hot haste. Mooring chains were speedily hauled in, and on all the vessels from Mission No. 1 to the Oceanic dock stern and bow lines run out, in readiness to slip at a moment's notice. At 2:30 the fore top-gallant sail of the bark Detroit, lying at the south side of Howard No. 1, was observed to be on fire, and directly afterwards the foresail and forward house. A man was sent aloft, who cut the fore top-gallant sail away, while the other blazes were extinguished in their incipiency by a stream from the fireboat Governor Irwin. This steamer did splendid work. She moored alongside the bulkhead between Mission No. 2 and Howard No. 1 as soon as the second alarm was rung in. One stream was immediately led to the fire. Owing to the fact that no more hose was available, it was not until the fire caught Jason Springer's yard that two more streams were led from the Irwin. Captain B. D. Van Pelt of the fireboat thought that if the Irwin had had three streams on half an hour before, the lumber yards below Spear street might have been saved.

The big British ship Thalatta, lying at the south side of Mission 2, hauled out in the stream as well as the steamer Emily. The barkentine Quickstep then shifted from alongside the Melanope to the Thalatta's berth. The tug Sea Witch made fast to the fourmaster, Crown of India, and all the lines but the bow were cast off. She lay thus until nearly 3:30 o'clock, when seeing there was no danger the Captain made fast again. The new steamer Farallon and schooner W. S. Bowne hauled out to the end of Mission 1. About 3 o'clock several engines were ordered around to East street to check the fire which threatened to catch the wharves. By that time there were four streams from the Governor Irwin. A 3:15 No. 10 engine arrived at Mission 2 and began to pump from the bay. In another quarter of an hour engine No. 6 arrived at the bulkhead between Mission and Howard. Three engines took up positions on Mission 1, and two more on La Rue's wharf. The fireboat Anasha also moored alongside La Rue's wharf and directed one stream on the surrounding property. At 4 o'clock the Governor Irwin had six streams playing on the fire.

Had not the Captains of the various vessels lying at the wharves between Mission 1 and the Oceanic Dock taken the precaution to wet their ships, a great deal of damage might have been incurred by the shipping. As it was they got off remarkably light.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 14250, 10 September 1888 — AMONG THE SHIPPING. [CHAPTER]

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