Members of The Fireboat McKean Preservation Project organization have announced that the retired Fire Department of New York Marine Co. 1, the John D. McKean fireboat, will be open for public tours in-conjunction with the upcoming 9/11 20th anniversary events.
Over the course of 50 plus years, the McKean served on New York’s waterfronts. The fireboat participated in notable events such as the Staten Island Ferry Terminal Fire in 1991; the 9/11 WTC terrorist attacks; and the US Airways Flight 1549 crash landing in January 2009 dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
The boat’s namesake, John D. McKean, served as a Marine Engineer in the New York City Fire Department and was assigned to the Fireboat George B. McClellan. He was burned by a live steam explosion aboard the McClellan on September 17, 1953. Despite being fatally injured, McKean remained at his post, vainly trying to keep the vessel under control.
As a result of the broken steam line, the McClellan was disabled. Distress signals were sounded and a radio call for an ambulance was sent. The tugboat Julia Moran, in the Upper Bay nearby, towed the McClellan to its base at Pier 6 in Staten Island. An ambulance then took McKean to U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, where he died five days later leaving a wife and two children, 11 and 14.
McKean had lived most of his life in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. He was a member of the NYFD for 15 years, first appointed on January 1st, 1938 and assigned to Brooklyn Ladder Company 148. John D. McKean’s son John Jr., followed in his footsteps as did John Jr.‘s son as well. A new fireboat which had already been order was named John D. McKean (call sign Marine 1). Fire Commissioner Edward Cavanaugh invited the McKean family to attend the christening which took place on March 19th 1954 at the Mathis ship yard in Camden, New Jersey. The wife of Mayor Robert Wager had the honor of commissioning the McKean. On September 9th, 1954, Commissioner Cavanaugh and the McKean family would gather again to watch the John D. McKean sail into New York harbor on its maiden voyage.
The John D. McKean was purchased at a FDNY surplus auction in 2016. Preservation and restoration work started immediately by a number of volunteers. In 2018, the 501 (C) 3 not for profit Fireboat McKean Preservation Project was formed with the mission of preserving this historic vessel as a floating museum and educational center pertaining to marine firefighting history and technology.
In 2019, the McKean underwent major repairs to its hull at the North River Ship Yard in Upper Nyack, NY. Volunteers have continued their restoration efforts by restoring the entire wheel house (pilot’s house) and painted the engine room flooring and the entire exterior of the McKean’s main and second deck areas that was supplemented by donations by the Rust-Oleum Corporation.
The John D. McKean will be docked at the Hudson River Parks’ Pier 25, located at the corner of North Moore St. and West St. in lower Manhattan, until late October 2021. Onboard tours and excursions are free, but donations are suggested to help continue the preservation and restoration work.
Photos from above: the fireboat McKean at the US Airways Flight 1549 “Miracle on the Hudson” crash landing; and the McKean during 9/11 (photos provided).