History of Engineer John D. McKean
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. Although fatally injured, McKean heroically 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 on its whistle, while a radio call for an ambulance was sent. The tug Julia Moran, nearby in the Upper Bay, took the McClellan in tow and towed it to its base at Pier 6, Staten Island. An ambulance then took McKean to U.S. Public Health Service Hospital. John D. McKean died there five days later, September 22, 1953. A new fireboat had already been ordered. When it was ready, a year after John had died, John D. McKean's name was on the top of the list would grace this new fireboat. Fire Commissioner Edward Cavanaugh invited the McKean family to attend the christening. The christening 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 swinging the champagne bottle. Commissioner Cavanaugh and the McKean family again would gather to watch the new Fireboat, John D. McKean sail into New York harbor on September 9th, 1954, over 50 years ago. John D. McKean was 45 years old. He was survived by his wife Catherine and two children, John D. Jr, 14, and Marilyn, 11, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. David McKean, and his sister and brother. McKean lived most of his life in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. He was a member of the Fire Department for 15 years. He was appointed on January 1, 1938 and assigned to Ladder 148. John D. McKean's son and grandson followed their father’s footsteps and joined the New York City Fire Department. His great grandson is a member today.
HISTORY OF The John D. McKean (FDNY Marine 1)
Built in 1954 by John H. Mathis, Camden, NJ, for $1,426,000. The McKean is 334.75 gross tons. Her length is 129 feet, the beam is 31 feet, the draft is 9 ½ feet, the height above water including the tower is 47 ½ feet. She is propelled by two 1,000 HP Enterprise direct reversible diesel engines that provide a speed of 16 MPH. Two more 1,000 HP Enterprise engines drive four centrifugal pumps, with an output of 14,000 GPM. Also, in the engine room are hundreds of valves, thousands of feet of piping, air compressors, generators, a heat exchanger, a high pressure oil burner, steering motors and a workshop for constant maintenance.
The two Engineers and the Wiper are able to ready the boat for response in about a minute and a half. The 1,000 horsepower, turbo-charged propulsion engines and pumping engines are kept hot by the high pressure steam boiler, so there is no warm up time. As soon as the engines are started and the 50- kilowatt generator is put on line, we are ready to respond to an alarm. The Generator provides the ships electrical power for lights, radios and navigational electronics. The McKean holds 7,000 gallons of fuel oil, enough to operate for almost five days without refueling.
Up on the main deck, the McKean has a 5” Bow Pipe (7,500 GPM) and two manifolds (one forward and one aft), each with eight 3 ½” outlets, four hose reels (two for 3 ½” hose, one for 2 ½” hose and one for 1 ¾” hose). On the aft deck there is 1,000 gallons of foam in 50 gallon drums. The forward compartment is known as the Gold Room. It stores hose fittings, nozzles, adapters, firematic tools, chain saw, partner saw, cold weather and dry suits. The locker room is just aft of the fidley. It has bunker gear, dewatering pumps (both electric and gas), first responder equipment and an oxygen/acetylene cutting torch. The aft room or foam room has a variety of foam nozzles and pick up tubes, a spare outboard motor, emergency lights, portable generator, Scott air tanks and a supply of spare Scott cylinders.
The boat deck has an electric/hyd davit to launch the 13” Boston Whaler equipped with a 40 horsepower motor. The two monitors on this deck can deliver 3,000 GPM. In the Pilot house, besides all of the navigation equipment, we have a special emergency 45 watt communication radio, thermal imaging camera and a radiation detection meter.
The next deck is over the Pilot house and has two more 3,000 GPM monitors and a high power spot light. The last of the six monitors sits up on the tower (47’ above the water).
Written by Bob Peterson - Retired, Marine 1
The John D. McKean today
In January 2009, the McKean responded to Captain Sully Sullenberger’s Hudson River landing of US Airways Flight 1549 during the Miracle on the Hudson, to rescue passengers and secure the plane from sinking.
In addition to emergency calls, the McKean ceremoniously welcomed runners to the New York City Marathon with a water display every year, assisted the USS Intrepid into its mooring, supervised the annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks display barges and hosted numerous dignitaries. In continuing its ceremonial role, in August 2017 the McKean celebrated opening day for the new Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, hosting officials and conducting a water display.
The retired fireboat was purchased at auction in 2016 and the non-profit Fireboat McKean Preservation Project was formed in 2018 with the mission of preserving this magnificent vessel. It has been beautifully restored, with one final major project to be completed, the repair of its hull which is urgently needed now to ensure the boat stays afloat and can welcome visitors. Donations are needed to complete this work, and volunteers are needed to help us tell the stories of service aboard the McKean. Trustees are evaluating future mooring locations along the Hudson River to find a permanent location with good public access in advance of the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 in 2021, so that everyone can come aboard, learn about its service and honor those who served aboard.