LAFD HISTORY – Fireboats 2 and 4

April 30, 2018

The Status of Old Fireboat 2’s permanent building is still in question. The “Ralph J. Scott” is a National Historic Landmark and needs a special building to house it that will not only be a museum but a structure with special features like climate control, ramps and walkways for access to the boat for the visitors. The building that the Port of LA had designed for it was dropped from the Port’s ten-year plan in 2012. The Historical Society volunteers have been working on the restoration of the boat since it came out of the water in 2004 and will probably complete the project in a year and one half from now. This has been a huge responsibility and undertaking, working with the guidelines that the National Park Service set for historic vessels. It will soon be ready for a museum to house it with no plan for a building. Our Society will be working very hard to get the museum structure back on the Port’s waterfront plan with possible options for relocation from its present location adjacent to the Battleship Iowa.

Retired Pilot Bill Dahlquist at the helm of Old Boat 2 taking it to Larson’s Boat Yard after it was retired in 2003.

Engineer Stan Borden on the deck of Old Boat 2 – 1951.


Retired LAFD Fireboat Pilots Frank Baker and Bill Dahlquist worked together to compile a list of pilots who served on the “Ralph J. Scott.” The list dates back to 1925 when the boat went into service and goes up to the time the boat was retired in 2003. That amounts to 78 years! I was amazed that in all that time there were only 17 pilots assigned to the boat. Job satisfaction I’m sure.

Here they are in order from the first pilot:
Smith, Hermosa
Williams, Lewis
Wagner, Lowell
Gray, Brainard
Woodman, Arthur G.
Donaher, Arthur L.
Metzger, Eugene W.
Hines, Marvin
Baker, Franklin L.
Moore, Monte E.
Dahlquist, William E.
Martinis, John M.
Zuliani, Paul D.
Corcoran, Mike (William M. II)
Mueller, Stephen C.
Young, Marcus L. IV
Horimoto, James T.

Thanks Frank and Bill for this interesting history of Old Boat 2. Frank Baker was a pilot for more than 20 years and Bill Dahlquist more than 15 years, all on Old Boat 2.


My step-mother Evelyn Borden passed away in May of 2017 at the age of 91. She met my father Stan while he was an engineer on Old Boat 2 in 1951. She always had a fond memory of the boat since that time. Every year since the boat was retired, she would make a donation towards the restoration of the boat. In 2017/18 she made a very generous $50,000 donation from her estate to the Historical Society. This is the largest single donation made in over 15 years and will go a long way in helping us reach our goal. We have been saving thousands of dollars by using skilled volunteers for the labor on the boat, estimated at nearly 20,000 hours of volunteer hours. The donations we receive are used for equipment, supplies, parts, etc.

Assistant Chief Bethel F. Gifford


Bethel Gifford was appointed to the LAFD on April 6, 1929. As a fireman, he worked in areas extending from the hills of Hollywood to the waterfront of San Pedro; and it didn’t take long for Fireman Gifford to earn an outstanding reputation. Soon he was promoted to auto fireman, and in a short eight years, he was promoted to captain.
After placing number three on the list, Captain Gifford was promoted to battalion chief in 1944. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to head the Fire Department Shops and Storeroom. He remained at that command, until the Fire Department reorganized in 1956, at which time he attained the rank of assistant chief and was assigned as Division 1 commander in charge of the Harbor area.

Chief Bethel Gifford achieved his greatest personal satisfaction, and no doubt his greatest single contribution to the operations of this Department, with the development and final delivery of Boat 4.

Boat 4 might be called “Chief Gifford’s Project,” as he was personally responsible, throughout the entire project, for researching, planning, engineering, building, outfitting, testing and for the boat’s ultimate delivery in the Port of Los Angeles. It was accepted by Mayor Yorty and the Fire Department on February 22, 1962. “Chief Gifford’s Project,” from formative stage to culmination, took about three years. During this time the chief made at least 15 trips to San Francisco and Portland for architectural and construction conferences at Norgaard Architects and the Albina Engine and Machine Works.

Assistant Chief Bethel F. Gifford, a veteran fire fighter with almost 35 years of service, passed away January 18, 1964, while on active duty. He was survived by his wife, Frances, who was in attendance at Fire Boat 4’s name-christening ceremony.

Fire Boat No. 4 – “Bethel F. Gifford” (1962-present)

Los Angeles purchased Fire Boat No. 4 as a part of a master plan for long-range port protection. Commissioned in 1962, the 76′ long boat was purchased for $639,000 and was built at the Albina Engine and Machinery Works in Portland, Oregon. In active service Fire Boat No. 4 is rated at 9000 gallons per minute at 150 psi and carries 550 gallons of foam solution for petrochemical fires. Its super maneuverability features include the capability of moving side-to side and back-and-forth by means of jet stream nozzles. The boat was named the “Bethel F. Gifford” in honor of the late LAFD Assistant Chief whose research and efforts were primarily responsible for this fireboat’s innovations.

Chief Gifford’s Helmet Donation

Jim Finn accepts Chief Gifford’s helmet from Michael Taylor.

What a great story about Assistant Chief Bethel F. Gifford’s helmet. It has made its way to the museum for display after 45 years. Michael Taylor, retired LAFD captain, was an apparatus operator at FS 39 at the time when his captain came to him with a white assistant chief’s old Bakelite helmet that he wanted Michael to make into a captain’s helmet by painting it black. Michael looked at it and saw the historical value of the helmet and asked the captain if he could just buy a black helmet and make it into the helmet the captain wanted. The captain agreed and Michael took the chief’s helmet home only to find out later that the name inside was Gifford. Michael hung the helmet on his wall for 45 years, until he read one of my articles in the Firemen’s Grapevine and understood who Chief Gifford was. He contacted me immediately and brought the helmet into the museum to donate to the LAFD Historical Society. It will be displayed in the Harbor Fire Museum in Old Station 36 with the story of Chief Gifford. We thank Michael for bringing this historic artifact to us for people to see and enjoy for years to come.

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