How to Tour the World’s Oldest Active Fireboat for Free

Edward M. Cotter fireboat  //  Photo courtesy of Ron Endle

It’s the world’s oldest active fireboat and the only one in Buffalo.

It can produce 15,000 gallons of water per minute, the equivalent of 10-11 fire engines.

It’s the only icebreaker in the port of Buffalo, and on July 4, 1996, it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Service.

And now, you can come aboard the 118-foot long, 178-ton Edward M. Cotter fireboat for absolutely free.

Docked at 155 Ohio St. across from Swannie House, everybody is welcome to take a tour of the historic fireboat.

“The people that work on the boat, the captain and the engineer, are willing to let people come on board anytime that the boat is there and they’re working, to take a tour of it,” said Ron Endle, vice president of the Edward M. Cotter Fireboat Conservancy.

The Cotter receives restoration and repair support from the City of Buffalo – for anything below the waterline. However, the boat still needs support for everything above. Along with support from various firefighting groups around the area, the Conservancy accepts donations from the public for restoration purposes.



Edward M. Cotter fireboat // Photo courtesy of Ron Endle

This year, Endle said, the Cotter received enough funds to have its upper part repainted. He said the boat has made some trips over to Canalside in the past, where tours were open to the general public. There are talks with the City of Buffalo to make that happen again regularly in the future. For now, though, anybody can take a tour when the Cotter crew is onboard.

“There is really no set schedule now and it’s kind of on an individual basis,” Endle said. “If somebody happens to be down there and the lights are on, knock on the door or ring the buzzer and if somebody is there, they’ll take you onboard.”

The Cotter is primarily used nowadays to break up large ice chunks in the winter, although it still has firefighting capabilities. Originally named the William S. Grattan, the boat was first used on Nov. 15, 1900. After a fire struck the Grattan, the remaining hull was shipped off to be repaired, being renamed the Firefighter in 1953. But by 1954, it was renamed to the Edward M. Cotter in honor of a recently deceased Buffalo firefighter.

“It’s real value to the city of Buffalo and the surrounding communities is as this icebreaker,” Endle said. “Otherwise, South Buffalo, Cheektowaga, West Seneca and all those upstream from the Buffalo River would flood worse than it does.”

Edward M. Cotter fireboat // Photo courtesy of Ron Endle

There is a donation box and gift shop on the boat. You can also donate directly and check out the gift shop at

All proceeds go directly to the Edward M. Cotter fireboat.

Endle believes everybody who has seen the Cotter around Buffalo and is curious about what it’s like to be on it should take a tour:

“Come on board the boat, see what it’s like. Learn a little about its history and capacity.”

Tours can also be arranged by calling the captain at (716) 846-4265.

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