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An inside look at the world’s oldest fireboat: The Edward M. Cotter



BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — You’ve probably seen the Edward M. Cotter fireboat steadily chugging along Lake Erie. It’s hard to miss the cherry-red vessel as it cruises along at around 11 knots.

This beauty completed a trio of fireboats for the Buffalo Fire Department. In addition to extinguishing flames, the Cotter was built with icebreaking capabilities. That is crucial technology that keeps our beloved city from flooding.

Years later, the Cotter is still capable of putting out fires along the Buffalo shoreline.

In the early 1900s our waterfront was booming with business. Grain elevators and warehouses lined the shore.

“I mean obviously, being a city on the water, you need a fireboat,” said E.M. Cotter’s Captain John Sixt. “At one point in time Buffalo was one of the largest shipping ports in the country.”

The boat was renamed in 1955 to honor Edward M. Cotter, a Buffalo Firefighter and union leader.

The massive water cannons that along the perimeter of the boat are powerful. The Cotter can pump out 15,000 gallons of water at a time.

“We are very proud of the boat,” said Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo. “We’re so proud that it’s part of the Buffalo Fire Department and the City of Buffalo.”

Captain Sixt and an engineer are the sole operators of the 300 ton vessel. Sixt has been at the helm since 2016.

“Holidays, weekends, everything. I’m here all the time,” he laughed. “It consumes my life. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the city this way.”

You can find the Cotter tucked away on Ohio Street across from the General Mills factory. The captain says you can stop by for a tour anytime.

“Anytime there’s a car in the parking lot. People can come to the firehouse, ring the doorbell, and we’re more than happy to show people around.”

There’s a national treasure right in our harbor, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“The boat’s been sitting here for over a hundred years, so this is where she belongs.”

Abby Fridmann is an anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in November 2020. See more of her work here.



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