by George Philip Hanley
Published 1997, Hardbound, Illustrated, 211 pp.
NOW AVAILABLE! Firefighters from Prospect – Invention and Pioneer Development of Marine Water Jet Propulsion had not been available for purchase for several years. A new supply of this out-of-print book has been located with the books are now available for purchase through the Marion County Historical Society!
Jammed full of hundreds of vintage photographs, blueprints,patent drawings, and advertisements supplemented by the author’s narrative, the book tells the story of the Prospect Fire Engine Company and its eventual movement into the manufacturing of what may have been the first successful water jet propulsion boats.
Around 1930, a young design engineer named Keenan Hanley moved to Prospect with his new wife and accepted a position with the Prospect Fire Engine Company. Over the next 35 years, he would lead the development of a variety of innovative products including an “Airporter” fire engine and tow truck used specifically on airfields as well as a variety of traditional firefighting vehicles. However, his most innovative product was one that led to the development of an entirely new mode of transportation – the water jet.
In response to the need for a firefighting system to be used in areas which were flooded or otherwise inaccessible due to water, Hanley turned an old boat into an emergency fireboat by placing a fire engine pump in the boat which was then used to not only spray water on the fire but also to propel the boat by shooting two streams of water out the rear of the boat under the water line. This eliminated the need for propellers and allowed the boat to go in areas which were otherwise difficult to access.
The concept continued to grow and evolve over the years under Hanley’s leadership. One of the most notable events was when the U.S. Coast Guard ordered 101 fireboats for use during World War II. Over 150 employees manufactured and assembled the boats in a variety of locations in and around Prospect. Hanley continued to produce new and improved versions of his hydro-jet boat until he died in 1965. At the time of his death, his company was processing a large order from the U.S. Navy for hydro-jets to be used in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.