Historic Chicago fireboat restored, back home after 30 years

A piece of Chicago history is back in her home port after more than 30 years. 

One of the city's original diesel-powered fireboats is back in action, but this time giving unique tours of the city. 

Two friends and Navy veterans found the boat in northern Wisconsin and when they discovered she was for sale, the rest is history. 

"When I saw her, I thought, ‘how can I get this boat to Chicago?’" said Raymond Novak, Co-captain and Co-owner.

She was quite the spectacle when she was built in 1936; the world's first with a diesel engine that could spray water up to 27 stories high. 

"She was, at the time, the world's largest fireboat at over 10 thousand gallons a minute,” said Novak.

More than 70 years later, she hasn't lost her luster. The Fred A. Busse was named for Chicago’s 39th mayor. She was retired in 1981 and sold to a Wisconsin family for public tours. 

"I think we're the only red tour boat on the river right now,” said Erich Totsch, Co-captain and Co-owner.

Now, she's back home.

"We're going to be focusing our tours on the history of this boat, the history of the fire department and all that this boat did for the city,” said Totsch.

Two of her four water pumps remain intact. Historic photos show her in action, back when the Chicago River was used for manufacturing. 

In 1967, she was there the night McCormick Place burned.  

"This boat was called upon to fight the fire and supply the water to the rest of the firemen,” said Novak. 

It was an honor to restore her, the two veterans say, and bring her back to the city that loved her first. 

"Being a Navy veteran and having gone around the world a couple times on the water, for us to be able to give a similar experience of that to people here, in our hometown of Chicago, you can't really put it into words, it's a pretty neat feeling,” said Totsch.

Tours are $35 dollars for adults, with special discounts for kids, veterans, first responders and seniors. 

The co-captains say they are donating a portion of their proceeds to veteran, police and fire organizations so the vessel can give back to those who gave it life.