Juniper Class Seagoing Buoy Tender
The Coast Guard Cutter FIR (WLB-213) is named after one of the original lighthouse tenders built for the Lighthouse Service to resupply lighthouses and lightships, and to service buoys. FIR (WAGL/WLM 212) was built by the Moore Drydock Company in Oakland, California in 1939. On March 22nd, the new Lighthouse Tender FIR was launched. She was steam driven with twin-propellers, 175 feet in length, had a beam of 32 feet, drew 11 feet, 3 inches of water, and displaced 885 tons of water. The cost to build FIR was approximately $390,000. FIR's homeport was Seattle, Washington for all but one of her fifty one years of service when she was temporarily assigned to Long Beach, California when WALNUT was decommissioned in 1982.
On July 1st, 1939 the Lighthouse Service, along with others, was absorbed into and became a part of the United States Coast Guard. On October 1st of the next year FIR was commissioned into the newly established Coast Guard as the Coast Guard Cutter FIR (WAGL-212) and, in 1965, was redesignated as a Coastal Buoy Tender (WLM-212). FIR was a part of the Coast Guard's build-up, and during World War II she was realigned under the direction of the Navy and painted gray. In order to support the war such armament as 50 caliber machine guns, a 3-inch gun, and depth charges were installed onto FIR. FIR's war duties included standing picket duty, towing gunnery targets, and making patrols in and around Washington and Oregon.
Being one of the newest cutters in the fleet FIR was recognized as one of the most modern vessels of her type and for that day. She had both a gyro stabilized compass and radio direction finder. One month later, she added to this state of the art electronics package by installing a depth sounder. Throughout her years of service, FIR saw many technological changes and advances. She was able to adapt to these changes while, at the same time, retaining the heritage of her Lighthouse Service days.
On May 30, 1988, after the decommissioning of CGC INGHAM, FIR earned the distinction as the Coast Guard's oldest commissioned cutter. From that day forward, as a testimony to the hard work of all those who served aboard her, she proudly displayed gold hull numbers and was designated as "Queen of the Fleet." On October 1st, 1990, during the 200th anniversary year of the Coast Guard, FIR was honored again with the celebration of her 50th birthday. One year later, on October 1, 1991, FIR was decommissioned and, in 1992, FIR was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
During her career, FIR has truly been a multi-mission ship whose accomplishments mirror the changing American maritime scene and needs of the Coast Guard for more than half a century. FIR's primary duties included resupplying coal, potable water, food, and other vital provisions to lightships and lighthouses on the Washington and Oregon coasts. In addition to servicing aids to navigation, FIR stood war duties during World War II, performed search and rescue missions, marine environmental protection, and law enforcement. For her last project, FIR was tasked to do what she was originally built for in 1939. In July of 1991, FIR renovated and restored the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This final assignment was an appropriate ending to the last United States Lighthouse Tender.
Constructed by Manitowoc Company, Inc. in Marinette, Wisconsin. Fir was launched on August 18, 2003. After a journey of over 9,400 nautical miles, Fir arrived at homeport Astoria, OR and was commissioned November 8, 2003. CGC Fir's primary mission is ATON and is responsible for over 150 aids to navigation and an area of responsibility that stretches from the Oregon-California Border to the Canadian border and includes the Columbia River, Grays Harbor and Puget Sound. Fir also works with NOAA to maintain 5 weather buoys in the Pacific Ocean. Other missions include Fisheries Law Enforcement and Boating Safety, Oil Spill Response, Search and Rescue, and Waterway Security