Chicago’s Fireboat Tour, owned by 2 Navy vets, offers unique history experience

Chicago Scene

CHICAGO — Sailing on Chicago’s waterways on the Chicago Fireboat is a truly unique experience. The Fred A. Busse is a retired fireboat that was part of the Chicago Fire Department’s fleet till 1981.

Built as a modern ship in 1937, the Fred A. Busse was a modern marvel, built with a lower profile to fit under the city’s bridges. This helped cut down on response time to fire emergencies.

Today, the Fred A. Busse heads out on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan as a historical tour vessel, with other options such as sunset cruise and private events. It’s owned by two Navy veterans, Ray Novak and Erich Totsc.

“Going around the world twice in the Navy, and then to be here on the water, showcasing Chicago on a boat like this with that military utility kind of purpose to it is pretty cool,” Totsc said.

View of Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain at sunset

It’s been over 40 years since the boat has seen a fire emergency. It has been completely retrofitted to accommodate up to 127 people. Guests are treated to a friendly atmosphere with music, a dose of Chicago history and fun tidbits about the very fires the Fred A. Busse fought decades ago.

Expect river tours to take you from their dock in DuSable Harbor, through the Chicago locks and onto the Chicago River, navigating the same waterway where the vessel once fought fires and provided emergency assistance.

For more information on the Chicago Fireboat Tours, click here.

Chicago Fireboat Fred A. Busse at work

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