Buffalo's fireboat, the Edward M. Cotter, was built and commissioned during an era when Buffalo's waterfront and port were booming, the Cotter has been an invaluable asset of fire protection for the numerous warehouses, grain elevators and other facilities that line Buffalo's shores. Many of these structures pose unique challenges for firefighters and would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach using conventional land equipment. With her pumping capacity equal to that of 11 firetrucks, her importance is immeasurable.
In addition to her extraordinary firefighting capabilities, the Cotter serves another critical role as the city's sole ice-breaking resource. By breaking up ice jams in the Buffalo River, the water and ice in its upstream tributaries can flow freely, helping to prevent flooding - not only in Buffalo, but in neighboring communities as well.
In 1978 USS Little Rock, a retired United States Naval guided missile cruiser on display at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, began taking on water and listing. Edward M. Cotter and several Buffalo Fire Department fire engines pumped water out of Little Rock for five days keeping the ship afloat and level while repairs were made. Edward M. Cotter also assisted the disabled United States Coast Guard cutter Ojibwa during the winter of 1983. Ojibwa, while on Lake Erie, had lost her steering and was taking on water. Edward M. Cotter towed Ojibwa to her base in Buffalo and helped keep her afloat while repairs were made.
In 1996, the Edward M. Cotter was designated a National Historic Landmark.
She is known to be the first fireboat to cross an international border to fight a fire in another country and the only fireboat, at the time, to be totally consumed by fire.
Originally named William S. Grattan, she was built in 1900 by the Crescent Shipyard of Elizabeth Port, New Jersey. Due to age she was rebuilt in 1953 and renamed Firefighter upon her return to service. The following year she was renamed Edward M. Cotter. Her namesake, Edward Cotter, was a Buffalo firefighter and leader of the local firefighters union who had recently died.