Monday morning a tragic scene occurred when a blaze broke out in Scottsboro, AL at a marina that accommodates boats, houseboats and pontoon vessels. According to USA Today, eight people are confirmed dead, while 35 vessels burned. Some boats sank at the dock while others drifted from their moorings and sank. Authorities are unsure what caused the fire.
“Boat fires are rare,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent boat insurance agency. While infrequent, when boat fires to occur, they can get out of control quickly.
In 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) reported 337 vessels were involved in a fire. Most accidents involved fuel and were the result of spilled fuel or fuel vapors. These incidents often produce explosions more than fire.
A boat fire can result in a total loss. “Property losses are over $10 million annually due to boat fires,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent boat insurance agency.
Boat fires are preventable. Be sure to avoid a lapse in maintenance and check your fuel-system regularly. Faulty wiring or corrosion in your wires should be repaired right away. Always keep the proper number of working fire extinguishers on board. No matter what type of boat fire you are fighting, extinguishing foams and dry chemicals can be used on any fire. However, water will almost always exacerbate the problem.
Take extra precaution to prevent boat fires and know how to extinguish them. The USCG has an easy to remember acronym should one occur.
FIND the fire and determine its size.
INFORM all passengers, move them away from the fire, get them into life jackets and prepare to abandon ship. Make a distress call.
RESTRICT the fire. Shut hatches and reduce the air supply to the fire. Turn off power to the electrical systems and close off fuel lines and ventilation. If fire occurs at the dock, move passengers and portable fuel tanks ashore.
EXTINGUISH the fire.