BOAT FIRE IN SOUTH HAVEN, MICHIGAN
The following text is from an email from Tom Rau:
Sunday, October 5, 2008 around 2 p.m. a 41-foot power boat exploded at
the Oak Street Marina in South Haven, Michigan. The explosion
illustrates the devastation boat fires can inflict not only to the boat
itself but to nearby boats and those aboard. See attached photos,
courtesy of Ben Plachta CG Auxiliary/Richard Lenardson TowBoatU.S./
I spoke with Captain Richard Lenardson of
TowBoatU.S., a salvage and towing operation. Richard was nearby when
the explosion rocked the marina. "I was around 30 boat docks away when
I heard a thunderous explosion followed by a fireball and plume of
black smoke," said Richard. "I responded with my 23-foot tow boat.
"When I arrived on scene the boat was engulfed in flames with black
smoke boiling up from the inferno. The top cabin of the boat lay
smoldering on a nearby grassy knoll. A secondary explosion sent debris
through the hull of a boat in an adjacent slip."
fire had spread to boats in adjacent slips where fire consumed a boat's
mooring lines setting it free into the boat basin where it threatened
nearby boats. Richard pushed the flaming boat back into its slip in
reach of firefighters. At first, firefighters fought the blaze with
water, with limited effect. A fire truck carrying foam soon arrived and
joined the fight. "While pushing the burning boat back into the slip I
could not see ahead with foam coating the windshield. Off to the side,
I saw one of the victims climbing up a nearby dock ladder with the skin
on his face peeled way," said Richard.
injured included two men, a woman, and child. All were recovered from
the water by rescue personnel. Two of the adults were in critical
condition. Fire Chief Ronald Wise of South Haven Area Emergency
Services, suspects the boat owner and a friend were using a 28-gallon
plastic gas container with an electric transfer pump to pump gas into
the boat when the vessel exploded. Reportedly the electrical source for
the pump was the boat's batteries. That the cabin was blown off the
boat along with the stern suggests that the source of the explosion
occurred within the boat. The mishap remains under investigation.
Boat-Smart tips when fueling a boat:
Boat Smart, keep it cool. Vent engine compartments before turning the ignition key.
- Open the engine hatches.
the blower in the engine space and check the exhaust port on the side
of boat with your palm to make sure its discharging air. During
Guard boat inspections I found a number of boats where the exhaust hose
had separated from the discharge port. So, rather than discharging
possible gas fumes through the exhaust port it was circulating them
around the engine compartment.
- Deploy a sure gas fume detector-
your nose. Open those engine hatches and give it a good sniff,
especially after refueling a boat.
- Occasionally run a dry cloth
over fuel lines especially near connecting points. Sniff the cloth for
the odor of gasoline. The procedure
- is highly recommended after engine work involving gas-line joint connections.
- Michigan rules limit the size of plastic containers to five gallons for transportation of flammable liquid.
Take care mates,