An onboard fire and subsequent explosion sent a 30 to 40 foot (10 to 12 metre) boat to the bottom of the Selkirk Waterway in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The boat was situated on west of the Selkirk Trestle Bridge in the Banfield Park side of the waterway and, at about 1:18 a.m. Victoria Fire received a call reporting an a fire on board the ill-fated boat.
Battalion Chief Greg Batters said that fire crews responded and used the department’s fire boat to send streams of fire suppressing foam onto the fire, quickly extinguishing the flames.
The crews had heard what an explosion on route to the fire and it is assumed it was caused by the rupture of a propane cylinder on board the boat.
“These fires burn extremely hot, particularly on a fiberglass boat and it was impossible to get too close to the flames, but there was no indication of anyone on board at the time of the fire,” said Batters.
Victoria Police and the Coast Guard both responded to the fire as well and Batters said that it was the Coast Guard’s decision to try to tow the boat onto the beach to remove it from the waterway.
“It’s always a bit of a judgment call, and there are jurisdictional issues, on whether to try to tow these boats to shore because, if you do, you then have to stand guard over the remains of the boat until it’s removed. As it was the boat actually sank as the Coast Guard attempted to start that tow,” said Batters.
Batters went on to say that boat fires are not an uncommon occurrence.
“We tend to get about one call a month involving boat fires,” he said. “We had one the other day where a boat, up from the States, caught fire at the fueling dock. It was assumed that an overheated engine compartment combined with the fumes from the refueling process to cause that fire. It happens.”
Batters stopped short of blaming boat operators for any specific negligence or inappropriate actions leading to fires aboard their vessels.
“It can be mechanical error, or human error, but you can’t really say that they are doing any one thing wrong to cause these fires.”