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6 Reasons Boats Catch Fire

July 18, 2016 | Category: Boating Accidents, Personal Injury | Share

Boat fires are particularly dangerous. Following are just a few of the boat fires that occurred in Florida in the last two months alone: 

  • On June 25 this year, NBC Miami reported that the Miami Beach Marine Patrol rescued two men after their boat went up in flames four miles east of Key Biscayne. 
  • In early June, three passengers on board escaped unharmed after their 31-foot Sea Ray went up in flames in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Officials believe the blaze started in the engine, WSVN News reported. 
  • At the Fort Myers yacht basin, a 20-foot sailboat caught fire in May. The owner suffered second-degree burns to his hand according to WINK News. 

Why are boat fires so dangerous?  

Blue Water Yacht Sales reports that most boats are made of fiberglass. Once fiberglass starts to combust, it reaches incredibly high temperatures, emotes a thick, toxic black smoke and burns at an alarmingly fast rate. Consequently, fires within a marina are especially difficult because they can rapidly hop from one boat to the next. 

What causes boat fires? 

BoatUS statistics show there are six specific areas that lead to most of the boat fires: 

  1. 26% of fires are due to “Off-the-boat” sources: Over a quarter of the time, a BoatUS member’s boat burns when something else goes up in flames – the boat next to theirs, the marina, their garage, or even a neighbor’s house.
  2. 20% of fires are due to “Engine Electrical”: For boats older than 25 years, old wiring harnesses take a disproportionate chunk of the blame here. A good electrical technician can put one together as most boats of this age had relatively simple electrical systems.
  3. 15% of fires are due to “Other DC Electrical”: The most common cause of battery-related fires is faulty installation of batteries - reversing the positive and negative cables or misconnecting them in series (when they should be in parallel). So take a picture. Label the cables. Use red fingernail polish to mark the positive lug.
  4. 12% of fires are due to “AC Electrical”: Most AC electrical fires start between the shore power pedestal and the boat’s shore power inlet. Inspecting the shore power cord routinely (connector ends especially) and for boats older than 10 years, inspecting or replacing the boat’s shore power inlet, could prove wise.
  5. 9% of fires are due to “Other Engine”: This one is all about when an engine overheats due to blocked raw water intake or mangled impeller, the latter of which can also happen after experiencing a grounding or running in mucky waters. Be sure to check the engine compartment after getting underway and replace impeller every other year.
  6. 8% of fires are due to “Batteries”: This fire fact is for the outboard folks to pay attention to. On older outboards, by far the most common cause of fires is the voltage regulator. At 10 years of age, failure rates on these important electrical components begin to climb. Once the boat reaches 15 years old, it is time to replace. 

Are manufacturers liable for boat fires? 

Yes, they can be. Manufacturers and/or sellers can be held liable for injury or death caused by a defect in a boat or its parts, supplies, or equipment depending on the circumstances of the case. Liability may be imposed on a manufacturer for injury caused by: 

  • A fuel leak;
  • A fire-producing defect in the vessel, its steering or controls or;
  • Other manufacturing defects. 

The U.S Coast Guard is mandated to oversee boat products. It publishes and maintains a list of boats that have been found with any defect and are recalled. The Coast Guard is also responsible for ensuring manufacturers adhere to regulations set when constructing boats to ensure maximum safety, including regulations on electrical systems, fuel systems, ventilation, safe loading and flotation requirements. Should a boat or its related equipment be defective, the U.S. Coast Guard has a website and phone number for reporting. The website is: and the phone number is 1-800-5647. 

Can a boat owner prevent boat fires

According to there are three keys to preventing boat fires. They are: 

  1. Regular maintenance
  2. Smoke detectors
  3. Fire extinguishers. (The Coast Guard requires boats have a certain number and size of Type B extinguishers.) 

“Should you or a family member be injured as the result of a boat fire, after seeking treatment, be sure to contact the experienced team at Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.,” said Naples Boating Accident Attorney, Randall Spivey.

Naples Boating Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Visit for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.



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