National Boat Fire Safety week begins next Monday 26th May and firefighters will be raising awareness of safety afloat. Now and then on the Cut you do see the sad and sorry remains of a burnt out boat; a grim reminder of how quickly a fire can spread in such a small space.

A few years ago I was cruising on the River Stort in Essex when I noticed a narrowboat had burned out and half sunk underneath the willow tree, outside The Moorhen pub. It was all black and twisted and was a sobering sight. Although the hull was steel it looked like the top must have been GRP. The word on the towpath telegraph was that the owner had been filling his petrol generator on the back deck. The boat batteries were not covered, (as is required by the Boat Safety Certificate) and a spark must have set things alight. Apparently the man himself caught alight and went indoors to fetch a fire extinguisher: This then set the interior of the boat alight. He was then pulled from the boat by someone nearby and was taken to hospital with 50 percent burns. It made front page of The Harlow Star and the towpath telegraph (aka known as ‘boaters gossip’) said that the poor fellow was not insured. By the time the fire crew arrived the 39ft boat was engulfed in flames.

I had passed the scene the next day and saw that the willow leaves hanging above the boat were crispy and burnt and the pub beer garden was closed with a sign that read, ‘Danger, Keep Out’.

Boat fires can get out of hand incredibly quickly; but there are things that you can check to maintain safety on board your boat. The Boat Safety Scheme website has a free downloadable leaflet with advice on preventing fires and how to plan for fire breaking out on a boat.

When you’re looking at boats for sale on our website you will see that each boat usually has a boat safety certificate, and our boat description tells you when the BSC is valid until. The Boat Safety Scheme, or BSS, is a public safety initiative owned by the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency. It helps to minimise the risk of boat fires, explosions, or pollution harming anyone who spends time on the waterways. The boat safety inspection is always undertaken by a registered BSS examiner and covers fuel, electrical and LPG systems alongside many other health and safety risk assessments. If you are looking at a boat for sale that does not have a valid certificate an inspection is easy to arrange and can sometimes be done as part of the survey.

If you’re thinking of selling your boat checking that it complies with some of the basic safety recommendations may make the boat more attractive to buyers.

Image credit: Gas detector on 60ft Narrowboat (A trad stern narrowboat for sale with a potentially transferable mooring.)


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