Seven people aboard a 32-foot Stingray yacht narrowly escaped serious injury or death Sunday afternoon, July 8, when their boat caught fire on the Occoquan River near the Highpoint area and marker two in Virginia waters.
Fairfax County Police Marine Patrol Boat One spotted smoke coming from the boat while patrolling the area and quickly called Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department for assistance while racing to the scene to aid the passengers. All seven passengers were safely brought aboard the Patrol Boat without injury and taken to the Fairfax Yacht Club, according to Dan Schmidt, public information officer at the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.
When firefighters from Fire Boat 420 of Gunston Station 20 arrived on the scene, the boat was fully engulfed in flames, which they quickly brought under control. They were also able to keep the yacht from sinking, enabling Potomac Marine to tow it to Hampton Landing in Woodbridge, according to Schmidt.
"The occupants aboard the boat tried to fight the fire — which apparently started in the engine compartment — with a fire extinguisher without success. The boat was a total loss," he said.
"When we arrived there were flames about 25 feet in the air. This was the largest boat fire we've had to deal with in some time," said Capt. James Chinn, Station 20, one of four fire department personnel aboard Fire Boat "Gunston Hall" responding to the call.
"We believe it was started by an engine malfunction. But, it quickly consumed the entire cabin area. The occupants were really lucky," Chinn said.
The boat had approximately 50 gallons of fuel on board, according to Schmidt. "Teamwork by firefighters and police officers prevented any injury as well as a potential environmental disaster," he said.
Neither the police nor fire department had the name of the boat owner or an estimate of damage. According to the name on the stern ("Keep Er Wet"), the boat came from the Alexandria area.