Anglers, Avoid a Boat Fire: Pay Attention to these Six Things!


Flame on a boat is a really scary experience. On my boat, smoking is not encouraged.  There are open gas ventilation vents, nearby gas lines, it seems common sense.  Losing your boat to careless fire is a heartbreaking experience, not to mention it might shorten your life too!  There are other reasons to be aware though.  Read on.

Fire ranks number five among all reasons for boat losses according to the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program claim file history.  Data never goes around the corner to find the truth.  Dig a little a deeper and those claims files also identify six specific areas that lead to most-reported boat fires.  If every boater paid attention to these six things, over a third of all fires aboard boats would be prevented.  So what are the top six ways boat fires happen?  Here are some lessons to take home?

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. It’s every boater’s responsibility to prevent fires, but when all else fails, having a good boat insurance policy is the last backstop.

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 for you as most boats of this age had relatively simple electrical systems.

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.  By gosh do everything to hook it up right the first time.

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.

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 your impeller at least every other year.

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 it hits 15 years old, it’s time to replace.

Take Action: Does your boat insurance cover boat fires?  It is an easy thing to get a free boat insurance check-up and quote by calling the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program folks at 800-283-2883.  Online, just click over to