Fire in the Galley: a personal story

Fire In The Galley
  From the Aloha Boat Owners mailing list Sept 26, 2000

On another matter, I recently had a fire on my 8.2. The fire itself caused relatively little damage to the boat, but great damage to myself and my wife. She has been hospitalized for a month with third degree burns. She is now out of the hospital and recuperating at home. It was a tremendous experience which will take both of us a long time to get over. The fire was caused by spilt alcohol which ignited the one gallon container. The boat suffered damage to the window above the galley and the window seal. I would like to replace them but have no idea where to find a replacement.

Sterling Keays < >
Isabella Blue

  From the Aloha Boat Owners mailing list Sept 27, 2000

Just a brief description of the events. My wife was lounging in the cockpit while I made our morning coffee. While the coffee was brewing I went to light the second burner to heat some water. I realized the burner was dry and extinguished the first burner and lifted the stove to remove the dry container. I was filling it over our galley sink and chatting with my wife in the cockpit.

All of a sudden I heard a loud poof and I realized the container was on fire in my hand. I must of either spilled some alcohol or the fumes caught, whatever I had a flaming plastic container of alcohol in my hand. I rushed out to the cockpit and went to swing the container over the side but the side of the container had melted and the swing caused the flaming alcohol to splatter my wife. I did not know this until later because my hand, face and hair was on fire.

I jumped overboard and when I surfaced my wife was in the water with me. We knew the boat was on fire but not how bad. We had a very difficult time to reboard because our swing ladder was tied in its upright position. When I finally pulled myself back onto the boat and lowered the ladder for my wife I could see the extent of my wife's injury. She had no skin left on her lower legs from her knees down.

At this point I think it finally clicked in that this is deadly serious. I of course could not see my burned hair and face. When I checked for fire, I found the settees on fire in the cabin and small spot fires in the cockpit. I could not get to my galley fire extinguisher so I grabbed a fire extinguisher that I keep strapped to the top of the fuel tank , accessible from the cock pit. I put out most of the fires until the extinguisher was exhausted. There was so much smoke in the cabin I could not see where the flames were. I tried from the companion way and I tried from the forward hatch but could not get through the smoke.

We finally resorted to throwing buckets of water randomly into the cabin. We finally hit the last hot spot which was the settee cushion foam which does not flame but smolders. The smoke is very acidy.

We then had time to evaluate our injuries and decided we needed medical attention right away. Since we were on a mooring, we had to grab whatever we could for clothes and get into our Zodiac to go to shore. It was about a fifteen minute motor. On the way, we found people on another boat who came to shore with us to make the forty five minute drive to the hospital since I think we both went into shock.

I was kept on oxygen and treated for my burns but released that day. My wife suffered third degree burns to her legs and stayed in the hospital for a month. The boat now has new cushions throughout and is in the process of being lifted for winter storage when I can evaluate the rest of the damage. I have found that flaming alcohol went down the cockpit drains and melted the drain pipes.

My biggest word of advice is never fill your alcohol containers in the cabin and always keep fire extinguishers away from potential fire areas. I could not get my extinguishers inside because the fire was too near them.

This happened in Douglas Harbour on Grand Lake, New Brunswick, Canada.

Sterling Keays < >
Isabella Blue