Four escape as retired riverboat catches fire on Napa River

(VALLEJO, Calif.) — A partially sunken riverboat docked on the Napa River caught fire on Saturday, with four people who reportedly were living on board escaping the flames, SFist reported. Two of the people jumped into the water and two made it to shore on their own.

Grand Romance, a replica 19th-century paddlewheeler that had been evicted from Long Beach around 2018, had fallen into disrepair in recent years. In early August, a passing ferry passenger posted a photo of the vessel partially submerged on the riverside.

Smoke rises from Grand Romance on Saturday as firefighters extinguish the flames. Vallejo Fire Department photo

On Saturday, plumes of smoke began to rise from the boat, which was anchored about 2 miles north of the Carquinez Bridge. The Vallejo Fire Department responded around 4:45 p.m. and the fire reportedly was under control by 6 p.m.

The fire department said on social media that two of the four people aboard “self-rescued” and two were assisted by good Samaritans. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Grand Romance is shown near Vallejo in 2019. Instagram/Rexwinterbottom photo

The boat, originally named Petaluma Queen, was constructed in the early 1990s in Fort Bragg. It featured a grand ballroom with a red velvet stage, marble dance floor, polished brass fittings and stamped-tin ceilings. It was used for dinner cruises in downtown Petaluma under the ownership of Bill Barker.

In 2001, the renamed boat was relocated to Long Beach where it hosted paid events. City authorities revoked its permit in 2018 due to health and safety concerns, according to SFist, and the boat was subsequently moved to Vallejo.

The owner reportedly had plans to make the vessel operational again, but they were put on hold by the COVID-19 epidemic and more recently by state requirements regarding the boat’s diesel engine.

By Professional Mariner Staff