Training helped Boston ferry crew respond properly to engine fire

A trained eye made a big difference in mid-June when a fire broke out in the engine room of the ferryboat Massachusetts in Boston Harbor shortly after the ferry left its dock at Rowes Wharf. Alerted by an alarm, Capt. Steve Bodie responded to the engine room. But before he opened the door, he felt the heat from within and knew well enough to leave it closed.

“If he’d opened that door, it could have caused a back draft and that boat could have burned to the waterline and severely injured the crew,” said Jay Spence, general manager for Massachusetts Bay Lines, which owns the boat.

Sixty-five passengers and four crew were safely evacuated to a nearby ferry. Two passengers were treated for smoke inhalation and released. Meanwhile, firefighters aboard the Boston fireboat Firefighter opened one deck hatch and flooded the engine room to extinguish the blaze. The vessel was then towed to the Fitzgerald Shipyard in Chelsea.

While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Spence said the main hot spot appeared to be near the turbo on the port inboard engine. The remaining five engines sustained heavy heat and water damage, and all of the electrical wiring melted. Spence said the A-60 barrier lining the engine room contained the fire, and there was no damage to the rest of the boat. The boat did not have — nor was required to have — a fixed CO2 system onboard.

The 100-foot Massachusetts was built by Gulf Craft in 1988 and is licensed to carry 346 passengers. Spence said the crew’s firefighting training proved to be crucial. Bodie taught firefighting in the U.S. Navy more than 23 years earlier, and all of the crew had recently viewed a fire prevention video created by the Passenger Vessel Association. Spence is on the board of directors of the organization.

 ”My dues to this association just became invaluable,” Spence said.

By Professional Mariner Staff