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Coast guard issues safety warning following California boat fire

Flowers float on the water near the Sea Landing at Santa Barbara Harbor in Santa Barbara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. A fire raged through a boat carrying recreational scuba divers anchored near an island off the Southern California coast early Monday, leaving multiple people dead and hope diminishing that any of the more than two dozen people still missing would be found alive.
Associated Press

The United Stated Coast Guard issued a safety warning on Thursday that asked commercial boat operators to limit the amount of unsupervised charging of devices containing lithium-ion batteries.

The recommendation came as the preliminary report on the Labor Day fire that destroyed the dive ship Conception near Santa Cruz Island could be issued as soon as Thursday, according to National Transportation Safety Board spokesman, Eric Weiss.

The cause of the fire likely won’t be addressed in the report, but the charging and storage of batteries and electronics is being investigated.

According to MSN, the batteries used in most electronic devices charge and discharge through the movement of lithium particles between negative and positive electrodes. The particles are then suspended in pressurized cells within the batteries that are filled with vaporous, flammable chemicals.

“The intensity of the fire surprised people,” Peter Goelz, former managing director of the NTSB, told USA Today. “If it was being fed by lithium batteries, that might explain it.”

Goelz said he had not heard charging stations caused the boat fires but that it wouldn’t come as a surprise as, on commercial airlines, crew members are always prepared with gloves, tongs and flame-smothering bags.

The safety warning also advised boat operators to ensure that all firefighting equipment is on board and operational, that emergency exists are discernible and functional and that all crew members know their roles in the occasion of a fire.