Burning oily rags causes $1.5 million yacht fire

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its report of a fire aboard the private yacht Pegasus last year in Gig Harbor, Washington.

The report highlights the fire hazard posed by improper storage of oily rags on ships.

The Pegasus caught fire on July 15, 2022 while moored at the Peninsula Yacht Basin in Gig Harbor, Washington. The fire burned for about an hour before it was reported, and by the time firefighters arrived the fire had engulfed the rear of the ship. The PegasusA total loss of approximately $1.5 million was determined.

No injuries were reported.

NTSB noted the fire on board Pegasus was caused by self-ignition from self-heating of used, oil-soaked rags that were improperly disposed of. The day before the fire, a bag of rags soaked in a crude linseed oil product lay under a table on the quarterdeck.

“Rags soaked with oil-based paints, commonly used for painting and refinishing, pose a fire hazard if improperly stored,” the NTSB report said. “Because they generate heat as they dry, oily rags that are stacked, folded in a bin, or bagged do not allow the heat to escape, creating a high risk of spontaneous combustion.”

To prevent a fire, seafarers using oil-based products (or other chemical products) should carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disposing of rags, steel wool, brushes and other applicators.

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