Six people out for a cruise Friday night on Chickamauga Lake had to swim for their lives when a boat caught fire, according to Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner.
The six were celebrating an anniversary for two of the passengers and were on the way back to the dock in the Windward Pointe subdivision when they started noticing an unusual odor, like something was overheating, Mr. Garner said. Boat owner Tim Collins said one of the boat’s two motors appeared to be malfunctioning, so he shut it off and tried to make it back to the dock with the remaining motor, Mr. Garner said.
Before they could make it back, the motor compartment burst into flames, and Mr. Collins said all six of them had to jump out of the boat and swim about 50 feet to the boat dock. No one was injured.
The boat, described as a 37-foot sport cruiser, was fully engulfed in flames and drifting toward the boat dock, and while someone called 911, Mr. Collins used a long pole to keep the burning boat away from the dock, Mr. Garner said.
The Chattanooga Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at 8:48 p.m. and responded with several fire apparatus, including the fire-rescue boat. The firefighters on shore could not reach the boat with their hand-held hoselines. When the fire-rescue boat arrived moments later, the firefighters used water from the boat’s deck gun to push the burning vessel away from the dock and onto shore, Mr. Garner said.
The firefighters on the shore then were able to finish putting out the fire using Class B foam, in part because the boat still had up to 150 gallons of fuel on board, Mr. Garner said. Damage to the boat was substantial, he said.
The fire department’s hazmat team was called in to help contain leaking fuel and Chattanooga police and officers with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency also responded to the scene, Mr. Garner said.