In a September report, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined the Jan. 27 boat dock fire at Jackson County Park Marina that claimed eight lives was contributed to the marina’s limited fire safety practices.
The value of Dock B and the 35 vessels destroyed was estimated at more than $500,000, according to the report.
Fire broke out aboard the Dixie Delight, a 43-foot liveaboard houseboat, tied to Dock B. The owner of the vessel attempted to extinguish the fire and push the burning vessel away from the dock, but the blaze engulfed the Dixie Delight and then spread to neighboring vessels and the wood-framed covered dock.
The fire trapped 17 people on the dock. In the process of attempting to escape, eight people died. An estimated 4,000 gallons of fuel and lube oil were released, with the majority consumed during the fire.
According to the report, Jackson County Park and Marina had been inspected by the Scottsboro Fire Department twice, once in April 2012 and once in 2016. The 2012 inspection had no violations; the 2016 inspection cited a presence of a charcoal grill and a gasoline container on the docks. State code did not require these inspections, and they were completed as a courtesy.
Alabama’s current state fire code is comprised of the International Fire Code (IFC) and additions from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes, including NFPA 303, a section of fire safety standards for marinas and boatyards.
NFPA 303 includes guidance on electrical equipment, berthing and storage, and standpipes for marinas and boatyards. The standard also includes requirements for annual electrical inspections, marina employee fire response training, biannual fire drills, and the designation of a fire department liaison who would be responsible for submitting a “pre-fire plan” to the local fire department and the authority responsible for enforcing the code.
When Dock B was built in 2003, Alabama had not yet adopted these standards into state fire code. Therefore, these safety measures were not required.
According to the NTSB report, however, marinas should have measures and guidelines in place to prevent and mitigate accidents for all moored boats and their occupants.
“The Jackson County Park Marina did not observe several existing safety best practices and guidelines created for and used by the marina industry,” the report stated.
The cause of the fire, according to the report, is of unknown source, originating aboard the Dixie Delight in the vicinity of the vessel’s electrical panel.
NTSB investigators worked closely with Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley and Marine Safety Detachment Nashville throughout the investigation.