Claim Files Show 6 Common Causes of Boat Fires

Fire Claims 6 Boats at Rhode Island Yacht Club
Photo/Video capture.

Fire ranks number 5 among all boat losses according to the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program claims files. The claims files also show the 6 specific areas that lead to most reported boat fires. Here is the list, with additional advice offered by BoatUS:

26% of fire claims are caused by “Off-Boat” sources:

  • Over a quarter of the time, a BoatUS member’s boat burns when something else goes up in flames—the boat next to theirs, the marina, their garage, or even a neighbor’s house.

20% of fire claims are due to “Engine Electrical”:

  • For boats older than 25 years, old wiring harnesses take a disproportionate chunk of the blame.

15% of fire claims are due to “Other DC Electrical”

  • The most common cause of battery-related fires is faulty installation of batteries—such as reversing the positive and negative cables or misconnecting them in series (when they should be in parallel).

12% of fire claims are due to “AC Electrical”

  • Most AC electrical fires start between the shore power pedestal and the boat’s shore power inlet. Inspecting the shore power cord routinely (connector ends especially) and, for boats older than 10 years, inspecting or replacing the boat’s shore power inlet, could prevent this from happening.

9% of fire claims are due to “Other Engine

  • This one is all about when an engine overheats due to blocked raw-water intake or mangled impeller, the latter of which can also happen after experiencing a grounding or running in mucky waters. Check the engine compartment after getting underway and replace the impeller every other year.

8% of fire claims are due to “Batteries”

  • On older outboards, by far the most common cause of fires is the voltage regulator. At 10 years of age, failure rates on these important electrical components begin to climb. Once the engine hits 15 years, replace the regulator.