Boat death shock

The tragic death of a boater in a fire on her vessel has sent a shockwave through the boating community. The Fire Service,the Boat Safety Scheme and experienced boaters are pleading with boat owners across the country to make sure they do not become future victims.

In the early hours of Thursday February 22 firemen were called to the narrowboat home of Alexandra Bennett,moored on the Trent and Mersey Canal near the Star Inn in Stone.

Using breathing apparatus and used two hose reel jets they extinguished the fire,rescued the 57-year-old woman from within the boat and gave her CPR.

Sadly,despite their best efforts,she died at the scene. A dog also died as a result of the incident.

A fire investigation by West Midlands Fire Service and Staffordshire Police found that the fire started accidentally,after a log burner door was left open and a lit item fell onto nearby carpet.

Paul Shaw,Fire Investigation Officer,said:“Tragically,despite our best efforts a woman died as a result of this fire and our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.

“Staff from the Service’s Prevent team will be out in the area in coming days speaking to other barge residents about keeping safe in their homes.

“We’d urge all canal barge residents to review their fire safety and if they have any concerns they can contact our Community Advice Team for guidance and support on 0800 0241 999.”

The Boat Safety Scheme has issues similar warnings and a heartfelt plea came from Norbury Wharf director David Ray:“I urge all of our customer’s,reader’s,follower’s,friend’s and colleagues to check that their solid fuel stoves are safe to use and that the adequate safety alarms are put in place,” he wrote on the firms Facebook page.

“The person who lost her life in this fire was an acquaintance of mine,past moorer at Norbury and valued customer. Her death has really hit the canal community and we need to ensure that we do everything that we can to avoid an accident like this happening again in the future.”

David goes on to give some pertinent advice:“Although it is not part of the Boat Safety Certification at this stage every boat should be fitted with a Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Alarm. They also need to be suitable for use in boats. Smoke alarms should be certified by an accredited third party body to EN14604 or equivalent and CO alarms to EN50291 or equivalent.”

He sets out a checklist for boaters using multi-fuel stoves: 

1. Sweep flues on a regular basis.

2. Burn the correct type of fuel –house coal is cheap,but not suitable for a closed appliance. Buy quality smokeless fuels from a reputable supplier. If you burn wood,ensure that it is seasoned and dry or Kiln dried –not wet wood picked up off of the towpath.

3. Ensure that the seals and glass are in good condition.

4. Don’t use gas type flue terminals that restrict the smoke/gases escaping from the flue.

5. Ensure that you have got adequate high level and low level ventilation. Do not block air vents.

6. Do not store combustibles or flammables in close proximity to the solid fuel stove.

7. Don’t bank the fire up and then leave it to draw without being attended.

8. The main fire door must be kept closed at all times during operation and only opened when loading with fuel.

9. Empty the ash pan outside of the cabin into a heat proof container. Do not store ashes inside the cabin for ease as they give off Carbon Monoxide for hours.

10. Ensure that you have a minimum of two exit routes (one each end of the boat) and that they exit routes are not blocked or locked from the outside of the boat.

11. Ensure that you know where your fire extinguishers and fire blanket. These are checked during the BSC examination but it is also advisable to have them serviced annually.

He added:“We want all our customers and friends to stay safe and adhere to the Boat Safety Guidelones –they are there to keep us safe. If anyone is in doubt about anything please contact our office for free advice.

The Boat Safety Scheme has said that,while solid fuel stoves provide a dry and economical form of heat making thousands of boats on UK inland waterways very cosy,there have been at least two dozen boaters hurt and several killed in using their solid fuel stoves in recent years.

It goes on to say:“So we are urging people to pay attention to the message from Staffordshire Fire &Rescue and if anyone would like more detailed stove safety advice/tips,visit the stay safe,stove safety pages on our website.”

For further information contact:Peter Underwood

Tel:07831 538076, ,

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