by Chiswick RNLI

Chiswick RNLI evacuate people from smouldering boat in multi-agency operation

The volunteer crew were hailed by the people on board a small motor cruiser. They were desperate for help after discovering a fire on board. There was smoke coming from the stern of the vessel and so it was essential that the three people on board were taken off while it was still safe to do so.

Motor cruiser on fire

The crew had spent several hours conducting an exhausting search in heavy rain on Saturday morning 6 October 2018. After being stood down they came across the cruiser as they passed Battersea heliport. When they approached, the crew could see smoke coming from the stern of the vessel.

The RNLI crew quickly assessed whether it was safe to approach; at that point there were no signs of a rapidly spreading fire so it was possible to get close to the bow of the vessel. The three people on board were immediately evacuated into the lifeboat before the source of smoke in the stern of the vessel developed further.

After the three were safely on board the lifeboat the crew’s concern turned to the risk the smouldering vessel posed to others. It was in the middle of the navigation channel and in danger of drifting towards some nearby houseboats. They set up a tow with a long line and called for assistance from the Marine Police and the London Fire Brigade’s Fire Dart.

The three boaters were getting wet and cold in the open RNLI E Class lifeboat, so when the police boat arrived they were transferred to its closed wheelhouse.

Firefighters on Fire Dart arrived soon after and boarded the damaged vessel to make it safe.

The three boaters were uninjured and were able to return home by public transport. Their vessel was moored up for later assessment of the damage.

Chiswick RNLI helmsman Tony Coe said: ‘It was clear that the people on the smoking vessel should be taken off immediately. We could see it was still safe to approach close to the bow and take the people off before the fire might spread. We also were able to attach a tow line to the bow to ensure there were no consequences for other river users. Teamwork with the other marine emergency services ensured that there was a good outcome from a potentially serious incident.’

RNLI Media contacts:

David Clarke, RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer (Chiswick), 07951 21 0500

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since the RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended over 3,500 incidents and rescued over 1,730 people. As well as saving lives at sea around the coasts of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, the RNLI also plays a huge part in protecting people’s safety on some of our inland waterways including the River Thames, where it operates four lifeboat stations at Teddington, Chiswick, Waterloo Bridge (Tower Lifeboat Station) and Gravesend. Tower and Chiswick are the two busiest RNLI stations, responding to around 10% of the calls across all 238 RNLI stations in 2018. Unlike many other stations, Tower, Chiswick and Gravesend operate with a round-the-clock crew who are ready to launch within 90 seconds of an emergency call coming in. At each station, the full-time crew work alongside volunteers who come from all different 'day jobs' such as bankers, TV producers, civil servants, students and other emergency services, and give up their time to help save lives on the Thames.