NTSB Highlights The Fire Hazards Of Oily Rags On Vessels

The National Transportation Safety Board highlighted Tuesday the fire hazards of improperly stored oily rags on vessels, following an investigation into a fire aboard a yacht last year in Washington.

On July 15, 2022, the recreational yacht Pegasus caught fire while moored at the Peninsula Yacht Basin in Gig Harbor, Washington. The fire burned for about an hour before it was reported. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had engulfed the aft section of the yacht. The Pegasus, valued at about $1.5 million, was declared a total loss. No injuries were reported.

Recreational yacht Pegasus before the fire
Recreational yacht Pegasus before the fire. (Source: Vessel Owner)

NTSB determined the fire aboard the Pegasus was caused by spontaneous combustion due to the self-heating of used oil-soaked rags that had been improperly disposed of. The day before the fire a bag with rags soaked with a raw-linseed-oil product was left under a table on the aft deck.

“Rags soaked with oil-based finishes, which are commonly used for painting and refinishing, pose a fire hazard if stored improperly,” the NTSB report said. “Because they generate heat as they dry, oily rags that are piled up, put together in a trash can, or bagged do not allow the heat to escape, creating a high risk for spontaneous combustion.”

To prevent a fire, mariners using oil-based products (or any chemical product) should carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleanup and disposal of rags, steel wool, brushes and other applicators.

Marine Investigation Report 23-11 is available online.

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