Investigators looking at electrical system in California dive-boat fire

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Did over-stressing the boat’s electrical system cause the fire on Conception?

Did over-stressing the boat’s electrical system cause the fire on Conception?

Federal officials are reportedly focusing on the electrical system of the dive boat Conception that caught fire and killed 34 people in the worst maritime disaster in modern California history.

According to the Los Angeles Times, investigators are looking at the outlets concealed in the back of the galley’s foam-filled L-shaped bench seats. More than likely, every one of those outlets was occupied by smartphones and other electronic devices that needed charging.

The 75-foot excursion boat was built in the 1980s. The question on the minds of examiners from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the Port Hueneme naval facility, where the remains of the boat are now located, is whether the boat’s outdated electrical system could handle so many devices.

As the investigation moves forward, the U.S. Coast Guard openly recommended that owners of similar excursion vessels “immediately urge crews to reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.”

According to the Times, the preliminary investigations have suggested that the fire didn’t start in the engine room and there are indicators that the origin could be in the galley or surrounding areas. On the morning of the fire, one crew member reportedly told a rescuer that he thought the fire started with electronic devices charging in the galley.

The paper noted that statistics gathered by insurers and industry groups show that about 55 percent of onboard fires in smaller vessels are related to the electrical systems. John McDevitt, a former assistant fire chief, marine surveyor and chairman of the National Fire Protection Association said in the article: “The environment and salty air plays havoc with the electrical system. Electricity is challenging on a boat. With all those charging stations running through an old circuit, it’s probably electrical.”

The Conception had passed U.S. Coast Guard inspection before the fire, and the electrical system met federal guidelines.