Arson ruled out in boat fire

Arson ruled out in boat fire

By Christina Dimeo


Arson has been ruled out as the cause of the massive fire May 3 that destroyed six boats and damaged another at Lake Monticello’s Beach 4.

Lake Monticello Fire Chief Richie Constantino, an arson investigator, said that the fire was accidental and likely electrical.

“It started in the fourth boat in the slip,” he said. “There was no kill switch that cuts off all battery power to the boat. The boat was energized and the wiring showed the signs of electrical failure. The boat caught fire.”

Two people working on their boat at the dock saw the fire and reported it. No one was injured. Firefighters were on the scene in five minutes, Constantino said, but the fire spread fast.

“That day there was a very stiff wind from the south with gusts of over 18 miles per hour. The wind took it to other boats. We had gasoline burning, and wires, boat decking, carpeting and cushions. It just went from boat to boat,” he said.

“A lot of people thought it was arson because of the intensity of the fire,” Constantino said. “But many people don’t realize that boats are just like cars. They have 25 gallons of gasoline, plus all the other combustibles.”

Constantino performed a “cause and origin” to determine what caused the fire and where it began. “The first thing we do is try to find the point of origin,” he said. “We do that by examining burn patterns and things like that. And once you find the area of origin you go looking for cause.”

All of the boats are now out of the water and are lined up in the Beach 4 parking lot in the position they occupied at the dock slips, Constantino said.

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