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Attack on pricey yacht fire falls way short in many ways but gives some Aussies a laugh. Still, fighting fire in this fishbowl clearly illustrates a significant lack of waterfront resources for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

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These videos remind us once again that no matter where you are there will be someone with a video camera poised to share it with the world when your efforts fail (yes, I know some will say that’s the theory my entire career in TV news was based on). In this case the fire might as well have been in the middle of an arena with spectators in the stands gathered to watch and record it and a TV network providing live multi-camera coverage. On this page are just a sampling of the many videos so far on YouTube from the multi-million dollar yacht fire today (Wednesday) at Docklands in Melbourne, Australia (where it is already Thursday).

The top video shows the reaction of some of the crowd to what appears to be wishful thinking on the part of one group of firefighters trying to reach the fire from a bit of a distance. I imagine the main purpose of the firefighters being in that position was to protect those mocking them in case the big boat broke free and drifted toward that side of the harbor.

It appears from the videos the only thing their colleagues who were much closer to the burning ship could muster were a pair of over-matched hand-lines on the dock and in a small boat. As you might imagine, exposure protection seemed to be their priority. And they were successful (or possibly lucky) that there was no other property damage.

Still the transparent nature of this operation, in a place for all of the world to see the inability of the fire department to effectively attack the fire, is probably a good thing.  Why, you may ask? Because already citizens, the news media and some key stakeholders are asking questions about the firefighting capability on the extensive waterfront in Melbourne.

Actually, as my friend Bill Schumm at Firegeezer already noted, it’s an issue that’s been on the radar screen of the labor organization representing firefighters. From the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday:

The blaze is likely to renew calls for firefighters to be better equipped to deal with marine emergencies.

The Age reported in January that the United Firefighters Union was concerned that billions of dollars worth of vessels that use Port Phillip and Melbourne’s waterways were virtually unprotected in the event of large fires.

More than 100,000 hectares of port waters are reliant on two four-metre aluminium boats fitted with petrol-powered pump hoses, and two aluminium dinghies.  Fire officers must request the support of commercially-operated tugs in large fires.

Here’s more on the topic from a Thursday morning SMH article:

MFB West Melbourne station officer Joff Spencer, who was off duty yesterday,  said marine response officers were incapable of containing  the fire from the  water because their four-metre aluminium boat with a  pump-powered hose lacked  the capability. ”There was no way in the world  a four-metre tinnie with a  200-litre pump was going to put that fire  out,” Mr Spencer said.

In November 2010, the MFB secured $9.8 million for a large firefighting  boat.  But moves to acquire one have been delayed while it assessed  whether to buy or  lease a vessel.

As Firegeezer also noted, the fire pointed out another significant failure. That boat had been purchased Wednesday morning and was in flames by 4:30 PM, leaving three workers to jump into the water to escape.

The first video below is the earliest clip I could find with smoke showing from the vessel. At the bottom is a news report with chopper shots showing the layout of the fireground more clearly.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • clt ff

    Wow..for a city with so much water frontage, they’re not adequately protected. We have better fire protection coverage on the local lake. Those small boats are laughable.

  • Brickcity1306

    In the infamous words of homer Simpson DOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Former Chief

    It’s disturbing that a city of this size with a significant maritime hazard is so poorly prepared to respond to incidents on the water or waterfront. Not unheard of, but still disturbing.

  • John W

    Well I guess they did the best they could with what they had. Insurance company will be thrilled!

  • Steve in NJ

    Maybe they “Browned Out” the fireboat. Their politicians are probably just as narrow minded as ours.

  • Anon

    Just about got ‘er…..hahahah

  • Molly

    5 years ago there was virtually no ‘waterfront development’ in Melbourne, it was mostly industrial and commercial wasteland. Sadly, and not surprisingly, the fire brigade has been very slow to keep pace with the rapid expansion that has since occurred. But most of this can be attributed to ridiculously complicated and inefficient political process that must occur first and compound that with union interference.
    It usually requires a significant event before things are improved, anywhere in the world.

  • Henry

    Typical city government thinking, “those dumb firemen just want a new toy, we don’t need a fire boat”. Then a significant fire on the waterfront, they start asking the firemen why they didn’t do better. Got to give us the tools if you want us to do our job. Guess it makes me feel a little better that our city gov’t isn’t just dumb, but even in other countries they are morons.

    Melbourne’s City Hall should be happy no one died!

  • Daz

    They can have ours, but for the size of Melbourne to not have some form of fireboat is surprising. Isn’t there a submission for one Molly?

    • Molly

      Yes there is. It’s been approved for a few years now but it seems there is an ‘issue’ as to exactly how the money will be spent.
      In the past the MFB has tried to work with tug boats (that have fire fighting capability)on the bay and in the docks, but the system to get them is too slow and unreliable.

  • mark

    The moral of the story?

    Don’t bring a dinghy to a yacht fire.