NEWS — Union demands proper fire-fighting boat for Melbourne waterways

Union demands proper fire-fighting boat for Melbourne waterways

The fiery destruction of a multi-million-dollar 24m Horizon E78 Skylounge luxury motoryacht at Melbourne’s Docklands late yesterday, has raised concerns over the inadequacies of frontline fire-fighting equipment employed on the city’s waterways.

Thick smoke from the fibreglass and diesel fed inferno blanketed the CBD from about 4.30pm as 50 firefighters and 13 appliances tackled the blaze on the new boat, mainly from the marina arm.

The main waterborne response was from a Metropolitan Fire Brigade two-man four-metre tinny with a small petrol-powered waterpump, that would be more suited to fighting grass fires, and appeared to have little effect on the blaze.

"after more than three hours it burnt to the waterline"

MFB West Melbourne station officer Joff Spencer, was reported as saying marine response officers were incapable of containing the fire from the water from the small boat.

“There was no way in the world a four-metre tinnie with a 200-litre pump was going to put that fire out,” said Spencer.

The fire tug Keera was called for assistance, but could not attend due to the shallow water after briefly grounding on the way.

Peter Marshall from the United Firefighters Union (UFU) said his members were at risk because of the lack of proper equipment. He was reported as saying the MFB had the money to buy a large fire-fighting boat, but bureaucratic bungling had delayed the project.

“They need fire boats, they have the money for fire boats. Why haven’t they bought those boats?” he asked.

Marty Braid from the MFB said plans for a proper fire-fighting boat are “well developed” and the MFB is working towards securing the vessel.

The destroyed motoryacht had recently arrived from Queensland and had just taken on 4000 litres of fuel when smoke was sighted coming from the front of the boat.

Four people aboard the boat escaped the fire, and the craft was engulfed by flames in less than five minutes. It was soon apparent the boat could not be saved and firefighters’ priorities switched to protecting other craft. The MFB managed to isolate the motoryacht, and after more than three hours it burnt to the waterline.

The cause of the fire is as yet undetermined. - John Panozzo.

Photo: An Horizon E78 Skylounge.