Just off the coast of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, we noticed a little grey smoke coming from a vessel close to us, within 90 seconds it was fully ablaze. in the 2-3 minutes it took us to get to “Final Act” all the decks were engulfed with flames and the owner of the boat was on the fly bridge saving his dog, they both were in the water as the flames took the tender. I towed the life raft about 100 feet away from the fire and got everyone onboard. Only the captain suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation, besides the expected shock and exposure to all 5 people and the 2 dogs, shortly after we dropped them off at Skull Creek marina.
I never would have thought a fire could have taken the ship so vary fast, just goes to show how little time you have to get off the boat when there is a fire. Also a great example of how proper engine room fire systems could either save the ship or at minimum, slow the fire down. Proper video surveillance, shutting down the ventilation, closing passive air vents, shutting off fuel and engines in addition to standard fire suppression systems would have made a difference in this shipboard emergency. Also, there was no viewing port in the engine room door, the captain noted this as he opened the door to see the scope of the fire, often these windows are not installed because of noise and cost concerns.