The U.S. Coast Guard has issued interim fire safety rules for small passenger vessels in response to the fatal fire at a Conception dive boat in Santa Barbara County.

The Santa Barbara-based boat was anchored off Santa Cruz Island on September 2, 2019, when a fire broke out on board and ultimately sank the ship.

The 33 passengers and one crew member sleeping below deck were all killed, and crew members above the deck were able to jump overboard and escape the fire.

The interim rules, which come into effect in March, add fire safety requirements for small passenger vessels, including fire detection and extinguishing systems, multiple escape routes, drills. evacuation, firefighter training, devices to monitor if crews are performing required roving patrols, and how to handle flammable items such as rechargeable batteries.

Federal investigators have determined that the probable cause of the fire and sinking of the boat was the failure of owner / operator Truth Aquatics to provide effective surveillance of his vessel and crew, including the requirement to maintain a patrol itinerant. This failure allowed a fire to develop, undetected, on the main deck, the National Transportation Safety Board found in 2020.

The lack of a Coast Guard requirement for smoke detectors in all accommodation spaces also contributed to the growth of the blaze, the NTSB determined.

As Noozhawk pointed out at the time of the NTSB report, the Conception had smoke detectors in the berth area below the deck, but they were not connected to each other or to the wheelhouse, and no smoke detectors. was in the living room, the common area above the dormitories where investigators believe the fire started.

Many of the NTSB recommendations are included in the Coast Guard Interim Rules, including the requirement for small vessels to have smoke detectors in all accommodation areas and for vessels with overnight voyages. have smoke detectors interconnected, so one detector alerts the rest of the detectors.

The Coast Guard’s interim rules will also require small passenger vessels with overnight accommodation to have a secondary means of escape in an area different from the main exit, so that a single fire will not affect both. escape routes. This was the case on the Conception, since the staircase and fire escape hatch both led to the salon compartment, which was on fire.

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A memorial to the victims of the Conception dive boat fire is placed on the breakwater in Santa Barbara harbor. (File photo by Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk)

A federal grand jury has indicted Conception Captain Jerry Boylan with manslaughter, and the criminal case is pending in federal court in Los Angeles. He is accused of “fault, negligence and inattention to his duties”.

Families of the victims of the Conception dive boat fire filed a civil lawsuit related to the fire against the Coast Guard last year.

Coast Guard is accepting comments on interim fire safety rules for small passenger vessels until June.

In announcing the rules, the Coast Guard said, “The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the incident and said in its Marine Accident Report that” the probable cause of the accident at aboard the SPV Conception was the failure of Truth Aquatics Inc. to provide effective oversight of the operations of its vessel and crew, including the requirements to ensure that a roving patrol was maintained, which allowed a fire of unknown cause to develop, undetected, near the aft salon on the main deck. ‘ The NTSB determined that the other causes were inadequate smoke detection and inadequate evacuation arrangements. Although the cause of the fire remains unknown, the potential sources of ignition noted by the NTSB include faulty lithium-ion batteries and overloading of electrical circuits due to the excessive connection of a series of rechargeable devices to the using a single connection.

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