Owner of boat in Cadboro Bay fire blames mechanical issue

Owner of boat in Cadboro Bay fire blames mechanical issue
Oak Bay Fire/Twitter
Oak Bay firefighters are responding to a fire at Cadboro Bay on July 18, 2023.

The owner of the vessel that caught on fire in Cadboro Bay early Tuesday morning says a mechanical issue was to blame.

Oak Bay Fire, police, the Ministry of Environment, and the Canadian Coast Guard responded to the fire which happened in Cadboro Bay just before 8 a.m.

“I’m glad I’m safe, that’s for sure,” said Ryan Brackenbury, who owns the boat.

Brackenbury says while he was trying to move his vessel to another spot, it caught on fire.

“I started it up, let it idle, like warming it up and whatnot. As soon as I put it into gear, it just went ‘poof.'”

The owner says he could not reach his fire extinguisher and had to use buckets of water to try and stop the flames. He eventually had to leave the boat and escape using his kayak.

The Canadian Coast Guard told CHEK News that the vessel did not pose an immediate threat to the marina or surrounding vessels, leaving the vessel to fizzle itself out.

“The vessel owner is known but unable to provide a timely and appropriate response to minimize the hazard to the marine environment. CCG will take measures to minimize the long-term hazard by having the vessel removed from the marine environment,” said Michelle Imbeau, communications advisor for the CCG.

Brackenbury has had trouble in the waters of Cadboro Bay before. In June, he was fined $15,000 by the Coast Guard for failing to remove a derelict boat after several attempts by the organization.

READ MORE: Owner faces $15K fine for abandoned boat in Victoria

“The Canadian Coast Guard has responded to the Akoo numerous times over the past several months including when the vessel drifted ashore, discharged pollution into the marine environment, and deteriorated rapidly posing a public safety hazard,” said the Coast Guard in a release on July 7.

The law that he was fined under was the Wrecked, Abandoned, or Hazardous Vessels Act that was passed in 2019. Allowing the government to target owners of derelict boats who fail to clean up in time, up to $1 million.

Since its enactment, only two fines have been handed out. The first was given to Brackenbury.

“I was the first ever fined with that Akoo going to shore there…it’s been bad luck,” said the owner.

At the moment, Oak Bay Police confirmed to CHEK news that they do not suspect criminality for Tuesday’s fire. The Coast Guard says no fines have been given to Brackenbury as of now.

“The issuance of the fine for the vessel Akoo came after the vessel owner failed to comply with the Canadian Coast Guard’s directions to remove the vessel from the marine environment. The Canadian Coast Guard has not issued a similar direction for this current vessel,” said Imbeau.

READ MORE: Four years after passage of law on abandoned boats, only two fines have been levied

Derelict boats has been a problem in Cadboro Bay for years. In 2021, the Coast Guard said that they were dealing with more than 1,600 derelict boats across the province.

Advocates say they support the passed federal law, but a lack of resources has made it difficult to enforce it.

“Now there’s new people in. They’re getting trained and everything else. They lack the resources on the ground to be able and enforce it. They’re speaking of spending money on the coast but they’re really not hitting the ground. It’s an ongoing problem,” said John Roe, director for the Dead Boats Disposal Society.

Roe says there’s no shortage of work to be done in Cadboro Bay.

“We pulled out over the years 35 plus boats. In the last 10 years, I think we’ve pulled out 19 or 20 boats. We’re back in again with our drones and surveys, we’ll probably pull another six submerged out here within the next two or three months,” said Roe.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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