December 19, 2022 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Fire Aboard Towing Vessel Capt. Kirby Dupuis: NTSB Investigation

Kirby Dupuis

What happened to cause a fire on the Capt. Kirby Dupuis?

​​​On November 9, 2021, about 0708 local time, a fire broke out on the port main diesel engine on board the towing vessel Capt. Kirby Dupuis. The vessel was pushing thirteen loaded dry cargo barges while transiting upbound on the Ohio River at mile marker 501 near Belleview, Kentucky, with a crew of six. Crewmembers fought the fire using portable extinguishers and attempted to use the vessel’s fixed fire-extinguishing system. The fire was extinguished by local firefighters in the early afternoon, and the vessel was towed to port. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the vessel was estimated at $1,800,000.

What the NTSB found in the investigation of the engine room fire on the Capt. Kirby Dupuis

The NTSB ​determined that the probable cause of the engine room fire aboard the towing vessel Capt. Kirby Dupuis was a lube oil tube on the port main engine that vibrated out of a joint due to a missing retaining ring and mounting bracket, spraying pressurized oil that made contact with a hot exhaust surface and ignited. Contributing to the severity of the fire damage was the crew’s unfamiliarity with activation procedures for the fixed fire-extinguishing system, which resulted in an unsuccessful attempt to release the fire suppression fluid and extinguish the fire.

Lessons learned from the incident

​Crew Training in Use of Fixed Fire-extinguishing Systems

​The small confines of the engine room space and the location of fire equipment within that same space demonstrate a risk to crews fighting engine room fires. On towing vessels, the risk to crews fighting engine room fires has led to the development of designs that incorporate both a means for securing ventilation to the engine room and a fire-extinguishing system to extinguish the fire without requiring crews to enter the space. Crewmembers should train for engine room fires and review extinguishing system instructions. Training drills should ensure that crewmembers are familiar with fixed fire-extinguishing systems and procedures, including confirming crew evacuation, isolating the protected space, and activating the system.

Source for content and image: NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), “Engine Room Fire on board Towing Vessel Capt. Kirby Dupuis,” September 29, 2022.

Read the full NTSB report here.

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Kirby Dupuis

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Accident, Investigations
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