Photo of the Natchez before the casualty.

​​The Natchez before the casualty. (Source: New Orleans Steamboat Company)​

Engine Room Fire aboard Passenger Vessel Natchez

What Happened

​On May 3, 2022, about 1945 local time, the inspected passenger vessel Natchez, with one crewmember on board standing a security watch, was moored in the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, Louisiana, undergoing renovations, when a fire broke out. Local firefighters extinguished the fire at 2139. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the vessel was estimated at $1.5 million.

What We Found

We determined that the probable cause of the fire on board the passenger vessel Natchez was the failure of contractor and vessel personnel to identify and then either remove or adequately protect combustible material near hot work.​

Lessons Learned

​​Combustible Materials and Smoldering Fires

The NTSB has investigated multiple fires following the completion of hot work within a space that were determined to be caused by a smoldering fire. A smoldering fire is formed when combustible material ignites, but the combustion proceeds slowly and steadily on the material’s surface with little heat and no smoke or flame. A smoldering fire is not easily detected, and depending upon its surroundings, it can last for hours after the initial ignition and can quickly grow into a flaming fire with no warning.

A smoldering fire can long outlast the time a fire watch observes an area following hot work. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate work areas for fire hazards and ensure that combustibles are relocated or protected with flameproofed covers/curtains or otherwise shielded with sheet metal. In addition, crewmembers involved in hot work should be trained to identify hazards such as combustibles and to take action to remove or protect them from hot work.