News & Media

Blairgowrie Marina boat fire 2016 – case study

By: Duncan Russell

Category: Operational Information

  10.49 AM 8 April, 2016

Location: General

Views: 1946

The ‘Learning from incidents’ section of Brigade magazine includes case studies of major incidents researched by Fire & Emergency Management. Here, the team analyses a 2016 boat fire at Blairgowrie Marina.

A case study is an explanatory story based on a real-life incident that looks at what happened and why it happened. The aim is for people to learn from the case study so they improve their decision making in time-critical situations.

If you have any observations or initiatives you would like to submit from your own experiences in emergency management, visit the Observation Sharing Centre:


On a windy Saturday afternoon on 20 February 2016, multiple calls were received about a number of boats in a blaze at Blairgowrie Marina on the southern Mornington Peninsula. The newly reopened marina, with berths for about 330 boats, and three boats were seriously damaged by fire. The area was still in the middle of peak tourist season and was flooded by visitors. The fire became a major spectacle for the day for both those on the land and at sea, with the marina packed with boat owners. Swift action by the responding CFA and marina operations crews kept damage to a minimum and prevented a major catastrophe.

Indicent overview

At 2.36pm, a call was put through that a boat was on fire in row A at Blairgowrie Marina and there was a lot of flames and black smoke. Rosebud Fire Brigade pumper turned out first followed by Rye and Sorrento brigades. Safety Beach Coast Guard brigade was requested, though they had already responded after they saw the smoke while patrolling the waters adjacent to the Peninsula. 

Police and Ambulance Victoria were also requested within minutes of the brigade arriving on scene.  A man who suffered burns during the fire was stabilised by ambulance crews on scene and then taken to Frankston Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

When the brigades arrived at the marina, three boats were well alight. Due to a swift and aggressive firefight following the principles of rescue, exposure, containment, extinguishment and overhaul (RECEO) only a small a number of boats sustained damage. However, there was significant damage to the marina infrastructure.

Sorrento brigade Captain Darren Croad was incident controller with Station Officer Mark Flower from Rosebud brigade taking the operations officer role and Operations Officer John Francis was District 8 rostered duty officer providing EMT support.

The incident area was immediately sectorised into beach sector, marina sector and on-water sector.

The beach sector was run by Fourth Lieutenant Paul Baiguerra from Rye Fire Brigade. The marina operations team followed the procedures in the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron Emergency Management Plan and two vessels on fire were towed towards the shore and extinguished with a hand line from the beach by a CFA crew.

The marina sector was run by Station Officer Flower. The crew concentrated on providing exposure protection and extinguishing the vessels still at berth, using 38mm hand lines.

The on-water sector was run by Mark Woollard from Rye brigade and was placed on to the Coast Guard vessel to help the Coast Guard brigade extinguish the vessels that were freed from the berth.

Overall, this sectorisation assisted in managing and controlling the incident.

To combat the fires, the positioning of the crews was important because fires were burning in three distinct areas. The Sorrento pumper was allocated close to the marina via the main connecting ramp and was connected to the marina’s 64mm fire service with hand lines supplied direct from Sorrento pumper to the marina pontoons. Rosebud pumper helped by boosting the main 64mm hydrants via the boost point that extended on to the marina and the supply of hand lines to the beach.

Lessons identified

Early activation Within minutes of turning out, the crew leader requested the response of Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and, importantly, Safety Beach Coast Guard brigade. This early activation of the Coastguard was identified as important because of travel time and distance involved, and to ensure we continue to develop our partnership with Coast Guard.

Initial actions The yacht club’s personnel and management gave important assistance to the brigades by clearing the traffic so that brigade trucks had access to the main and boom gates. These actions contributed positively to the incident outcome.

Appropriate vehicle responded Each brigade that responded the fire made the decision to take their pumper. This was appropriate for the type of risk which required breathing apparatus crews and the ability to perform boost point activities.

Strategies and tactics The decision to relocate burning vessels to the shore definitely reduced the spread of fire and subsequent damage to other surrounding vessels.

Incident management team structure It was recognised that the IMT developed was appropriate and suitable for the event. The sectorisation of the area assisted to control the incident.

Pre-planning and local knowledge Although the pre-plan had not been updated since the marina’s renovations, it was still very useful under the extreme circumstances. Understanding of the facilities helped to formulate the strategies and tactics, in particular the location and use of the hydrant boost point. The use and success of the boost point at this location should be noted and referenced.

Safety concerns It was identified that the hazard of operating in a marine environment meant there was a real risk of emergency service personnel falling into the water and possibly drowning. Safety measures need to be addressed by crews when working in a marina and, in particular, a deep water marina.  

Emergency partner response It was identified that local CFA crews had limited knowledge of the Coast Guard’s and MFB’s capabilities and capacity. There are opportunities to further integrate training within brigades where a marine risk is present.

Fireground communication Fireground communications posed some difficulties during the fire.  Establishing fireground channels was of some help, but further work is needed to fully understand the causes of the problems.

Identified roles Although the EMT structure was developed immediately at the incident, it was identified that the use of tabards would have helped agencies to talk to the appropriate people.


CFA crews were faced with a difficult firefight because of the thick black smoke and strong winds, together with the complexities of a marina, the additional safety considerations and the significant potential for spread to other boats. The actions of the crews limited the spread of the fire and ensured there were no serious injuries to the community or to responding crews.

Lessons learned will help brigades and the yacht club’s management to refine the Emergency Response Plan to reduce the impact of fires in the marine environment. 

Last Updated: 08 April 2016