LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — There have been multiple fires on personal watercraft (PWCs) at Lake of the Ozarks in recent weeks.

“As hot as it has been, we are getting multiple reports of gas tanks venting into the engine departments and causing vapors,” Rocky Mount Fire Protection District Chief Kevin Hurtibise said. He recommends that before starting a PWC, the operator should remove the seat and check for gas vapors in the engine compartment. Then let it air out to be sure there are no gas fumes.

PWCs are not required to have blowers, so they generally have what is considered a "passive" ventilating system: openings that allow moving air to pull gas fumes out of the engine compartment. But when the PWC is not moving, and the air is still, those fumes can build up while the vehicle sits, and a spark can cause an explosion. (See below for tips on boat refueling and using a blower.) Hence the importance of lifting the seat, opening up the engine compartment and ensuring no fumes are present.

On Friday, June 29, Gravois Fire and Rocky Mount Fire District crews responded to a PWC fire on the Gravois Arm of the Lake. The fire occurred at around 10:30 a.m. According to Chief Hurtibise, the PWC owner was working on the PWC when it caught fire. After the PWC caught fire it was pushed away from the dock to stop the fire from spreading to the dock.

RMFPD firefighters extinguished the fire from their fire boat. The PWC was then moved back to the dock where Gravois Fire personnel completed the overhaul. “We think the engine was flooded and when they cranked the engine there was a spark that ignited the fire,” Chief Hurtibise explained. No injuries were reported in connection with this incident.

Then, on Sunday, July 8 on Coffman Bend, a PWC exploded at around 10:30 a.m. Rocky Mount Fire Protection District fire boat personnel responded to the explosion. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Christina Parker, 20, of Eldon, was launching a 2002 Polaris at a boat ramp, at the 2.7 Mile Marker of the Gravois Arm. Parker attempted to start the PWC when “a mechanical failure” caused it to explode, the Patrol reported.

The woman had already been transported by ambulance to Lake Regional Hospital with serious injuries by the time fire personnel arrived on the scene.  The PWC sank, after exploding into multiple pieces. Atlantis Dive and Tow and Boat USA floated the unit to put it on a trailer and remove it from the Lake.

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