On August 19, 2017, at 4:59 p.m., Cal-Fire personnel and deputies from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office Boating Safety Unit were dispatched to a boat fire at the Jones Valley public boat launch. At 5:09 p.m., deputies arrived on scene and located the boat operator Niles Bennett (61 years old), sole occupant, on the boat launch. Bennett had burns on his legs and arms. The 1976 Eliminator ski boat was fully engulfed in fire. Cal-Fire and U.S. Forest Service fought the fire until it was extinguished. Bennett was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment.
Bennett said he fueled the boat, in Redding, on his way out to the lake. Bennett put his boat in the water at the Jones Valley public boat launch and then parked his truck. Bennett returned his boat at the dock and turned the blower on. Bennett said the blower ran for 2 to 3 minutes prior to him starting the boat and letting the boat run for a couple of minutes. Bennett then went to the back of the boat and untied it from the dock. Bennett said he went to untie the front of the boat and had one leg in the boat and the other leg on the dock. Bennett heard a whoosh sound and flames contacted his body. Bennett got away from the boat.
The accident is under investigation. The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office Boating Safety Unit wants to remind boaters to use the boat’s blower, to clear away gas vapors, for at least 10 minutes prior to starting the boat.