Christmas Day 2011: Boat Fire on Lady Bird Lake

2:00 PM: Our family was having a quiet and relaxing Christmas Day. The presents were opened. The turkey was roasting in the oven. Very few people were outside on this cold overcast day in downtown Austin. 

2:09 PM: I looked out the window and was shocked to see flames shooting from a Capital Cruises tour boat across Lady Bird Lake. Bill started to dial 911 but stopped when we heard sirens headed our way. I grabbed my camera and ran out on our balcony. 

2:12 PM: In just a few minutes the two-story riverboat was engulfed. We saw explosions with sparks flying. We assumed that guests at the Hyatt Regency were evacuated into the parking lot on the other side of the hotel. Spectators gathered on the Congress Avenue Bridge and on the lake shores.

2:16 PM: The fire spread to another nearby tour boat. Fortunately their other large riverboat was parked further away at a different dock. By this time, fire trucks had arrived and hoses were being readied.

2:19 PM: The flames must have burned through the mooring lines. The boat slowly drifted away from the dock.

2:21 PM: The Austin Fire Department started pouring water on the fires…although the paddle boat continued to drift downstream.
2:22 PM: Only a minute later the paddle boat had already drifted out of reach of the fire hoses. But the fires on the dock and other boat were drenched and soon extinguished.

2:26 PM: The burning boat continued to head toward the Congress Avenue Bridge. We wondered if the boat would get stuck under the bridge and were surprised that onlookers and cars were still up on the roadway.

2:29 PM: Somehow the burning boat floated toward shore (or perhaps was pulled?) and a succession of tankers continued to spray water down from the bridge.

2:49 PM: Hoses could now reach the smoldering hull from shore and soon the fire was out. 

After dinner we walked across the lake to look around. A TV reporter told us that arson is suspected. The dock and smaller tour boat were heavily damaged.

The riverboat was completely destroyed. After dark we saw the hull being towed away.

3 thoughts on “Christmas Day 2011: Boat Fire on Lady Bird Lake

  1. The fire was quite spectacular and scary at times. Today’s Austin American-Statesman confirmed that the burning boat was pulled in towards shore by the fire fighters.

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