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Kingsland man fights boat fire with WaveRunner after rescuing occupants

Lake LBJ boat fire

LEFT: A boat fire June 27 on Lake LBJ forced two people into the water. Kenny Dutcher, who lives nearby, helped them from the water in his boat before returning on his personal watercraft to put out the fire. RIGHT: A first responder douses the boat with water after it was brought to shore. Courtesy photos by Terry Livingston

When Kingsland resident Kenny Dutcher heads onto Lake LBJ on his WaveRunner, it’s not just for fun anymore but also for firefighting practice. 

“That’s what I tell my wife now when I go out,” he said with a laugh. 

On Sunday, June 27, his personal watercraft skills came in handy in putting out a boat fire. At about 8:30 a.m., Dutcher was on the Lake LBJ shoreline with his dog when he heard a boom on the lake. He looked up and spotted smoke coming from a boat about 500 yards from his house. Dutcher saw what looked like the boat’s engine cover standing up. As he took in the situation, a second boom rolled from the watercraft.

Dutcher sprang into action.

“I ran to my boat, grabbed a fire extinguisher, got on my boat, and headed out there,” he said. 

By the time he arrived, fire engulfed the back half of the boat. He realized his fire extinguisher wasn’t going to make a difference. Dutcher was able to help the boat’s two occupants, who had jumped into the water, get into his boat.

With the man and woman safely aboard, Dutcher returned to his dock, tied up his boat, and climbed aboard his WaveRunner. 

He approached the fire-engulfed boat and executed a series of maneuvers, similar to a donut, splashing the boat with water to put out the flames and keep the fire from spreading to nearby structures.

Dutcher sometimes got within 5 feet of the boat.

“There were a couple of times I’d get into the smoke a bit and think, ‘Don’t be doing this,’” Dutcher said. 

Eventually, the fire was out, and Llano County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Kingsland Volunteer Fire Department boats arrived. 

“The good thing is nobody was injured,” he said. 

Over the past several years, Dutcher has enjoyed riding his WaveRunner, splashing his friends and family, but he never thought he would put those skills to use in a serious situation. 

“I guess I’ve been practicing those (maneuvers) for years,” he said. “Who would have thought that I’d use them for fighting a fire.”