Barge Bursts into Flames in Delaware River, Glow Seen for Miles


Barge burning in the Delaware Bay off Dover / Photo courtesy Eric Reifsnyder

UPDATE, 5/24/22, 10 AM:

A fire that began early Monday morning on a barge in the Delaware River is still not under control, according to the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.
The barge was carrying household appliances and scrap metal.
The Bowers Fire Company in Kent County, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources have established a unified command.
DNREC has been monitoring for environmental impacts, but as of this morning no debris had been discovered and air particulates have been measured at low levels.
The Coast Guard has reported no injuries.

UPDATE 5/23/22 – 6pm – From DNREC: Local emergency responders have been working into the afternoon today to contain a fire aboard a cargo barge in Delaware Bay approximately nine miles off the coast of Port Mahon. Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control are onsite assessing the situation after the fire was reported just after 1 a.m. today.

The DNREC Emergency Response Team joined federal and local partners monitoring the Delaware Bay by air and patrol boat for environmental impacts caused by the fire, which discharged a plume of smoke. While smoke is currently visible from the beach, air quality monitoring stations in the region are currently showing low readings of Particulate Matter (PM2.5). Data is available to the public at or

The USCG and DNREC crews are also looking for debris from the barge and its cargo of disused household appliances and scrap metal, and wildlife that might be struggling from the effects of the fire. As of Monday afternoon, they had observed no debris in the water from the vessel and there have been no reports of impacted wildlife.

“We’re working closely with the Coast Guard, Bowers Fire Company and other response agencies to assess any possible environmental impacts to the bay,” said DNREC Emergency Response Chief Jamie Bethard. “While there have not been any significant areas of impact observed during the search, we’ll continue to monitor the situation.”

Bowers Fire Company is leading the incident command. The USCG and DNREC crews will continue to monitor the situation.


The US Coast Guard provided this update Monday morning:

The Coast Guard and local fire agencies are responding to a barge fire approximately 9 miles south of Port Mahon Monday morning. 

Watchstanders at the Sector Delaware Bay Command Center received a call at approximately 1 a.m. reporting a barge on fire in the Delaware River. The barge was reportedly carrying household appliances for scrap.

The Coast Guard launched a 29-foot Response Boat Small-boat crew to assist and continue to monitor the situation. There are six fire boats on scene from local fire agencies actively fighting the fire. 

“Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of firefighters and response personnel on scene,” said Capt. Jonathan Theel, Sector Delaware Bay Captain of the Port. “We will also work to mitigate any environmental threats and protect the flow of commerce within this vital port.” 

There are no injuries and no evidence of pollution impacting the waterway. The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

The Coast Guard requests that all mariners avoid the area of the incident.

Original story:

A stubborn fire on board a 300-foot barge in the Delaware River is keeping officials busy this morning. Multiple fireboats have been on scene assisting the Coast Guard after the barge caught fire around 1 a.m. One report suggested it was hauling metal debris.

Memorial Fire Company Station 89 was among local fire companies that responded to a barge fire near Delaware Bay early Monday (photo courtesy of Memorial Fire Company Station 89, Slaughter Beach)

The glow from the flames could be seen for miles as the barge was being towed by the tugboat Daisy Mae. The tug and tow barge were in the shipping channel east of Port Mahon heading slowly north toward Wilmington as of 3 a.m. They were unable to anchor.

Image courtesy

Fireboats from Slaughter Beach (Memorial has posted pictures from the barge fire), North Bowers, Leipsic, Little Creek and South Bowers were among those that responded. The Lewes fireboat had to return because of a mechanical problem and the Wilmington fireboat was unavailable because it lacked an operator.

The fireboats had a difficult time accessing the fire because of the barge’s wooden scoffers. As of 2 a.m., officials decided to fight the stubborn fire using foam, possibly with the help of the fireboat from Philadelphia or have it delivered to the fireboats from shore. Several fire companies have been alerted for their foam units or trailers.

Officials are also working on putting fire apparatus on board the Cape May-Lewes ferry to assist with fire suppression.

The Coast Guard has placed a two-mile safety zone surrounding the barge which remains in the shipping channel.