The three-story riverboat, Grand Romance was engulfed in flames in mid-September after partially sinking at its long-term dockage in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Vallejo Fire Department (VFD) received a distress call around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, regarding a half sunken riverboat engulfed in flames. The VFD and the Coast Guard responded to the incident.
According to the VFD, four individuals were onboard at the time of the fire, and all were able to deboard the vessel safely. Two individuals reached the shore on their own, and two others had been rescued by a passerby. No injuries were reported, and the fire was brought under control by about 6 p.m. The investigation into the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage is still underway.
The vessel’s owner, William Barker told the Vallejo Sun that the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed his plans to work on the boat. Barker noted the California Air Resources Board required that his old diesel engine be replaced with a new low emission engine.
The Grand Romance was initially constructed in 1990 by the Barker family in Fort Bragg, Calif., beginning its journey as the Petaluma Queen in 1993. The sternwheeler navigated the Petaluma River, powered by a 16'-dia. paddlewheel.
The boat included iron smokestacks, a marble dance floor, and a century-old mahogany bar, operating as a popular dinner cruise and party boat for two decades. In the mid-1990s, an attempt at onboard gambling led to a legal battle with the city of Petaluma.
The riverboat then relocated from Napa to Vallejo and eventually Long Beach in 2001. There, the Long Beach city council denied Grand Romance an operating permit, prompting its return to Vallejo, where it laid moored in the Napa River.
In August, a ferry passenger spotted Grand Romance partially submerged at its berth. The cause of the sinking is still unknown.
A video of the burning vessel and the VFD response can be found here.