PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

A Bend family's placid Sunday afternoon outing on Prineville Reservoir turned frightening when their boat caught fire, forcing them to jump into the water and swim to shore, Crook County sheriff’s deputies said.

Deputies were dispatched around 1:30 p.m. to the area near the Powder House Cove boat launch on the reported boat fire, said Deputy Mitch Madden.

They arrived to find a green 1972 Caravelle boat was fully engulfed about 30 yards from shore, he said.

The boat operator, Anthony Howden, 40, of Bend, told deputies he had tried to start the inboard motor when the engine compartment caught fire. He tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but it failed to work – and at that point, he told the family to abandon the boat.

Howden and his family swam the short distance to shore and were unhurt, Madden said, adding that none were wearing life jackets because they could not be reached after the fire broke out.

The burning boat sent up thick, black smoke as it eventually drifted close to shore, then sank about an hour after the fire ignited.

With boating season and warmer weather approaching, the sheriff’s office reminded boaters to make sure their boats are properly equipped and that safety gear is readily accessible before you set out.

The Crook County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol is hosting a free boat inspection next Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ochoco Plaza in Prineville. Other counties are holding similar events this month; check with them about the inspections and also for details on classes for mandatory boater education cards.