New Bedford Fire Chief: Storage Spaces, Fuel Exacerbated Boat Blaze
NEW BEDFORD — A boat fire at the Pope's Island Marina yesterday evening that destroyed a multi-million dollar yacht was made worse by the vessel's storage compartments and hundreds of gallons of fuel on board, according to New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger.
Kruger said that no injuries were reported but fire crews from multiple departments took several hours to put out the flames, which started at around 5:18 p.m. and quickly engulfed the 82-foot pleasure craft at the Pope's Island Marina on Monday evening.
Firefighters from both New Bedford and Fairhaven departments were called out for visible smoke, with reports from people aboard that there was a fire belowdecks.
But as crews battled the blaze, Kruger said, it became clear that the fire was getting worse as the heat and smoke grew.
"Basically, they ended up finding the fire had moved around the boat in concealed floor spaces," the chief said. "They basically found fire everywhere."
After two additional crews came on board to help extinguish the flames, the heat and smoke worsened to the point that command pulled everyone off the vessel to attack the blaze from the pier with a hose.
"We do a fair share of marine fires here — we're pretty good at it," Kruger noted. "The BTUs these fires put out is just phenomenal."
At some point, the chief said, the flames ignited the fuel tanks, which people on board estimated contained around 500 gallons of fuel.
"So that made the situation worse," he noted wryly.
Departments from Bristol County, Swansea, and Dartmouth were called in to help in the two-alarm fire, and New Bedford also called in one of its airport trucks for extra firefighting foam to smother the flames, blanketing part of the marina.
The battle to control the blaze was made more complex by environmental concerns, according to Kruger, who said that a fire boom was deployed to contain fuel and foam on the water's surface.
"We used quite a bit of foam," he said, adding that the smoke was so thick over Fairhaven that he heard some sports practices were cancelled due to poor air quality.
Crews were largely able to prevent the flames from spreading to other boats — including a smaller boat nearby, a fact that Kruger attributes to the firefighters' hard work.
"Everybody did a great job," he said, commending the crews for their inter-department teamwork. "It was a collaborative effort."
The state fire marshall's office, the environmental police, and the coast guard are also helping with the investigation and cleanup, which is ongoing.
The original cause of the fire is still unkown — and according to Kruger, due to the extent of the damage it may be impossible to tell how it started.
Ultimately, he said, the yacht is a "multi-million dollar loss."
"This is probably one of the worst that we've responded to," he said.