Three injured, dozens of boats destroyed in marina fire
Posted January 7, 2011 10:25 a.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2011 6:21 p.m. EST
Washington, N.C. — A fire at McCotter's Marina in Beaufort County injured three people and damaged at least 25 boats Friday morning, authorities said.
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said the 911 call came in around 12:30 a.m. When crews arrived on the scene, they said the north dock was engulfed in flames.
Seven fire departments worked for more than five hours to put out the fire.
"The fire itself was very intense," said John Pack, director of emergency management for Beaufort County. "It became a matter of containing the damage and keeping it from spreading to the other boats."
Investigators determined the fire was caused by an electrical fault, Pack said, but no details were provided.
McCotter's Marina, which has 180 slips, is on Broad Creek, just off the Pamlico River east of Washington and about 35 miles inland from Pamlico Sound.
Most of the damaged boats were a total loss, and about 100 feet of the covered dock also was destroyed, authorities said.
"Trying to fight a fire out on a dock is a very hard thing," Pack said.
Three people were treated for injuries, including burns and hypothermia. At least one woman jumped into the water to escape the fire, authorities said.
"We were just blessed no one was more seriously injured," Pack said.
Mike Little said he was asleep on his boat and was awakened by the fire.
"I looked out there, and it was already engulfed in fire. Just a couple of minutes, and it was burning like crazy," Little said.
His boat is among about seven or eight at the marina that are occupied, but authorities said everyone was accounted for after the fire.
Little said he navigated his boat past the burning dock but stopped when he heard a woman in the water screaming.
"I threw her a life ring, pulled her to my boat and got her around to my ladder. She was weak, but she had enough strength," he said.
U.S. Coast Guard crews were assessing the environmental impact of the incident on Friday and used floating booms and absorbent pads to contain debris from damaged boats and soak up spilled fuel.
"The thickest product has been (close to the dock), so the winds have been in our favor and we've been able to contain that using the boom," Coast Guard Lt. Shannon Scaff said.
Eastern Environmental, a private hazardous materials contractor, also was called in to clear spilled fuel from the water.
Although marina users were relieved no one was seriously injured in the fire, most people who stopped by to check on their boats or watch the clean-up effort expressed sadness.
"You think about it, (and) it's sad," Little said. "You put your heart and soul into something like that, and it's gone."