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Fire-related articles

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UPDATED: Toxic smoke billowing from the blaze that destroyed a new $5.4 million Ocean Alexander 85-foot motor yacht, filled the air at Roche Harbor marina on San Juan Island Wednesday, July 10.

No one was aboard the vessel, which was in the slip for display and sale,  when it caught fire about 10 a.m.

San Juan Island firefighters laid hose down the dock ramp from the engines parked near the cafe. Dozens of firefighters fought the fire for more than four hours.

Early in the fire, firefighters entered the upper cabin at the stern after smashing the windows. Other firefighters broke the windows near the bow and sprayed water on the fire.

"The biggest challenge was that firefighters could not get to the seat of the fire," said Fire Chief Steve Marler with San Juan Island Fire Rescue.


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Ray Prokonm, who works for Ocean Alexander, the company that built the luxury yacht, said 1,500 gallons of fuel was onboard the vessel.

Prokonm objected to a plan, approved by the Coast Guard, to tow the boat close to shore and further from the fuel dock. He  had said 'you never town a burning boat'. Others said the rule is you never cut loose a burning boat.

The Fire Chief abandoned the plan after determining the tide was too low.

Vessel Assist Towline Marine Assist was on the scene in six and a half minutes and pumped salt water on the blaze until the fire boat Confidence , moored in Friday Harbor arrived on scene.

Firefighters on the Confidence were able to spray water on the boat intermittently as their efforts were hampered by a glitchy monitor. A new better equipped and designed fireboat has been purchased by the fire department and will arrive later this year.

Boats in neighboring slips were safely moved by Roche Harbor marina crews and Vessel Assist.

Roche Harbor's party "barge" remained two slips over during the fire. Firefighters edged against the barge to keep the fireboat in place.

Roche Harbor staff moved the Island Oil Spill Association's (IOSA) trailer, with 1100' of boom, to the boat ramp prior to the IOSA volunteers arrival.

IOSA (Island Oil Spill Association) sent nine certified personnel and its workboat the Green Heron to the scene in the afternoon.

The U.S. Coast Guard requested IOSA   deploy boom across the entrance to the marsh  south of the marina. In previous field trials, IOSA has determined that 300' of containment boom would adequately prevent oil from entering the marsh. They deployed all the boom by 1:20 p.m.

The Coast Guard issued a 100-yard safety zone around the vessel. Personnel from the state Department of Ecology arrived in the afternoon and coordinated its response with local fire, law enforcement and emergency management agencies.

IOSA planned to wait until the boat sank beginning the clean-up and recovery of any pollutants in the water

By late afternoon all that remained was a half sunk burned hull of the boat. 

The cause of the fire is unknown and an investigation to determine the cause is underway.

Twenty-five San Juan Island firefighters with four engines, heavy rescue and a fire boat responded to the fire.

San Juan Island EMS had 15 EMTS and two ambulances at the scene. Wearing face masks to protect against inhaling the smoke, they operated out of Lime Kiln Cafe as they provided rehab for firefighters.

Customs and Border Protection and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office provided scene security.

Photos by Sharon Kivisto

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Firefighters aboard the Confidence fight the blaze.

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Towline Marine Assist was first on the scene.

dsc_6260Firefighters enter the upper cabin.4001-dsc_6369Fire Chief Steve Marler oversees the firefighting operation. dsc_6385

A San Juan Island EMT checks the vital signs of a firefighter.
The check is routine after a firefighter uses up two tanks of oxygen.

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