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Fire at Roche Harbor destroys two boats; no injuries

Jay Hurlburt took this photo of the Roche Harbor boat fire with his Verizon Wireless cellphone. - Jay Hurlburt
Jay Hurlburt took this photo of the Roche Harbor boat fire with his Verizon Wireless cellphone.
— image credit: Jay Hurlburt

Kevin Carlton said it was the worst fire he's seen at Roche Harbor in his 29 years as harbormaster.

But it could have been worse.

There were no injuries in the fire that claimed two 32-foot powerboats Wednesday afternoon at Roche Harbor Marina's D dock. Both boats were destroyed; one of the boats sank, The Journal's Scott Rasmussen reported from the scene.

Rasmussen reported that one of the boats was being worked on around the time of the fire. Marina staff members saw smoke from one of the boats and tried to move neighboring boats to other slips but had to back off when the boat became engulfed in flames.

Responding to the scene: San Juan Island Fire Department firefighters, EMTs, sheriff's boat Guardian, fire boat Confidence, U.S. Coast Guard and Vessel Assist.

The boats are reportedly owned by people who live off-island. Neither boat has been used since Labor Day, Rasmussen reported. No people were reported to be on board the boats when the fire began.

Fire Marshal Robert Low is investigating the cause of the fire. A sheen around the two boats was reported. The state Department of Ecology and the Islands Oil Spill Association were contacted.

Coast Guard Group Port Angeles received a call at 2:35 p.m. from San Juan County 911 dispatch reporting that two boats were on fire in Roche Harbor. Coast Guard Station Bellingham diverted a 33-foot response boat from a patrol.

The Coast Guard and Vessel Assist provided a safety zone around the burning boats while Guardian and Confidence worked to extinguish the flames. The fire was out by 3:15 p.m.

The Confidence battled the fire with foam. "Foam acts as a coating agent," Friday Harbor Fire Chief Vern Long said. "It really works wonders. It coats the surface and doesn't let the air back in where it can reignite the flames or whatever might be really hot at a fire."

It's the second boating mishap at Roche Harbor in two months. Sept. 9, a 64-year-old Marysville man escaped with minor injuries when an explosion blew out the cabin windows and cracked the hull of his 25-foot Bayliner during an apparent fueling mishap at the Roche Harbor fuel dock.

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