Puget Sound Marina Fire Injures 2, Damages Boats

A quick response to a fire that injured two people and destroyed or damaged eight boats at a Puget Sound marina kept it from becoming much worse, a police spokesman said.

The Sunday night fire at the city-owned marina in Des Moines broke out along a dock with 67 slips. The marina has a total of 850 slips filled with pleasure boats.

"Think about the boats — the fuel and oil and the fiberglass and the propane," police Sgt. Doug Jenkins said. "This could have been a tremendous disaster."

A 28-year-old woman and a man in his 30s suffered second- and third-degree burns when flames flashed over the boat, said Gordie Olson, assistant chief with South King Fire and Rescue.

The woman was in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said spokeswoman Susan Gregg. No condition information was available for the man.

The two people had been cleaning the 32-foot Bayliner earlier in the day and returned about 10 p.m. with the owner, Jenkins said. They noticed a strong odor of fuel.

The owner was on the dock; the woman was in the galley; and the man was near the engine compartment when something — perhaps as simple as opening a door and flipping a light switch — caused the fumes to explode in flame, Jenkins said.

Someone who lives aboard another boat at the marina called 911.

Heat generated along the covered dock melted fiberglass and spread flames from one hull to another, Olson said.

It was a "very, very difficult" fire, he said. "With a fire like that in a covered area, it tends to hold heat in and can spread very quickly."

Firefighters in Des Moines, about 15 miles south of Seattle, fought the flames from a fireboat and from the dock. Firefighters from surrounding departments also responded. The Coast Guard and state environmental agencies also were at the scene.

The 32-foot boat where the fire started drifted into a breakwater and sank in flames. It was being raised for the investigation.

The fire appeared to be an accident, King County sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West.

Seven other boats appeared badly damaged. Officials initially said 12 similar-sized sailboats and power boats were burned. No damage estimate was available, but it could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Marina staff quickly deployed an oil boom around a sheen in the water.

"We are fortunate here," Jenkins said.

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