Video: West Seattle marina fire ‘accidental’; $200,000 damage

(Scroll down for newest information – 1:11 pm: SFD has determined fire was accidental)

(Photo substituted at 5:46 am for cameraphone photo we had earlier – this was taken before fire was out)
FIRST REPORT, 4:35 AM: There’s a big response right now to a boat-fire call in the 1300 block of SW Spokane, and we have a few reports of a loud explosion-like noise heard from northeast West Seattle right about the time it was reported – we’re checking it all out right now. It’s at the Jim Clark Marina.

4:50 PM: We’re en route to the scene – scanner traffic indicates that this is affecting traffic in the area, even train traffic, which has been shut down by Burlington Northern. Scanner says “two houseboats are totaled” so far in the fire, and also indicates the fireboat Leschi is involved in fighting the fire. WSB’s Patrick Sand has just arrived in the area and even before reaching the marina just called to say “fire is still visible.” (added – the video he shot on arrival)

5:03 AM: Patrick came over the low bridge and IT IS OPEN – for those who were worried. The flames are now subsiding but still a lot of smoke. Now the scanner (which we’re monitoring at HQ) says three houseboats were/are involved. At the scene, Patrick says it appears some sheds at the marina were involved too – sunrise is still an hour away so the damage will be more fully visible then.

5:13 AM: The “houseboats” reported on the scanner are more like covered slips, Patrick is being told at the scene, where SFD public-information officer Helen Fitzpatrick has arrived to work with the media. She tells us **no injuries**. Some of the fire units are being cleared from the scene; the fire is mostly out.

5:20 AM: Adding a cameraphone photo atop the story (that’s a fireboat lit up at the back of the shot); we’ll have video back at HQ in a bit. We asked SFD’s Fitzpatrick about the reports of a “boom” just before this was reported; she says the Fire Department’s heard a lot about that too but it’s way too soon to tell what that was – investigators will have to do their work figuring out what caused this. The official summary so far is two “boat houses” burned (NOT “houseboats” as per earlier scanner traffic) and one boat (photo above shows smoldering debris). The fire was fought from both land and water (the fireboat Leschi was called out) – and if you’re passing by, as a Twitter question reminds us, you may notice firefighting foam on the Duwamish.

6:50 AM: We’re going back shortly for a daylight look at the scene – scanner indicates police have just reopened the surface street(s) that were blocked off in the marina’s immediate vicinity (again, NOT affecting low-bridge traffic).

7:14 AM: SFD’s Fitzpatrick has just updated the damage totals from the fire: One boat burned, one boat was damaged by fire, a third boat sank; one boathouse was gutted (see our photo) and the two adjacent ones were damaged. The firefighting foam on the water, she notes, is biodegradable. No word yet on how the fire started.

7:55 AM: We’re back at the marina now that the sun’s fully up. The iPhone photo above is the burned boat from the shore east of the marina – we’ll have a closer photo a bit later but that’ll do for now. Port of Seattle Police are here as well as a few remaining fire and citywide-media crews. (Next two photos added 9:22 am – burned boat, plus damaged boathouse next to debris from destroyed one)

11:37 AM: Still no word on the cause. SFD has posted its complete summary of other details here.

1:11 PM: Fire investigators say this was an accident: “fuel vapor in the bilge of a 36-foot boat was ignited by a spark from electrical equipment, & caused explosion.” Damage total is estimated at $200,000.

49 Replies to "Video: West Seattle marina fire 'accidental'; $200,000 damage"

  • Ken August 24, 2010 (4:37 am)

    I heard a pretty big boom from here in the highpoint area about 4:15

    Sirens started 3 min later

  • Andy August 24, 2010 (4:42 am)

    It shook our house on Pigeon Point at 4:15 – my first thought was that it was an earthquake…. must have been a HUGE explosion!

  • Emily August 24, 2010 (4:42 am)

    I was awakened by the loud boom. Heard the siren response. I can see the smoke cloud coming from around that area. I am on pigeon point.

  • AMBC August 24, 2010 (4:43 am)

    KING 5 is reporting that roads under the WS bridge are closed. Wondering if that’s the Harbor Island bridge? And if cyclists are being diverted?

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (4:49 am)

      We’ve got a photographer en route and he’s taking the low bridge, so we’ll know before long …

  • Aaron August 24, 2010 (4:46 am)

    I was awaken by the big boom at 4:15. I’m on Pigeon Point.

  • Dave August 24, 2010 (4:51 am)

    We also were awakened in Westwood by an explosion that shook our house.

  • Chelsea August 24, 2010 (4:51 am)

    Yeah, I heard it then, too, from south Camp Long neighborhood. Wondering if it is a “boat fire”, if it’s from the marina across from harbor island or at the port.

  • Chris M August 24, 2010 (4:52 am)

    I’m in North Delridge and woke up when my house shook a bit too – hope everyone is OK. (I immediately checked the WSB twitter, of course – and found the answer here after my shower.) :)

  • catherine August 24, 2010 (4:53 am)

    more sirens, more emergency vehicles still arriving. At least a dozen plus now

  • Anna August 24, 2010 (4:53 am)

    I can see the fire from our bedroom window on Pigeon Point — the fire was in the boat slips in the marina on the southwest end of Harbor Island. It looks like a boat gas tank may have exploded… about 3-5 boat slips were on fire. A gazillion police and fire trucks are now on the scene along with a fire boat. The fire’s pretty much out now. That sure was one loud BOOM, though — our whole house shook!

  • King5AMNEWS August 24, 2010 (4:58 am)

    Our reporter Kyle Moore on scene says the fire is contained to one boat at the Jim Clark Marina. That boat has been pulled away from the other boats. No word on injuries. We’re trying to figure out how vehicle and train travel may be impacted.

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (4:59 am)

      Thanks K5, but scanner says “two houseboats totaled.” Our guy is almost there and it sounds like fire is sending a PIO. He can see the fire still burning even before he has reached the marina itself.

  • Ken August 24, 2010 (4:58 am)

    two house boats totaled per scanner. Other boats adrift. Patrol boats rounding them up.

  • polly August 24, 2010 (5:05 am)

    I’m in highland park and heard big explosion around 4:15.

  • King5AMNEWS August 24, 2010 (5:09 am)

    We’re hearing some conflicting info as well. Hoping to get another update shortly.

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (5:13 am)

      Tapped fire means it’s mostly out. The scanner is sometimes misleading and that’s why WE HAVE SOMEONE WHO IS AT THE SCENE if I may repeat – and has spoken with the public info officer who is there. What sounded like “houseboats” may be more like “housed boats” – in covered slips. He’s calling me with updates every few minutes.

  • Ken August 24, 2010 (5:11 am)

    what is a tap fire?

  • Emily August 24, 2010 (5:11 am)

    Makes sense they would shutdown train traffic. Probably to ensure emergency response is not impeded. You can get stuck for a long time by train traffic on harbor Island.

  • Tim T August 24, 2010 (5:13 am)

    Tapped fire is for when the fire is out.

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen August 24, 2010 (5:14 am)

    We happened to be awake, we thought the explosion was to the south – it must have reverberated off the hill behind us in High Point. I hope no one was aboard.

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (5:17 am)

      As I just noted in the main story, SFD spokesperson Helen Fitzpatrick is there to coordinate info for us and other media, and she says no one’s been hurt.

  • sam August 24, 2010 (5:18 am)

    the explosion shook our house in puget ridge, jolted me awake.

  • Hollyplace August 24, 2010 (5:21 am)

    I didn’t feel the explosion, but I heard it here just below the Morgan junction too. I haven’t been able to sleep since and have been lying awake wondering what it was. I finally got out of bed to check the blog and low and behold my questions were answered. Thanks WSB! Glad nobody was injured.

  • Pigeon Point Resident August 24, 2010 (5:24 am)

    Just a shout out to the WSB- thanks for the peace of mind in reporting the cause of the loud noise immediately this morning.

  • Fellow Citizen August 24, 2010 (5:25 am)

    Woke me up! (4:15) Knew it was an explosion. Wanted to call 911 but didn’t know where to say “it” was! Didn’t hear sirens for what seemed like a long time. Hope no one was injured!

  • WSB August 24, 2010 (5:36 am)

    As summarized officially by SFD so far – two “boat houses” (not houseboats) burned, one boat, no idea yet about the cause.

  • midnightmotorsport August 24, 2010 (5:53 am)

    I live right across the Duwamish in one of the houses on 16th ave SW, near the West Seattle Recycling center. HUGE boom at about 4:15, shook the whole house, rattled the windows, set all of the birds calling and the dogs barking. There has been a #$%*& helicopter hovering right above my house for the last hour making all kinds of racket. I guess it’s at least nice to see that the response was so quick.

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (5:58 am)

      The chopper is TV – not sure whose but there is no firefighting chopper involved. I would imagine that after dawn, there’ll be more than one, as they all go over to look at the aftermath.

  • Jeanette August 24, 2010 (6:13 am)

    We felt and heard an explosion at around 4:15 this morning in Highland Park that shook the whole house

  • samson August 24, 2010 (6:19 am)

    I smell metal burn from Arbor Heights… wow… hope everything is okay…

  • Krystal August 24, 2010 (6:28 am)

    Heard the boom as well, after 4:00am around Alaska Junction, sirens shortly after. Hope everyone is safe!

  • TT August 24, 2010 (6:42 am)

    Heard it over in the Morgan Junction area as well – woke us up. Between that and the loud explosion from the truck hitting the tree and losing power yesterday its been an eventful 24 hours!

  • BlairJ August 24, 2010 (7:41 am)

    I heard the explosion at 4:15 AM, and that was at 13th & Henderson in Highland Park.

  • Alki Resident August 24, 2010 (7:52 am)

    Sounds like it may have been some propane tanks that exploded.I somehow slept right through this event.

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (8:06 am)

      Here at the marina, one guy says it was a lot louder than any propane tank could be – in his opinion, of course. We will know from fire investigators soon enough, hopefully – TR

  • austin August 24, 2010 (8:29 am)

    I hate the idea of boats burning but I really like the term “northeast west seattle”.

  • ArborHieghts August 24, 2010 (9:10 am)

    Heard it in Arbor Heights

  • Vanessa August 24, 2010 (9:30 am)

    Austin, how about Lake Forest Park?

  • ray west August 24, 2010 (10:13 am)

    I heard the boom at 4:15 pm, very faint but I could feel the shockwave when it hit the house. I’m off California Ave., between Alaska Junction and Morgan St. Junction. I knew it had to be something fairly big.

  • Steph in WS August 24, 2010 (10:46 am)

    Boy, I must have been really tired because I heard nothing this morning. Wow! I live on Highland PKWY

  • Diane August 24, 2010 (12:24 pm)

    yes, wow; just now learning about this at noon, and I’m directly west up the hill on Admiral; heard nothing, and I’m very light sleeper; of course during summer I have 7 fans running to stay cool; sure glad no one was hurt

  • boatingbob August 24, 2010 (3:38 pm)

    SFD estimates damage at only $200k? That seems a bit on the light side. One boat blasted to smithereens, another burnt to the waterline, two more damaged (mine’s one of them – bummer!!!!), 2 boathouses destroyed and two more damaged. I’m sure glad it happened at night and no one was on or near any of those boats, and none of the firefighters were hurt! As my Mom says, if it only costs money to fix, count your blessings.

  • Larry Richards August 24, 2010 (8:27 pm)

    Harbor Island is not in WesSeattle.

    • WSB August 24, 2010 (10:49 pm)

      @Larry – You may not consider it in WesSeattle, but it’s in West Seattle. SW address = West Seattle. (And there is a tiny bit of WS that has addresses with S. rather than SW – in particular, Myers Way, Joint Training Facility vicinity.)

  • StevedoreSally August 25, 2010 (5:58 am)

    @larry There’s probably quite a few places in West Seattle that you don’t consider “West Seattle”. Wrong side of the tracks, maybe? Come visit us on the dark-side, you might like it ;)

  • Bob Olds August 25, 2010 (9:57 am)

    I’m a boat owner in Portland, OR and a newcomer to this site. These photos and reports remind me of a fire in a marina on Multnomah Channel near the Willamette River a couple years ago, and the thrill of watching firemen battle it from on the dock and in the water.

  • Larry Richards August 26, 2010 (9:04 pm)

    Was born at the WS hospital, California and Alaska. Probably before most of the Blog readers . Pet peeve–newcomers that mis pronounce or re-name the region. Harbor Island is across the river from Riverside and not far from Youngstown but not in WS. Nevertheless it’s wonderful to hear about Harbor Island too ! Spent a lot of time searching out the tracks there. There is no wrong side of the tracks. Crusty old guy, Larry

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