Tampa Fire Rescue responded to the fire in the Seaplane Basin south of Peter O. Knight airport around 4:30 p.m. Monday.
“We started getting multiple calls because there was huge columns of black smoke here close to the airport so people thought the worse in that regard,” Tampa Fire Rescue spokesperson Jason Penny said.
When crews arrived, TFR said officials found a roughly 30-foot boat fully engulfed in flames. Officials say the boat appeared to have been moored in the basin but broke away from its mooring as a result of the fire.
TFR said two people were able to escape from the boat and made it to shore at the Davis Island boat ramp. One of them was taken to Tampa General Hospital as a trauma alert after receiving injuries related to the fire.
“Your life can change in the toss of a dime,” the boat’s owner Mark Etting told News Channel 8’s Justin Schecker in an exclusive interview.
Etting said he was working on his skiff when his friend Scott Gross went inside the boat to take care of a cut on his hand.
“He came back outside and said ‘I don’t know Mark, I don’t know what happened, the fire, his legs were on fire,” Etting said. “I said get in the water, jump in the water and he jumped in the water.”
Etting said he tried his best with a fire extinguisher.
“It just wouldn’t go out,” he said. “It would not go out.”
Fortunately, the burning boat drifted away from the others in the water as firefighters attacked the flames.
“They were right here on the spot, excellent, police were friendly, lot of compassion was shown,” Etting said.
As Etting copes with the loss of his houseboat, he said he’s grateful to be unharmed.
“I try to give thanks to god every day no matter what trials and tribulations I face,” he said.
Crews were able to get the fire under control by 6 p.m. An investigation is underway by the fire marshal’s office to determine the cause and origin of the fire.
No other injuries were reported at the scene.