A 40-ft. trawler that had begun its journey on the St. Johns River and was making its way south was gutted by fire this afternoon, burning for some two hours as firefighters fought the blaze under the Flagler Beach bridge at Moody Boat Launch. No one was injured.
“At 2:34 [p.m.], units were dispatched to a boat fire here at Moody Boat Ramp. The first arriving units on scene reported a 40-foot trawler with heavy fire at the stern of the boat,” said Capt. Steve Cox, who was in command of the scene for the Flagler Beach Fire Department. Initial units responding included Battalion 11, Rescue 11 and Ladder 11. “We pulled an attack line and made a direct attack to the rear of the boat. We got the fire knocked down but since it was so well involved prior to our arrival, it appeared to be running underneath the hull. So it took an extended operation just to get the fire under control under the hull of the boat.”
The operation was “pretty unique,” Cox said: Flagler County Fire Rescue assisted, but so did the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, whose Marine Unit boat helped: “We actually put firefighters on their boat and got to do an attack from the other side,” Cox said. Firefighters were also in the water–it was that shallow–pouring water on the flames.
The gas-powered boat had little furl on board, which was fortunate since it limited environmental concerns and intervention by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, whose officers were also on the scene, investigating.
FWC’s Lt. Scott Dack said the boat had just been sold to new owners. (The boat’s name was not yet released, as the owners had not been reached to be informed of the blaze: it wasn’t even visible on the boat anymore.) The man who’d sold the boat to the new owner was actually piloting the boat, transporting it from DeLand, on the St. Johns River to Jacksonville, then down the Intracoastal Waterway, Dack said. He said the pilot turned back at one point and saw flames. He drifted the boat toward the dock. “When it swung close to the boat, he jumped off,” Dack said, after trying to put out the flames.
“When it started it was just smoking,” the pilot told Cox, “then when I opened it up and I looked and I realized it looked like I seen a couple of flames coming out. I emptied the whole extinguisher on it.” The boat was gas-powered.
“Luckily it all worked out,” Dack said, “it was close enough for a fire department to get to it, close enough to get to safety, no injuries to anybody. That’s a plus. Financially, it’s going to hurt somebody.”
The pier and Moody launch were closed to traffic once the fire broke out. By a little after 5 p.m., firefighters were on the boat, its flames entirely out. It appeared to be listing and resting on the bottom. The state fire marshal was on the way to investigate, Cox said.
As for towing the boat, “that’s going to be the owner,” Dack said. “It’s the owner’s responsibility to clear that.”