The BJ Thomas caught fire when a space heater sparked in the galley.
The first units of the Newport Fire Department to arrive on scene at Dock 5 noted heavy smoke coming from the boat. Firefighters using portable dock pumps got access onto the boat to fight the fire, but were hampered by the extreme heat of the blaze, cold and snowy conditions and by having to force entry into the wheelhouse, according to information from Newport’s police and fire departments. No one was aboard when the fire broke out.
“Access was an issue and weather conditions were an issue,” Fire Chief Rob Murphy said Wednesday morning. “It was one of our tough ones, but we got it out.”
Fire crews wheeled the hose down on a cart, Murphy said, enabling them to better fight the fire. Dock pumps couldn’t keep up with the fire, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Motor Lifeboat Victory was called in. The lifeboat’s onboard fire pumps gave crews the water they needed to put out the flames. Crews worked for three hours extinguishing the fire, cooling the vessel and performing overhaul.
The damage was extensive but was contained to the galley and wheelhouse of the boat, which will be taken to Reedsport for major overhaul, according to the owner Justin Yager.
"The important thing to me is that no one was hurt," he said, saying the operation will battle through the setback.
Newport Fire Department was assisted by Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay, Depoe Bay Fire, Seal Rock Fire, and Toledo Fire. The Newport Police Department, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Pacific West Ambulance provided assistance.
Four different boats also assisted with the department’s fire-fighting efforts.
“We appreciate the help from everyone,” Murphy said.