Baltimore-area emergency crews extinguished a fire Wednesday morning that caused one boat to sink to the bottom of the harbor and left another vessel damaged at a Southeast Baltimore marina.
Baltimore City fire spokesman Kevin Cartwright said the fire ignited on one of the vessels at the Anchorage Marina in Canton before spreading to a second one. The blaze was reported near the 2500 block of Boston Street around 9 a.m. and drew a heavy response on land and water from fire and police. A plume of black smoke coming from the fire could be seen downtown.
Cartwright said one of the dock lines that tether a boat to the dock appeared to have burned away, allowing the burning boat to float into open waterways and eventually sink. A second boat that caught fire remained floating in its slip.
During a brief press conference after the fires were extinguished, Cartwright confirmed there were no injuries as a result of the fires. He said initial reports indicate there may have been a propane tank explosion on one of the boats.
Thomas Behrle, the president of the marina’s board of directors, confirmed the fire broke out on the marina’s B dock, a new dock that was completely rebuilt last spring from the water up with new plumbing, electrical wiring, and decking made from ipe, a type of tropical hardwood also known as Brazilian walnut. The new dock also included a new water supply line, called standpipe, crucial to fire suppression.
Behrle said one man and his dog were aboard the vessel that caught fire. Both evacuated without injury. It is not clear whether his slip was a liveaboard slip, which are scattered throughout the marina for those who intend to live on their boats.
Behrle said it was too early to assess the extent of the damage or the cost of repair. “We should know by next week,” he said.
A Maryland Department of the Environment spokesperson said in an email that normally responds to boat fires because of the concern that fuel could contaminate the water. The boat that sank — and had a fuel leak — had an estimated 250 gallons of diesel onboard, according to spokesperson Jay Apperson.
The other boat has an estimated 300 gallons on board, but Apperson said it did not appear any fuel leaked from that boat. A department emergency response crew deployed booms to recover some of the leaked fuel and prevent the spread of contaminants around the area of the sunken boat, he said.
Fire Chief James Wallace called the work to extinguish the fires a success, adding that the crews who responded faced a unique situation.
“This is not something we do every day,” Wallace said.
Work now will focus on environmental protection and salvaging the sunk vessel, he said. Emergency responders could be seen deploying a boom on the surface of the water in the marina to prevent fuel and other debris from spreading.
Wallace said eventually a salvage team would come to recover the boat that had sunk, and that both boats would be moved to a place where they could be investigated and a cause of the fire determined.
Mayor Brandon Scott said he was “extremely grateful” for the fact that nobody was injured and that so many local and state agencies were able to respond to the fire and help.
“Really just grateful that no one was hurt,” Scott said.
Representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard were standing by to assist, Cartwright said.
“We just urge boaters, our boat owners to simply just practice proper fire safety practices within their vessels,” Cartwright said.
Joe Meyerhoff’s boat is located two slips down from where the fire started. Meyerhoff said many of the boats in the marina were winterized with shrink wrap around their exterior to protect them during an off season. Flames can easily ignite shrink wrap, he said.
“We’re just all very fortunate,” Meyerhoff said.
The largest slips in the marina are on B dock, which can accommodate vessels up to 60 feet in length.
Dockmaster Wayne Easton, as well as Behrle, were traveling in Florida on marina business when the fire broke out. Easton returned to Baltimore upon news of the fire.
A message left with Maryland Natural Resources Police was not immediately returned Wednesday morning.
Baltimore Banner photojournalist Kaitlin Newman and staff writer Hugo Kugiya contributed to this story.
This article could be updated.