Faulty power strip likely caused boat fire, investigators say
The Treasure Hunter, foreground right, caused damage to some of the surrounding vessels when it caught fire on Friday. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We have no reason to believe the fire was of suspicious origin,” said East Jefferson Fire-Rescue spokesman Bill Beezley.
“We believe it originated from a power strip that was situated below and outside the boat.”
Since no arson was suspected, there will be no further investigation — “and it is up to the boat owners and their insurance companies to take it from here,” Beezley said.
On Friday morning, the Treasure Hunter, a 50-foot former Navy pilot ship built in 1942, caught fire and quickly was enveloped by flames that also seared four adjacent boats under repair.
No one was injured, but the Treasure Hunter was badly damaged, and the other boats were damaged by the heat and flames, Beezley said.
Boat owner Karen Broome, who arrived on the scene after the fire was extinguished, said she was uninsured but intended to make restitution to the owners of the boats that were damaged by the flames.
Broome also said she intends to repair the vessel, a process that was almost completed after three years of work when the fire broke out.
Broome lacks savings or insurance, she said. She recently started a lumber company and will use that source to supply the wood needed for the repairs to the other boats.
Jim Pivarnik, Port of Port Townsend deputy director, said Monday the fire will prompt some policy changes in the boatyard, such as forbidding any boat owner to close off and lock the area outside the boat being repaired.
At the time of the fire, the Treasure Hunter was surrounded by a wooden frame covered with plastic and secured with a padlock, which is against port regulations.
“We need to be able to inspect a boat at any time, so we'll be enforcing the prohibition on locks,” Pivarnik said.
“And we won't allow any more closed structures without a building permit from the city,”
One port rule on the books that deliberately is not enforced is the requirement for liability insurance, which is impractical for boats under repair, Pivarnik said.
While tenants sign an agreement indemnifying the port, they are not required to carry any insurance during the repair and during the time the vessels are not in the water.
Once the repair is completed and the boat is moored at any port marina, insurance is required. Pivarnik said.
If the current insurance requirement was enforced, it would disqualify many current tenants. To obtain insurance, the boats need to be inspected, but boats under repair wouldn't pass an inspection, he said.
While there are no plans to impose an insurance restriction, hazard inspections will become more stringent as a result of the fire, Pivarnik said.
“We are going to be more vigilant in our inspections and will make sure this doesn't happen again,” he said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: October 03. 2013 9:39PM