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Mattapoisett Boatyard 6-alarm fire likely caused by spark during boat gas tank replacement

A burned out car is seen in the aftermath of a massive fire at a boatyard in Mattapoisett. Five buildings and a dozen boats and cars were destroyed in the blaze.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

A massive six-alarm fire at the Mattapoisett Boatyard that destroyed multiple vessels and buildings on Friday was likely caused by the accidental ignition of gasoline vapors during a boat gas tank replacement, officials said Monday evening.

An investigation revealed that the fire started inside a building at 32 Ned’s Point Road, where the boatyard is located, the state Department of Fire Services said in a statement.

A worker was replacing a boat’s gas tank inside the building, and investigators believe a spark during the process ignited the gasoline vapors — causing an explosion and fire that seriously injured the man who was replacing the tank, DFS said.

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The Mattapoisett Fire Department began to receive 911 calls reporting an explosion in the boatyard on Friday afternoon. More than 100 firefighters from area communities responded to the blaze, battling flames for five hours as thick, black columns of smoke billowed over their heads.

The blaze, fed by winds up to 25 miles per hour coming off the water, spread to six buildings, 47 vehicles, and 14 boats, DFS said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is “aware of the incident and responding,” a spokesperson told the Globe Monday.

The fire seriously injured one person and left three firefighters recovering from heat and exertion. The man who was seriously injured remains hospitalized, DFS spokesman Jake Wark said on Monday.

The Mattapoisett Boatyard posted a lengthy statement to Facebook Monday along with a link to GoFundMe link for Phil Macomber, identified in the post as the employee injured in the fire. Macomber, the post said, suffered major burns to his face and neck as well as a shattered femur.

Macomber is “at RI Hospital in their burn unit, intubated and sedated,” according to the Facebook post. “He is expected to recover from these injuries but clearly has a long road ahead.”

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The GoFundMe was started by Sarah Kaiser Parker, a relative of the Mattapoisett Boatyard’s owners. By Monday afternoon, the fundraiser had amassed over $120,000.

“Our hearts go out to the worker who was badly injured during last week’s fire and the family business that’s been a part of our community for 60 years,” Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray said in the Monday evening statement.

The boatyard currently does not have power or water. However, the waterfront, docks, and launches were “completely unaffected” by the fire and have resumed service, the Facebook post said.

All employees’ personal tools and belongings, shop equipment, paperwork, and archives were also lost to the fire, the statement read. The boatyard is asking the community’s help in reconstructing records by notifying them of any invoices that customers had not yet received.

Estimated damages from the fire have not yet been determined, Wark said. The 2.2-acre boatyard property was assessed for more than $3.4 million, according to Mattapoisett assessors.

“As much as we would never wish this tragedy on anyone, the way that so many have rallied around us has been incredible,” Mattapoisett Boatyard wrote on Facebook. “We have always loved our town and our wonderful community. We never realized the profound effect this horrible event would have on so many others. It’s impossible not be feel emotional and deeply moved by other’s efforts to help out.”

The Mattapoisett Fire Department posted a statement to Facebook on Saturday saying that the blaze was “one of, if not the largest, fire that our community has ever seen.” The department said fire crews came in from Plymouth and Bristol counties, as well as from the state.

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The Mattapoisett Fire Department, Mattapoisett police, and the State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office jointly investigated the origin and cause of the fire, according to the Monday evening statement.

The town posted a brief advisory on its website Saturday afternoon that remains online, notifying residents that water could be discolored because of the fire.

“The Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Dept. informs residents that due to the water that was pumped to the Ned’s Point Rd. area at the Mattapoisett Boat Yard that there is a good chance of discolored water showing up in water lines at homes through the weekend in Mattapoisett,” the message said.

The boatyard has been operated by the same family since 1962, when Art McLean established the current business, according to a 2012 profile published in the Sippican Week newspaper.

Information from previous Globe articles was used in this report.



Anjali Huynh was a Globe intern in 2022.Follow her on Twitter @anjalihuynh. Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her @breannekovatch.