Three boats catch fire at Charlestown marina; two sink
The charred remains of two boats damaged during a fast-moving fire Tuesday night at Constitution Marina in Charlestown remained visible Wednesday while hazmat crews continued the painstaking work of cleaning up the scene.
Officials from several agencies, including the Boston Fire Department, US Coast Guard, and Massport, were working at the marina midmorning Wednesday, about 12 hours after a fire broke out around 11:20 p.m. and badly damaged three vessels.
Two of them sank, and damages were estimated at $1 million. Fire officials said Wednesday that the cause of the blaze, which started on one of the boats, remains under investigation.
No one was injured.
Many owners of the approximately 100 boats docked at the marina live full time on the vessels, including Walter Hope, 57, who resides with his husband on their 68-foot boat, “Gratitude.”
On Wednesday, Hope was assessing the smoke damage that “Gratitude” sustained in the fire and said he’d be staying at the nearby Residence Inn for at least the next couple of nights.
“Only time will tell” when the boat will be habitable, said Hope, adding that he was contacting his insurer Wednesday. “We don’t know if all of this [damage] is structural. . . . This is not a luxury for us. This is our way of living.”
Hope, a marina resident for 15 years, said the woman whose boat initially caught fire “came running over” and neighbors tried to douse the flames with their fire extinguishers to no avail.
“For a time they went down a little bit, but then they came back up,” he said. “She was just absolutely devastated.”
The woman, whom Hope identified as a resident in her 20s named Jen, has been living “her first season on a boat,” he said.
She couldn’t be located for comment Wednesday.
Hope said he moved to the marina a decade and a half ago because he loved the water and because “it’s a wonderful community.”
Neighbors have been offering clothing and spare rooms to those affected by the fire, said Hope, who shares “Gratitude” with his husband, Jeff, and their goldendoodle, Splash.
“This is home,” Hope said.
The Coast Guard, meanwhile, posted an update Wednesday on efforts to clear debris from the affected area.
“Coast Guard pollution-response crewmembers are assisting with clean-up efforts near Constitution Marina today,” the guard tweeted. “Great job by our partner agencies for containing and putting out the fires last night! No injuries reported.”
While officials continued investigating at the scene, a few passersby stopped to take in the aftermath of the blaze.
“That’s a lot of money right there,” said Eddie Azevedo, 64, a Revere resident who works at the India Wharf Marina in Boston. “When I saw it on the news, I couldn’t believe it.”
Tom Scott, 50, an India Wharf manager, said boat fires are fairly common.
“There’s usually a fire a year,” Scott said. “There usually is — sometimes more.”
He said he’s confident investigators will be able to pinpoint the cause of Tuesday night’s blaze.
“They’ll reconstruct this,” Scott said. “They’re pretty good at figuring it out. It’s just like if a house went up.”
At the scene early Wednesday morning, Boston Deputy Fire Chief Robert Calobrisi said crews were able to knock down the fire “right off the bat,” but fuel complicated matters.
“I got to believe there was some diesel fuel on board one of the larger boats that kept stoking the fire,” Calobrisi said at the scene. “As soon as you hit it and darkened it down, it would reignite again, so that was the problem there. It took a while to extinguish.”
Crews eventually used foam, which is more effective in battling a fuel fire.
“That seemed to work,” he said.
The dock’s tight quarters also presented a challenge in fighting the fire, as did the lack of nearby hydrant accessibility, Calobrisi said. Luckily there was not much of a wind Tuesday night — otherwise the fire could have been much worse, he said.
Between 40 and 50 firefighters responded to the scene. In addition to Boston fire, Massport firefighters also responded.
“We’re just pretty fortunate that no one was hurt; we’re quite grateful for that, actually,” Calobrisi said. “That was the main thing. You can replace a boat; you can’t replace a person.”