Burned boats in La Conner loaded with fuel

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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LA CONNER, Wash. - Dive teams pulled up the last of six boats that sank in a massive fire in La Conner.

The work took hours as the charred hulls, cradled in straps, rose from the bottom of Shelter Bay inch by inch, allowing water and debris to spill out before they were loaded on a barge.

"It would have been mine last year," said John Pedersen, who normally moors two boats at the burned dock in the summer.

"I would have to have  my Grady White fishing boat burn up.  That would really break my heart," said Pedersen.

Chopper 7 was first overhead Friday night as a fast-moving fire burned boat to boat.  Six sank.  Another half dozen were burned.  Total damage estimates are over $1 million.

There was plenty of fuel to burn.  Boat owners usually top off their tanks in the winter to prevent condensation or ice.  Tanks on the destroyed boats could hold up to 500 gallons apiece.  In all, the Department of Ecology says there could have been 2,000-3,000 gallons of fuel aboard boats parked at the dock at the time of the fire.

"Clean up contractors so far have about 400 pounds of debris and absorbent materials that they have collected,"  said Carl Andersen from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The damaged vessels will be towed to a dock upriver where fire investigators will pick through what’s left to find a cause. 

Pedersen, who saw the fire from his house a block away, says a boat in the middle of the dock was engulfed minutes after it started.

"Look at that big pile of black.  How you gonna figure out what started  first?" Pedersen wondered.

Andersen, from the Department Ecology, admits - investigators may never have an answer.

"With the Squallicum marina fire, that we were on about two years ago, they weren't able to determine a cause for that, so hopefully they will be able to determine the cause for this,"  said Anderson.