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Firefighters extinguish hot spots, prepare to scale back response to fishing boat fire in Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. — Authorities continue to respond to a massive fishing boat fire in Tacoma just northwest of Chinook Landing Marina that continues to smolder.

The fire on the 276-foot vessel Kodiak Enterprise started at around 3:30 a.m. Saturday while the boat was moored at Trident Seafoods in the Hylebos Waterway, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I (don’t) understand what is going on. Why is that? Why can nobody stop the smoke?” said Tacoma resident Garina Pickans on Monday.

At one point, the smoke from the fire was so intense that residents in Federal Way said they could smell the fire as well.

Around 9:45 p.m. on Sunday, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell tweeted that residents should avoid being outside for too long.

Trident Seafoods said three people were on board the ship when the fire started, but they made it out safely without any injuries.

On Monday morning, smoke from the fire continued but had visibly lessened. A shelter-in-place order was lifted, though Tacoma Fire said it could be reinstated if conditions deteriorate.

“While it appears that most of the flammable material onboard has burned, it is likely that smoke will continue to be visible throughout the day,” TFD said in a Monday morning tweet.

“The more water you put on the vessel, the more unsafe it can be because it can tip over, so you have to pump that water off to make sure the vessel is safe. Well, that allows the fire to still remain there and continue burning,” said Ty Keltner with the Department of Ecology.

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On Tuesday, fire crews were working to put out several spot fires that were persistent in burning within the ship, according to TFD fire chief Todd Magliocca.

The fire department is currently working on a demobilization plan to scale back its response to the incident.

“Now that it’s safe, we’re actually putting people in those individual rooms [of the vessel] again. Things have cooled down, and we’re actually able to go compartment by compartment and check those off,” said Magliocca. “It seems like there’s no pressure on the tanks that we’ve been worried about, the freon tank and the fuel tank.”

That work continued on Wednesday, as smoke in the area continued to decrease due to continued firefighting efforts

According to the USCG, the ship has an estimated 55,000 gallons of diesel and 19,000 pounds of freon onboard. The heat from the fire can cause pressure to build in the vessel’s freon tanks.

“The freon tanks are designed with built-in heat-activated pressure relief valves which are designed to release the freon tanks’ pressure in an emergency situation,” said the USCG in a news release. “While freon can be toxic if inhaled in large quantities or in a confined space, the release of freon into the atmosphere is not expected to pose any health and safety risks to the public.”

On Tuesday night, the USCG confirmed that the freon was “no longer” in tanks aboard the vessel, saying that responders believe the chemicals were “slowly released” during the fire.

There was no spill, but responders deployed three layers of containment boom around the ship as a precaution, according to the Department of Ecology.

“The safety of the public and responders is our top priority,” said Coast Guard Capt. Youngmee Moon, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator. “The unified command is working closely to leverage each agency’s capabilities to respond to this incident as effectively as possible and keep the public safe.”

As a precautionary measure, the EPA has also been conducting air monitoring to assess air quality in the surrounding areas.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. The USCG is the lead investigative agency for this incident.

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