Fire destroys boat in Sitka, cause under investigation

    Scene of the fire at Eliason harbor. (Photo Credit: Don Kluting.)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - A boat in Sitka was a total loss Monday after a fire erupted on the vessel.

    According to Sitka Fire Chief Craig Warren, the owner of the 34-foot fiberglass vessel "Megabucks," saw that there was black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe for his diesel heater, and when he got there, saw black smoke inside the cabin. When the owner opened up the cabin door, it burst into flames.

    The owner had then got off the boat said he called 911. Sitka Fire was dispatched to the Megabucks at Eliason harbor at about 8:47 that morning.

    When crews arrived at the Megabucks, Warren said it was engulfed from the transom all the way forward to the bow. 20 people were on scene and for an hour and a half, crews were fighting the fire with portable water pumps.

    The boat is a total loss, Warren says the investigation is ongoing but they are currently assuming heaters as a cause of the fire.

    "But until we get in there and take a look, we don't know. Right now it's more important that we get it out of the water so that it doesn't sink and start releasing all of its fuel and oil."

    Warren was asked how the cabin could burst into flames.

    "This is pretty common in especially residences where the fuel load is high enough that the fire starts free burning, and then uses up all the oxygen in the compartment. When the oxygen in the compartment is used up, it goes into a decay status where you don't see open burning, but it's superheated, and then as soon as the door opens fresh air and oxygen is entrained into the compartment that allows the free burning to start immediately."

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