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Originally published Friday, March 30, 2012 at 4:12 PM

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2 feared dead in Bellingham, WA, marina fire

Investigators believe two people missing after a Bellingham marina fire were trapped aboard a burning boat that sank.

Associated Press

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. —

Investigators believe two people missing after a Bellingham marina fire were trapped aboard a burning boat that sank.

Police Sgt. Shawn Aiumu said there was a call from the boat on which the couple lived when the fire broke out Friday morning. He said divers will try to search the boat, but it's dangerous because of the amount of debris in the water.

"The whole thing collapsed on the boats," Aiumu said. "It's just a mess."

Authorities identified the missing people as 43-year-old Jim Langei and 33-year-old Sterling Taylor.

As many as 10 vessels were in the private boathouse at the marina at the Port of Bellingham when the fire was reported around 5:30 a.m. Flames had spread to several boats when firefighters arrived, and eventually the roof collapsed. No firefighters were injured.

The fire was difficult to fight because of its size and crews didn't have a fire boat, Fire Department Assistant Chief Roger Christensen said. The city decommissioned an old fire boat last year and didn't replace it because of the cost, Christensen said.

"We were unsuccessful in securing funds to replace it," he said. "We could have used it today."

There was no early indication of the cause of the fire or the amount of the property loss.

Marie Duckworth, a Port of Bellingham spokeswoman, said port employees immediately deployed booms to contain spilled fuel. The Coast Guard and state Ecology Department were overseeing the cleanup.

Fuel tank explosions could be heard as thick, black plumes of smoke rose from the marina and drifted into Bellingham, The Bellingham Herald reported.

One witness, Mike Allsop, told the Herald most of the vessels were high-end fiberglass pleasure boats about 40 feet in length.

When Bellingham officials were considering selling the fire boat Fire Belle last year, Fire Chief Bill Boyd was reluctant and said it was necessary to provide basic fire and emergency medical services, the Herald reported.

City officials said the boat was not getting enough use to justify the cost of about $30,000 a year.

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