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Saturday, April 28, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.

Fire destroys tour boat moored at Fishermen's Terminal early Friday

By Seattle Times staff and news services

A persistent furnace of a fire charred a 105-foot luxury charter boat at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle early Friday morning.

Two people escaped from the Safari Spirit by climbing down a mooring line to the dock, said Tim Jacox, vice president of InnerSea Discoveries, which operated the boat.

Company owner Dan Blanchard was sleeping on board and was awakened about 1 a.m. by popping noises. He called the Fire Department and got off the boat along with the engineer, Jacox said.

An additional six crew members were not on the boat when the fire broke out, according to Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore.

"By the time we arrived, (the boat) was fully engulfed," he said.

The flames burned so hot that firefighters, after checking there was nobody else on board, had to pull back because of the heat.

Firefighters were still at the scene at 6 p.m. Friday, and Moore said in an email they would remain there "on firewatch" overnight.

As the fire raged, the flames and heat endangered boats on the other side of the dock, Moore said.

Seattle Police Harbor Patrol officers assisted by moving other boats out of the way.

"Firefighters used two hose lines and foam to battle the heavy flames from the concrete dock while Engine 1, the Seattle Fire Fast Attack Boat, battled the flames from the water," the Fire Department reported on its blog, Fire Line.

But the flames proved frustratingly persistent, and the weight of water poured on them caused the yacht to list, so fire crews had to pump water off the vessel before putting more water on the fire, Moore said.

"Any time you have a marine fire, it's a delicate balance. You can't pump too much water because you're going to flood the boat," he said.

The Safari Spirit has an aluminum hull and did not sink, but with accommodations for 12 passengers there was plenty of fuel for a stubborn fire.

"It's like an aluminum oven with a lot of stuff that can burn," Moore said. "We pump the water on it. We pump the water out and go back at it."

The Coast Guard put a boom around the boat to keep any oil that might have spilled from spreading.

But Jacox said the fuel on board did not burn or spill, and Moore said there was no sheen on the water.

The vessel, which featured large cabins and whirlpool tubs, was preparing for its first cruise of the year May 11 out of Juneau, Alaska, Jacox said.

After the Alaska cruise season, it operated on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Passengers will be accommodated on other vessels. American Safari Cruises and its parent company, InnerSea Discoveries, headquartered at Fishermen's Terminal, operate seven vessels in what the website calls exclusive yacht adventures. Scheduled cruises and charters are offered in Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico, on the Columbia and Snake rivers and out of Seattle, Jacox said.

The cause of the blaze had not been determined.

The Fire Department blog said that because of the extent of the damage, department investigators could not safely board to inspect.

It's unknown if the yacht can be salvaged, Jacox said. The fire destroyed four decks, including the passenger rooms.

The Fire Department estimated the damage at $1.5 million. The ship is fully insured.

"Both Dan and the engineer were able to get off," Jacox said. "That's the most important."

Material from The Associated Press and Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan was used in this report.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company


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