Tuesday, January 30, 2001

$1M fire hits marina

Cruisers, houseboats destroyed

By Ray Schaefer and Allen Howard

        WARSAW, Ky. — Fifteen houseboats and cruisers caught fire and sank Sunday night and Monday morning at Pier 99 Marina.

        It's a total disaster, Betty Scott said Monday as she looked at the charred remains of the dock's tin roof, nine damaged boats and the 15 empty slips.

        Ms. Scott is one of the owners of Pier 99 in Gallatin County. The fire caused an estimated $1 million in damages and a substantial gasoline spill on Craig's Creek.

        “This is a big mess,” Ms. Scott said. “As of now, we don't know what caused the fire. We have the Environmental Protection Agency, the Disaster Control Unit, firemen and police here combing the area.”

Fueled by propane
               Investigators do know what fed the fire.

        “Every one of those boats had propane gas grills,” said Warsaw-Gallatin County Fire Chief Barry Alexander.

        Jack Hughes, who lives near the marina, called police a few minutes before midnight to report that he was awakened by the sound of gunshots.

        Neighbors of Pier 99 said it was “boom, boom, boom — just continuously” as the boats caught fire and fuel and propane tanks exploded, one after another, Chief Alexander said. The fire was brought under control about 3 a.m.

        Most of the boats were $30,000-$50,000 houseboats and pleasure cruisers, said Jason Jenkins, a relative of the marina owners.

        Disconsolate boat own ers at the marina Monday included Robert Busch of Jackson, who regularly made the 160-mile weekend commute from Breathitt County to his houseboat. The 37-foot Delta Clipper could sleep 10.

        “It had everything on it — TV, VCR, stereo, microwave oven,” said Mr. Busch, an East Kentucky Power Co. retiree. “It was just like another house.”

Owners take a hit
               Mr. Busch declined to say what he paid for the boat but estimated that insurance would cover about half its value.

        Dan Blanchet, a tele phone installer from Dayton, Ky., said he carried only liability insurance on his houseboat, a 36-foot Silver Queen he bought four years ago, used, for $25,000.

        “Beautiful boat. Second home,” Mr. Blanchet said. “It was three payments from being paid for.”

        Cleanup efforts were started to control damage from the fuel that spilled into the creek. Estimates range from 200 to 3,000 gallons of spilled fuel.

        The Warsaw & Gallatin Fire and Rescue extended a boom across Craig's Creek to limit environmental damage.


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