Clean Up Underway At McCotters Marina After Fire

Crews were out from early morning until dark on Saturday continuing to clean up the mess left behind after a fire destroyed 25 boats at McCotters Marina in Beaufort County.

This fire has devastated the lives of many boat owners. Many of the boats are completely destroyed and unrecognizable after the fire.

Boat owners have not been allowed back onto their boats unless they have an escort and only to get personal items or take pictures because of the continued danger.

Meanwhile crews continue their recovery operations by trying to get rid of excess oil and other debris that could be a hazard. Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack says there is still a lot of clean-up work to be done, but they are making headway.

He says, “The containment area has been narrowed down, we have about 1600 feet of boom instead of 2000 like we did Friday.”

Pack also says they haven’t seen any environmental impact so far. “We haven’t seen any wildlife deaths so far. No fish floating or birds that had a problem. We’re constantly watching for that, but so far there’s been nothing in this location at the containment area,” says Pack.

It could be several days before boat owners are allowed back on their boats according to Pack.

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Investigators say an electrical problem started a fire that devastated a Beaufort County marina Friday morning.

Three people were injured and some 25 boats were destroyed in the overnight fire at McCotters Marina.

Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack tells WITN News that the fire has been ruled electrical.

A news release from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office says physical evidence found during the investigation and information collected during interviews indicates the fire was caused by an electrical fault. They say foul play is not suspected.

Booms have been placed in Broad Creek to help control pollution and debris from the fire that broke out around 12:30 a.m. The marina is east of Washington on Broad Creek.

Officials say fuel from about two dozen boats has contaminated the entire creek. The U.S. Coast Guard and a hazmat team from Cherry Point were at the scene to help contain debris and assess the environmental impact. Eastern Environmental, a private hazardous materials company, has been called in to conduct the clean-up.

The fire broke out at the north dock of the marina. The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office says at least 25 boats were involved in the massive blaze that had some people literally leaping for their lives. Authorities say most of the boats were a total loss.

One woman had to jump from a boat into the frigid creek to escape the flames. She was transported to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Her fiancee, Mark Hundell, was also treated for burns to his face and hands. Both have since been released from the hospital. The sheriff's office says, in total, three people were treated for minor injuries.

Beaufort County Fire Marshal Curtis Avery says about 100 feet of a pier burned and firefighters worked for about five hours to control the blaze.

Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack says they believe the first started on one boat and spread to others at the marina. He says many of the boats lost were one of a kind, handmade or antique boats so right now there is no estimate available. Pack says it's not known how long the cleanup will take.

Beaufort County has just one boat capable of fighting fires on the water and that boat was out of service for scheduled repairs. Pack says because of the intensity of the fire it would not have made any difference.

People gathered say about 80 boats are docked in the marina, and people actually live on seven or eight of them. Boat Owner Mike Little is one of them. Little said, "I heard a whooshing noise. They said there were explosions, but I didn't hear that. When I looked up, my curtains were really red. I looked out the window, and the whole docks were on fire. "

The Bunyan Fire Chief Wesley Williams says fighting this fire was particularly difficult. "The dock is completely burned away," Williams said. "We were fighting from long range, plus everything is covered in ice. So we're concerned about the safety of our fire fighters slipping into the creek."

Chief Williams says they don't know yet what started the fire. They were planning to double check to make sure everyone was out of the boats at sunrise, but everyone has already been accounted for.

Fourteen agencies responded to the fire, including area fire departments, NC Emergency Management and the Sydney Dive Team.