UNIFIED COMMAND MEDIA RELEASE: SQUALICUM HARBOR BOATHOUSE FIRE
For More Information:
Shawn Aiumu, Bellingham Police Department (360) 778-8638
Carolyn Casey Port of Bellingham (360) 303-0518
3 pm March 30, 2012
For Immediate Release
Fire Out at Squalicum Harbor, Two Still Missing and Cleanup Begins
[Bellingham, Wash.] Two people remain missing while crews work to clean up a fuel spill and debris from a major early morning boathouse fire at Squalicum Harbor. Bellingham Police and Bellingham Fire Departments are conducting a investigation and maintaining watch over the fire scene.
At 5:27 a.m. today, a fire was reported in the boathouse at the East G dock at Squalicum Harbor. Bellingham Fire Department crews responded and found a well-involved fire. Whatcom County Fire District 8, South Whatcom Regional Fire Authority, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue and Whatcom County Fire District 7 responded to the fire.
Once the fire was extinguished, officials declared that the boathouse and the vessels within were a total loss. It is not yet known the exact number of vessels that were inside the boathouse.
Emergency response crews continue to search for two missing people, Jim Langei, 43, and Sterling Taylor, 33, who were living aboard their boat in the boathouse. Divers will be assessing the situation.
“Our primary concern is for the two individuals who are missing and for their families and loved ones,” said Port of Bellingham Executive Director Charlie Sheldon.
The Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard are on the scene to help assess environmental damage and oversee cleanup operations from the fire.
The sunken boats contained gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as smaller amounts of engine oil and other unknown contaminants. The amount released into water is not known, but combined, the boats likely had several hundred gallons of fuel on board. The fire scene has been surrounded with oil spill containment boom and oil spill cleanup materials. At the fire scene, oil, firefighting foam and debris from the sunken boats are visible on the water.
Access to the area of the docks near G-East is limited to emergency personnel. Limited access is available at Gate 3 in the nearshore area away from the fire scene.
This will be a multi-day operation to clean up and recover materials with the Port of Bellingham, the Coast Guard and Department of Ecology working closely together to ensure a safe recovery operation. The Bellingham Police and Bellingham Fire Departments are conducting the investigation of this fire.
“I was made aware of the fire early this morning and continued to monitor the situation throughout the morning,” said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville. “I’m grateful for the fast response by our fire department and the safety of Bellingham firefighters. I’m concerned about the missing liveaboards. All necessary city resources are engaged, including fire, police and public works departments, in a coordinated effort with the city’s partners at the Port of Bellingham, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Dept. of Ecology. This coordinated effort is continuing as the source of the fire is investigated. I appreciate the support of the city’s neighboring fire districts that came in to assist during these efforts.”
No further press information is expected to be released until mid-day Saturday.