12-15 boats destroyed in blaze at Richmond Yacht Basin

Published: Dec. 9, 2016 at 12:25 PM EST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2017 at 4:20 PM EDT
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The Henrico Fire Department says between 12 and 15 boats were destroyed in a blaze Friday morning at Richmond Yacht Basin in southeastern Henrico near the Chesterfield border.

Henrico Fire Capt. Taylor Goodman said the cause of the blaze, which started around 7 a.m., is under investigation and no one was injured. Three people asleep in houseboats were able to escape.

The flames were fueled by gasoline in the boat engines, according to Capt. Goodman. Foam used to extinguish the flames is still floating on top of the water. For the next several days, fire investigators will comb each boat, working to determine what triggered the flames. Crews are working to clean up debris and also to put out the remaining deep-set fire in the poles that were holding up the roof above the boats. Booms have been put into the water to secure any diesel fuel that seeps into the water. A hazmat team is also on site to help with this cleanup effort.

Henrico's fire boat, only a year old, was also burned in the fire. It otherwise would have been used to fight the flames, which also destroyed the canopy over the boats.

The person who called into the blaze to 911 was on a boat at the time and managed to escape.

Tony Wolpert started yelling "Fire" at the top of his lungs and woke some other boaters.

Goodman said their efforts to fight the fire were hampered as one of the fire department's boats was heavily damaged.

Firefighters say that some of the boats that caught on fire actually drifted out into the water.

One witness, Dave Napier, had his boat docked and the flames prevented him from getting back to land. He says he was able to get people aboard his boat and escape on the water to safety.

Another witness who said he's been coming to the Yacht Basin for 70 years said the blaze was highly unusual. His boat was not damaged in the fire.

Boat owners spent the morning and afternoon in Henrico surveying the damage after a fire tore through the Richmond Yacht Basin, on the James River. Fire officials say boat owners cannot access their property until noon at the earliest. The Red Cross is also getting involved in the fire and bringing water to first responders on the scene.

NBC12's Kelly Avellino is working to get the latest updates on the marina fire and will have a full report starting on 12News at 5.

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