Neighbor's screams help save boaters during marina fire

Published: Dec. 9, 2016 at 6:38 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2016 at 6:50 PM EST
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - It was an alarming sight for Tony Wolpert. Danger lurking on the water just yards from his home.

"I saw a big plume of smoke where the marina is and realized something wasn't right," said Wolpert.

Crackling flames, and thick smoke tore through the Richmond Yacht Basin Friday morning, destroying at least a dozen boats.

Wolpert he frantically dialed 911 as he ran down to the dock, hoping those who live on boats there were OK.

"Started yelling at the top of my lungs 'Fire! Fire! Get out! Get out! Fire,'" said Wolpert.

Douglas Aicher has kept his boat at the marina for 23 years, and was sound asleep when Wolpert's screams roused him, alerting him to the flames creeping toward his boat.

"Tony Wolpert was running up and down the dock screaming 'Fire,'" said Aicher.

Aicher grabbed what he could and ran from his boat. As he, Wolpert, and another couple ran to safety, Aicher was horrified by what he saw in the slip.

"There were 10 or 12 large boats on fire. The ropes were burned, so then they started floating out. One floated 10 feet in front of my boat. The
gas tanks were exploding it was violent and scary," said Aicher.

Both men praise the fire department for their speedy response, but are left stunned, staring at the shell of the marina, scorched from the blaze.

"It's a miracle that the whole marina isn't gone," said Wolpert. "We all know with a marina there's boats, there's gas. There's no stopping it."

Henrico's Fire Department says it won't be allowing boat owners to return to their vessels until Saturday at noon, at the earliest.

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