Boat burns, sinks off of Swartz Bay

Yacht caught fire in waters off Coal Island, crews working to contain oil after seven-hour blaze

Firefighters

Firefighters from North Saanich and Sidney spent seven hours trying to get a boat fire under control Wednesday after a 76-foot yacht caught fire near Coal Island.

North Saanich Assistant fire Chief John Trelford says the call came in at around 10 a.m. and when firefighters arrived, they jumped onto an RCMP boat to get to the yacht. When they got there, he said the fire wasn’t large and smoke was coming out of the portholes. No one was injured and the owners were able to get off the yacht.

“We sent a crew down into the boat to where the fire was,” he said, “but it was below the water line.”

The department is not trained to fight fires at that level, he explained, so had to withdraw and pour water on the flames from outside. The fire, however, grew at at that point. Trelford said the fire appeared to start in the engine room of the vessel, but he had yet to speak with the owners for confirmation. He would not speculate on the cause of the fire.

Trelford said they had crews dousing the flames from the RCMP Zodiac and a tugboat offered up by its captain.

“It did erupt rather quickly,” he said.

Only able to fight the fire from outside, he said it took seven hours to put it out. That also meant the burning yacht was filling up with water. By late afternoon, it had capsized and most of it is currently under water.

The Canadian Coast Guard, a salvage company and firefighters deployed oil containment booms around the stricken yacht.

Trelford said there was a slight sheen of oil on the water. He added the yacht’s fuel tanks appeared to be sealed and contained and the fire did not burn through the bottom of the boat.

— with files from Devon MacKenzie

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