Photo by Tim Johnston of C-Tow.

Boat fire near Fisherman’s Wharf

Black smoke could be seen billowing from Victoria’s Inner Harbour on Wednesday.

A boat caught fire at Fisherman’s Wharf Wednesday after a boater on vacation finished filling at the marine fuel dock Wednesday afternoon. It is currently unknown how the fire started, though investigations are being made into the cause.

No injuries occurred and the fire is now put out.

The Victoria Fire Department arrived at the scene after the boat was sent adrift. The boat drifted across the channel between Fisherman’s Wharf and Esquimalt while fire crews, Canadian Coast Guard, the Harbour Master and Transport Canada coordinated to contain and put out the floating blaze.

One witness saw the fire start from her apartment on the 19th floor of Orchard House.

“I could see this black plume,” she said. “I thought it was a tornado, because the air’s so different now anyway, but it smelled like fuel.”

Another witness, Sierra Cowan, is a lifeaboard at the nearby Wharf Street Marina and felt an unusually large wave hit the boat around noon, knocking a few items off the counter.

When Cowan looked outside, she saw flames and black smoke near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Deputy Fire Chief Dan Atkinson said that setting the boat adrift was a smart move in a situation like this, and that it helped to keep the flames contained.

“They made the right call,” he said. “If they would’ve allowed the fire to spread to the dock system or to the fuel pumps, it would’ve been much worse.”

Because gasoline is a fast burner, securing an emergency vessel to the burning boat and towing it into the channel would have been too risky a move for the operator of the second vessel to make. Seaplanes landing in the narrow channel also needed to be taken into account.

“The fortunate thing is we had an excellent response from a number of different agencies to take care of it relatively quickly,” Atkinson said. A number of boats could be seen on the water hosing the burning boat, as well as fire crew from shore in Esquimalt.

“We were able to create a good containment field around it so we could get the fire under control in a reasonable manner and make sure everybody was protected and there were no injuries,” said Atkinson.

Around 1 p.m., the Victoria Fire Department and the Canadian Coast Guard were working to set up booms to contain possible contaminants. The only work that remains now is ensuring that no unburned fuel from the fire enters the waterway.

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