Fire destroys boats, dock|Crews continuingefforts to diminisheffects of pollutants

Published 5:42 pm Saturday, January 8, 2011

Contributing Editor

A fire at McCotter’s Marina early Friday resulted in three people being treated for minor injuries, 26 boats sinking and destruction of the marina’s north dock, according to emergency-response officials.
“Physical evidence located during the investigation and information collected during interviews indicates that the fire was caused by an electrical fault. Foul play is not suspected at this time. Environmental cleanup efforts may take several days,” reads a sheriff’s office news release issued Friday evening.
The three people injured were treated for burns, hypothermia and other minor injuries, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the fire. The 180-slip marina is on the west shore of Broad Creek, near its confluence with the Pamlico River.
“No one is in the hospital,” said John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management director, who said in an interview Friday afternoon that officials had not released the names of the injured people.
Pack confirmed that a woman injured as a result of the incident was treated at Beaufort County Medical Center then released. The Daily News, as of Friday evening, was unable to verify reports that Mark Hudnell, reported to have suffered burns to his hands and face, and his fiancee Tracie Smith, reported to have jumped overboard to escape the flames, were among those injured.
In addition to the 26 sunken boats, at least four other boats were damaged but still afloat Friday afternoon, Pack said.
Curtis Avery, Beaufort County fire marshal, said firefighters battled about five hours to control the blaze.
One of the people who witnessed the blaze said he has many fond memories of the marina.
“We heard it and saw it and watched the whole thing. It was sad,” said Bill McCotter, whose father, Joe McCotter, had the marina’s first boats slips built in 1950, in a brief interview Friday.
His family sold the marina in the 1980s to Bill Page, who leases the marina property to Mark Henley, McCotter said. Henley owns and operates the business at the marina property.
At 12:30 a.m., the Beaufort County 911 Center received a call reporting the fire, according to the sheriff’s office. Upon arriving at the marina, firefighters and deputies found the north dock engulfed in flames. Emergency personnel initiated fire-suppression measures and began ensuring boats in the area were evacuated.
Area fire departments, EMS units, state and county emergency-management personnel and the Sidney Dive Team responded to the blaze. The hazardous-materials team from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Fire Department also responded to the scene.
A 24-foot-long rescue boat and crew from Coast Guard Station Hobucken was dispatched to the scene about 1 a.m. The Coast Guard was on the scene Friday to help contain debris and pollution from the fire, according the Coast Guard’s Fifth District’s public-affairs office. Coast Guard pollution investigators from Coast Guard Sector North Carolina also were on the scene Friday to assess the amount of pollution from the fire.
Eastern Environmental, a private hazardous-materials company, was called in to conduct cleanup operations.
“We are trying to limit the environmental impact,” Pack said from the incident command center at the marina.
Pack said 2,000 feet of boom had been deployed in an effort to contain debris and leaked fuel from the sunken or damaged boats.
“We’ve contained a lot of stuff,” Pack said.
Pack said inclement weather Friday night was expected to interrupt cleanup efforts.
“We are closing the area down. The sheriff’s department will be here all night,” Pack said Friday afternoon. “We expect to be fully functional at 7 a.m. (today), if not before.”
People with boats at the marina will not be allowed access to them until sometime today or Sunday, with that access more than likely occurring Sunday, Pack said.
“We will escort them out,” he noted.
The following agencies, fire departments and other entities responded to the fire: Bunyan Fire Department, Chocowinity Fire Department, Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department, Bath Fire Department, Broad Creek EMS, Sidney Dive Team, Clark’s Neck Fire Department, Old Ford Fire Department, Pinetown EMS, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County Emergency Management, N.C. Emergency Management, U.S. Coast Guard and MCAS Cherry Point Fire Department.