6-alarm Mass. boatyard fire likely caused by spark of gasoline vapors
A Department of Fire Services investigation found that the Mattapoisett blaze began in a building where a worker was replacing a boat’s gas tank
MATTAPOISETT, Mass. — An image posted the day after a massive, 6-alarm fire at the Mattapoisett Boatyard by the town’s fire department showed the severity of destruction caused by the blaze. Where buildings, boats and cars stood before the fire, only blackened ashes and frames of vehicles remained after.
The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services has investigated the incident, and determined the fire likely started because of the accidental ignition of gasoline vapors during a gas tank replacement, according to a statement by Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray and State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey.
“Our hearts go out to the worker who was badly injured during last week’s fire and the family business that’s been a part of our community for 60 years,” said Chief Murray. “On behalf of the town of Mattapoisett, I also want to recognize the efforts of our firefighters and our brother and sister firefighters and chiefs from across the region who rushed in to help. They defied the danger of a massive, wind-driven fire to prevent it from spreading further into the community and putting more people at risk.”
The DFS investigation found the blaze began in a building where a worker was replacing a boat’s gas tank at the boatyard, located at 32 Ned’s Point Road. DFS said investigators believe that a spark during the replacement of the gas tank ignited gasoline vapors in the air and caused an explosion and the subsequent fire, seriously injuring the worker in the process.
In a Facebook post written by the Mattapoisett Boatyard, the worker, Phil Macomber, is described as “badly injured” from the initial explosion.
“He has major burns to his face and neck and a shattered femur. He is at RI Hospital in their burn unit, intubated and sedated. He is expected to recover from these injuries but clearly has a long road ahead,” according to the post.
A GoFundMe has been created by Sarah Kaiser, the daughter of the owners and operators of the boatyard, for Macomber and his recovery process. As of Tuesday morning, the fundraiser had collected more than $135,000 in donations from a thousand donors.
Crews were seen battling the fire that had started Friday afternoon after 911 calls starting coming in around 1:20 p.m. Large, dark plumes of smoke could be seen for miles on the horizon, according to reporting by WCVB Boston. Several fire departments were responding to the blaze that had ignited several buildings, boats and more than a dozen cars.
Rescue crews arrived to find heavy fires that spread to six buildings, 47 vehicles and 14 boats. The six-alarm fire drew mutual aid from departments across the southeastern part of the state, and in total, more than 100 firefighters battled the flames with 19 engines, 12 tankers, three fireboats and two ladder trucks before knocking down the flames by 6 p.m., authorities said.
A video posted to Twitter appeared to show a boat engulfed in flames in the boatyard. Aerial footage by WHDH Boston showed boats and cars severely burned down as a result of the massive fire on Friday.
Fire officials later said that the fire was fed by winds of up to 25 miles-per-hour coming in off the water, causing the blaze to spread to nearby vehicles, buildings, and boats. Three firefighters were injured as a result of smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion while battling the fire; they were transported to the hospital and later released.
“We’re extremely fortunate that Friday’s fire didn’t cause more injuries or worse,” said State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey. “Nearly 900 fires have started with gasoline in Massachusetts over the past 10 years, causing nine deaths and almost $20 million in damages. Many of us use gasoline in our daily lives, but we can’t lose sight of the fire and explosion hazard associated with it. Gasoline vapors can travel a great distance to an ignition point, especially indoors.”
Although damages from the fire have not yet been determined, the 2.2-acre boatyard property was assessed for more than $3.4 million, according to the Boston Globe citing Mattapoisett assessors.
In the Mattapoisett Boatyard Facebook post, the writers describe how all the personal tools and belongings of the workers were lost in the fire. There are no more shop tools or equipment, inventory is gone and paperwork, physical records, and archives have been lost.
On the waterfront, docks and launchers were unaffected and those have resumed operating.
The author of the post wrote: “The coordinated efforts between departments and all who responded was Herculean. As much as we would never wish this tragedy on anyone, the way that so many have rallied around us has been incredible.”
The Mattapoisett Boatyard’s website states it’s been a family-owned marina since 1962, catering primarily to recreational boaters, and has the capacity to store up to 150 vessels during the summer that aren’t in use or are for sale.