2 plucked from water; blaze destroys boat

Posted: Monday, May 10, 2010

Fire aboard a 32-foot fishing vessel about a half-mile off the Homer Spit Thursday afternoon sent the owner and deckhand into the waters of Kachemak Bay. Fast response by a nearby vessel rescued the uninjured men, but the vessel was a loss, according to Brian Hawkins, Homer harbormaster.

People onshore watched the spectacle unfold, their concern for the safety of the two men on the vessel, described by Hawkins as a 32-foot, aluminum-hulled, bow-picker set up for gillnetting.

"Everybody got quite concerned," said Patrick Cashman, manager of Land's End Resort. "Initially, it was just smoke and then it took off. I didn't see an explosion, but it went quickly from smoke to fire."

Upon learning of the fire, Hawkins immediately responded with the harbor tug.

"We zipped out there as fast as we could, but by the time we got on scene another vessel had picked up the two crewmen," said Hawkins of the fast response from a Corps of Engineers survey boat nearby. "We were able to confirm that everyone off the boat was uninjured and we relayed that on to (911) dispatch. By that time, we could see flames coming out of the cabin of the boat."

The vessel was owned by Timopey Efimov and the vessel's name was the F/V Convoy, said Petty Officer Walter Shinn, with the U. S. Coast Guard in Juneau. Other mariners also responded, with the harbor tug ensuring curious onlookers stayed at a safe distance.

"We stood by while the fire was raging just because we wanted to make sure we didn't have anyone getting too close. There was a propane tank strapped to the house that did eventually kick off," Hawkins said.

An incoming tide and wind from the southwest drove the burning vessel and smoke toward the head of the bay.

"We stood by for probably 40 minutes before it burned down to where it was just smoldering. It didn't sink, but remained floating," said Hawkins.

Also alerted and prepared to respond as needed were the Alaska State Troopers, the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard's marine safety detachment in Kenai is investigating the incident, according to Shinn.

Later in the evening, once the smoldering boat no longer posed a threat to other vessels and facilities in the harbor, Hawkins gave the green light for the owner to tow it to the launch area, where it was removed from the water and hauled away.

"It makes everyone that gets out on the water know how important boat safety is and how thankful we are to have the harbormaster and the U.S. Coast Guard at our back door," Cashman said. "Safety is everything when you're out on the water."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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