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Cleanup and salvage operations underway after yacht fire at Roche Harbor



Cleanup of the wreckage from the 85-foot luxury yacht destroyed in a fire at Roche Harbor marina has been underway since the vessel sank at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday evening.

1100 feet of booms deployed during the fire worked to contain the oil, diesel and debris including such items as a sofa and table. Ten IOSA volunteers used pads to soak up oil that evening.

Another ten were on scene all day Thursday removing the floating debris.

As the IOSA workers skimmed debris off of the water, the floating  pads weren't able to absorb anywhere near the amount of residue as previous evening as it was thicker.

The pads and the gunk scooped out were placed in plastic bags which were taped shut. The bags will end up in a hazardous waste landfill. 

The U.S. Coast Guard is in charge of the recovery and salvage operation. Staff from the state Department of Ecology worked with the Coast Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Megan Clifford said Coast Guard pollution responders were called shortly after the fire started. Spill containment and recovery are the first order of business. Then the work shifts to salvage said Clifford.

IOSA has a contract with the Coast Guard Julie Knight said. IOSA is paid when for their work at a site by the responsible party or when that isn't possible by the Coast Guard.

While IOSA volunteers aren't paid for the hours of training required, they are paid for the hours they work in a cleanup operation.

The ones on scene Thursday each had 40 hours of training including hazmat instruction. Twenty-four hours are required before working at a site.

IOSA offers training year-round. Information is available on their website.


While IOSA personnel removed debris floating on the surface, Global Diving and Salvage divers were underwater working to secure the fuel.

It will be pumped out of the tanks by Moran Environmental Recovery (MER) personnel.

Clifford said the plan is to lift what remains of the yacht out of the water Friday morning upon final approval from the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port.

The public should know the dock near the fire scene will be closed except for the workers. She is asking people to keep clear of the area.

Standing by the cafe Thursday, Roche Harbor General Manager Brent Snow said he was impressed by the work of IOSA and the Coast Guard. He also was proud of the Roche Harbor employees. "They did a great job," he said. "They secured the area, closed off fuel lines." They also worked with vessel assist to move other boats away from the burning yacht.

"While the fire is of course unfortunate," Snow said. "It is nice it was isolated to one vessel." He noted the San Juan Island firefighters were at the resort before 10:30 a.m. after the call came in at 10:14 a.m.

Harbormaster Kevin Carlton was unavoidably off-island Wednesday and arrived back minutes after the boat sank. He said in the 33 years he's worked at the resort this is the second boat fire. The other one was in 2009.

Besides the calls Carlton was receiving regarding the fire in the marina, he received one about another boat on fire that day. The Irish Bull burned up in Schwartz Bay. The boat owners usually are at Roche Harbor marina but they like to avoid the 4th of July crowds and leave the marina for a few days.

The Irish Bull fire and the rescue are covered in a story in Vicnews.com.

The restaurant and Lime Kiln cafe were closed on Wednesday. It wasn't necessary to evacuate Hotel de Haro.

Front Desk Clerk Christina Hamlin said staff closed the windows and checked on guests. The house at the top of the hill was opened to give guests a place to go if they wanted to be farther away from the marina during the fire.

"Everyone was understanding and cooperative," Hamlin said.

Thursday, the resort was back in full operation.

"We'll have colors (the traditional flag ceremony) tonight," said Snow.

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