Boat fire should be cleaned up by Wednesday

Cause of Coconut Grove yacht fires still unknown

COCONUT GROVE, Fla. - The mess left behind after four yachts caught fire in Coconut Grove should be cleaned up by Wednesday, officials said.

Minimizing the harm to the environment is the main priority in the cleanup.

"These boats carry several thousand gallons of fuel, hydraulics, batteries -- all sorts of different fluids that we want to make sure we contain very quickly," said Rand Pratt of Sea Tow Key Biscayne.

The fire began on a 65-foot yacht moored in Grove Harbor Marina early Saturday morning. It quickly spread to three other yachts docked nearby. The largest yacht that caught on fire was 88 feet.

"It caused a fire break or the whole pier would have gone up," said Don Poole who watched the inferno from his Coconut Grove condominium. "The smoke and flames were just amazing," he said.

Miami Fire Rescue fought the blaze from the dock. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue helped with its fire boat and the Coast Guard was also brought in to assist.

Firefighters pulled one boat out into Biscayne Bay, creating a fire break and stopping the blaze from spreading to other boats moored nearby.

That damaged boat was taken to a marina on the Miami River for repairs, but the charred remains of the three other boats were a challenge for the cleanup crew.

"We brought in two vacuum trucks to skim the water. We use a lot of absorbent material to also contain stuff," Pratt said.

Crews have set up oil containment booms around the harbor and are vacuuming up what is collected. Absorbent pads are also being used to remove oil from the water.

Sea-Tow will be towing the three damaged yachts to boat yards along the Miami River. The fourth yacht, which was destroyed by the fire, has already been towed away.

A boat fire of this magnitude is rare, and Pratt said it could take days to finish the job.

"We are working very closely with the Coast Guard on the plans to get everything out safely so we don't create any more damage, any more environmental impact," he said.

Investigators still do not know what caused the fire but said they will look at surveillance video from nearby cameras for clues as to what might have sparked the blaze..

There were four people on the first boat that caught fire: a family of three and a boat captain. A woman was treated for burns at a hospital, and a man was treated at the scene.

Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Ignatius Carroll said one of the destroyed yachts belongs to the owner of Pilon Coffee.

Investigators said there is no reason to suspect foul play.

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