The Honolulu Fire Department reports that the cause of the massive that destroyed three boats at Ko Olina Marina Friday afternoon was accidental.
The call came in at 4:06 p.m. from Waipahe Place. Eight fire companies with 28 personnel responded.
Firefighters arrived to find three adjacently moored vessels engulfed in fire with thick black smoke billowing from the inferno.
Firefighters said the inferno was caused by welding work on one of the boats that accidental burned padding that was soaked with diesel fuel.
Shelli Scifers was just upwind of the flames and said they were “enormous, 20 feet shooting up in the air and big, black, billowing smoke, because the things we keep on our boats, it’s like somebody’s garage caught on fire.”
Scifers says once the first boat caught fire and its lines broke, it floated to the next boat, causing a chain reaction that led to the three boats being fully engulfed.
“I could definitely tell when it skipped across the finger pier to the first sailboat, you could see bits on that sailboat,” she described, “there were covers on his lifelines and those caught fire, and you could see those burning and it was like, ‘Oh, if I could get those out it would be okay,’ and then the next thing is, ‘If they could get those out it would be — okay, now it’s too late.'”
The fire on all three vessels was brought under control by 4:37 p.m. and fully extinguished by 5:06 p.m.
“Access is an issue,” said Capt. Christopher Powell, Honolulu Fire Department. “For the firefighters to get from one vessel to the next, they have to extinguish one boat and then move to the next one, and then move to the next one, so they have to run the fire hose all the way down the dock. Of course you have to be careful not to slip and fall into the water.”
Two men were on one of the vessels when the fire broke out, but they were able to escape unharmed.
Two of the vessels, a 24-foot sailboat and a 36-foot motor yacht, were heavily damaged by the fire and subsequently sunk.
A third vessel, a 36-foot sailboat, remains afloat, however it was also heavily damaged and is considered to be a total loss. The man who lived in the boat declined the department’s offer to contact American Red Cross for assistance.
Bystanders reported to the HFD that there were approximately 400 gallons of diesel fuel on board the two vessels when they sank.
HFD personnel deployed absorbent booms to contain any spilled diesel and contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and the State Department of Health’s Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response (HEER) office.