UPDATE: Fishing vessel in Harbour Grace gutted by fire

Melissa Jenkins
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Although the smoke had cleared and the fire was put out, there was a sombre feeling on the wharf in Harbour Grace this morning (Jan. 13) following the destruction of the Atlantic Navigator fishing vessel, a vessel managed by Quinlan Brothers Ltd.

Although the smoke had cleared and the fire was put out, there was a sombre feeling on the wharf in Harbour Grace this morning (Jan. 13) following the destruction of the Atlantic Navigator fishing vessel, a vessel managed by Quinlan Brothers Ltd.

An intense and frightening blaze last night at Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises — formerly Dawe’s Welding and Sons Ltd. — left the 65-foot fishing vessel as nothing more than a shell of fiberglass and aluminum. Fire damage could be seen in the wheelhouse and through portholes in the hull. Nothing remained inside.

The Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived on scene at 9:30 last night to the sight of the Navigator up in flames. Some firefighters stayed well into the morning hours, keeping the hotspots inside the vessel under control, and protecting other nearby vessels.

Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department was called in for additional assistance, bringing with them the town’s aerial truck.

RCMP confirmed last night there was no one onboard when the fire broke out.

There was a flare-up before 8 a.m. this morning, to which the firefighters returned to put out.

Ocean Enterprises’ employees graciously gave spare jacks to the firefighters to hold up the vessel in order to prevent the vessel from tipping north, towards the neighbouring vessel. There was only 10 feet between them.

The entire base of the vessel is still filled with water, but there is currently no risk of tipping over.

A police investigator is currently on scene trying to determine a cause of the fire, but it does not appear to be suspicious in nature, officers said.

The vessel did have it's own electricity source and an oil furnace, and was confirmed it will be taken into consideration during the investigation.

A cause could be available as early as this afternoon.


On the dock

The incident comes two days before owner — Ron Curtis of Port de Grave — was to retake possession of the vessel. It had been drydocked at Harbour Grace since October, and had just received a new paint job.

The cost of the vessel prior to the fire was estimated to be over $1 million, and contained some top-of-the-line equipment. The vessel is no longer seaworthy, and cannot be salvaged, said Ocean Enterprises operations manager Wayne Reid.

Although it was a rough night for those on the dock, Reid and general manager Paul Lannon confirmed it was business as usual this morning.

Two staff members were designated to keep watch on the vessel for more flare-ups. They were given the job because they are both volunteer firemen.


Firefighters still at work

At 10 a.m. — more than 12 hours after the initial call — four Harbour Grace firefighters that helped battle the blaze were at the fire hall restocking the pumper trucks, to prepare in case of another emergency. The crew confirmed they were working off very little sleep, but it needed to be done.

Still donned in their soot-covered pants, they worked fast, in case they were called to another flare-up.

One firefighter told The Compass when the blaze originally broke out, members were hoping to get on board the ship to put it out. Because the heat was so intense and smoke was overwhelming, they aborted and fought the fire from the dock.

A group of firefighters stayed on scene all night, until 7 a.m.


Could have been worse

Lannon explained the next step would be an external investigation into what happened, but said fires on vessels are not uncommon.

The vessel and the land it is occupying is now in the possession of the Fire Commissioner and the Fire and Emergency Services division of the provincial government, as is standard procedure when incidents like this one occur.

Although one vessel was completely destroyed, employees with Ocean Enterprises are relieved the fire did not spread to other vessels, or happened on another part of the drydock.

Space would have been a significant issue if a vessel had caught fire just east of the Navigator. Dozens of vessels lay only a few feet between each other, and there is very little space for emergency response vehicles. The damage could have been much worse.

With the extensive efforts of the two fire departments, the neighbouring vessels were kept out of harm’s way.


Organizations: Ocean Enterprises, Quinlan Brothers, Welding and Sons Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department RCMP The Compass Fire and Emergency Services division

Geographic location: Port de Grave

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