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Coal Harbour Marina and Boat Fire, Vancouver B.C., Canada

   Oct. 14 2009

Firefighters battle a blaze that damaged several luxury boats at Coal Harbour Marina early Tuesday. Photograph by: Rex T.C. Wang, for The Province

Memories — and millions of dollars — went up in acrid, black smoke after a fire Tuesday destroyed several yachts at a marina on Vancouver’s Coal Harbour.

The owner of one of burned vessels, a Bayliner 3988 named Dream On, said he was glad that no one was hurt and that he has insurance. But that won’t cover the mementoes and memories that were destroyed.

“That’s probably the worst thing, you lose a lot of the memories,” said the Lower Mainland man, who asked that his name not be used. He rushed down when he received a call from the Bayshore West Marina alerting him to the fire.

“I’ve had better days,” he said. “It’s a pretty shocking thing.”

Joe Johnston of M and P Yacht Services, which has dealt with some of the vessels involved, came down to the scene after the blaze had been extinguished and said three vessels looked damaged beyond repair and two others were damaged by the heat. He estimated they were all vessels in the 44- to 48-foot range. At least two were Sea Ray boats that he said cost approximately $700,000 each.

“The whole thing [damages] could be $2 to $2.5 million,” guessed Johnston.

The owner of Dream On said his own vessel was worth half the value of the Sea Ray boats.

The Vancouver fire department received a call about the fire at approximately 9 a.m. but residents near the marina saw thick, black smoke and heard several explosions around 8:30 a.m.

Battalion Chief Howard Brown was not able to give a cause for the blaze, but he said it apparently started on one boat and spread to two others in the large marina located between the Westin Bayshore Hotel and Stanley Park.

An owner of one of the boats that was damaged by heat also didn’t want to be identified and said he was told his boat couldn’t be repaired.

The fire was initially fought from land, with the Vancouver fireboat eventually arriving to assist. Forty firefighters were involved, using both water and foam to extinguish the blazes.

“It was a tough fire,” said Brown.

A chemical smell lingered in the area even after the fire was reduced to smouldering wreckage.

“The boats are made of fibreglass,” said Brown. “It’s carcinogenic.”

Diane Forsythe-Abbott, who lives in a highrise on nearby Cardero Street, could see the smoke from her seventh-floor apartment. Forsythe-Abbott said she heard more than three explosions. “It woke me up,” she said.

Johnston said it appeared the fire was fought effectively.

“It looks like they did a good job,” he said. “I’ve seen things like this where six or 10 boats went up.”

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