SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Two successive fires significantly damaged a fishing boat and a local woodworking shop in less than 24 hours, according to the local fire chief.
One fire, reported around 11 p.m. Tuesday after it was spotted on a Coast Guard security camera, caused extensive damage to a fishing vessel in the harbor, Southwest Harbor Fire Chief Sam Chisholm said Wednesday night. The second fire, which occurred Wednesday afternoon, destroyed a woodworking shop and office owned by local contractor Eric Henry.
The 50-foot boat called We’re Here, owned by local fisherman Nahum Kelley, had been moored in the harbor when Coast Guard personnel monitoring a security camera saw it was on fire, according to Chisholm. The boat had burned off its mooring before the Coast Guard notified the fire department and then sent out one of its own boats to try to douse the flames.
The fire chief said the fire was hot enough that the Coast Guard personnel did not want to pull up right next to the burning boat. Instead, they used pressure from a hose on their vessel and manipulated the propeller wash generated in the water by their motors to slowly maneuver the boat to the lower town dock by the Coast Guard station.
“The seamanship was amazing to watch,” Chisholm said.
Once the burning boat was near the dock, local firefighters were able to spray water from their own hoses onto the flames. They then got a rope on it and pulled it into the adjacent boat ramp before getting the blaze fully extinguished. The hull and engine may be salvageable, the fire chief said.
Chisholm said he and the Coast Guard believe a kerosene heater Kelley was using on board caused the fire, even though Kelley said he thought he turned it off when he left the boat and came ashore around 8:30 p.m. The boat, which was rigged for scallop fishing, was not insured, he added.
The fire at Eric Henry’s woodshop was reported around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, Chisholm said. One of Henry’s employees had been cutting polypropylene rope with an acetylene torch inside the building, which is located next to Henry’s home on High Road, just a few minutes before smoke was reported inside, he said.
Chisholm said the fire did not spread to any nearby structures. It was fueled by lumber Henry had stored in the building, he said. The fire also destroyed tools and office equipment that were inside. Part of the roof collapsed because of the damage, he said.
“With all the wood, we couldn’t make a direct attack,” the fire chief said. “He had a bunch of lumber up in there.”
He said Henry had insurance on the building.
More than 30 firefighters, including several from the neighboring towns of Mount Desert and Tremont, responded to fight the blaze, Chisholm said. The fire was extinguished and the scene was cleared around 5:30 p.m., he said.