Six boats lost in suspicious Friday morning storage yard blaze

Charred boats littered the storage yard in the wake of the early morning blaze. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

An early Friday morning fire destroyed six boats and damaged four more at the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard storage yard in the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park.

The Edgartown fire and police departments are investigating the cause of the blaze, which followed a fire nine hours earlier in a roll-off dumpster at the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District transfer station.

Shipyard owner Phil Hale and Martha’s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn said the damage could have been far worse. Quick detection and quick response helped contain the fire and limit the losses.

The business park is located off Airport Road, east of the airport. The shipyard leases a lot on which it stores boats.

Mr. Flynn said Shawn DeCosta, a member of the airport operations staff, was making his regular rounds through the business park when he saw the flames and called in the emergency, shortly after 3 am, Friday.

One of the first responders was Geoffrey Freeman, a captain on the Edgartown fire department, supervisor at the airport, with responsibility for the airport’s rescue and firefighting force. Mr. Freeman drove quickly over to the airport fire garage and retrieved a specialized firefighting truck designed to spray foam on an aircraft fire. He began spraying foam on the burning boats as more help arrived.

“Those types of fires are exactly what our trucks are designed for,” Mr. Flynn said. “There were many boats saved by the quick response.”

Within minutes, Edgartown firefighters arrived and started getting water on the fires. Oak Bluffs firefighters also responded. About 25 boats, most stored very close to each other, escaped damage.

Mr. Hale said that if the fire had struck earlier this week, when many boat owners hauled out in advance of tropical storm Irene, many more boats might have been destroyed.

“A week ago we had the whole lot full of boats, and many went back in the water,” Mr. Hale said.

Mr. Hale said he had no idea what might have caused the fire. “The whole place is cordoned off until Tuesday, when the state fire marshal comes down to look at it,” Mr. Hale said.

Edgartown Police are assisting the fire department in the investigation, Detective Craig Edwards said.

Thursday night, Edgartown firefighters responded to a fire in a roll-off dumpster at the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District transfer station, less than one mile away. That fire was extinguished quickly and did not affect the operations of the waste district.