FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Two boats were destroyed by a fire Sunday at the South Benson Marina that produced smoke that was visible miles away and that trapped boaters on the dock, according to a statement from the Fairfield Fire Department.
A 911 call of a boat on fire at “G” dock in the South Benson Marina complex came in at 12:33 p.m., and additional 911 callers reported multiple boats on fire.
The damages included two boats worth more than $40,000 that were completely destroyed, while two boats sustained moderate to severe damage and two other boats saw minor damage, the statement said.
“While the damage to the boats was significant, we were extremely lucky that no one was seriously injured and the marina was able to resume 95 percent of its normal operations within two hours of this fire," Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bisson said.
The aluminum dock flotation, water and electrical systems were also damaged. Electrical power was shut down to the entire “G” dock until repairs can be assessed and made.
The fire marshal said the blaze was related to gasoline vapors ignited by an electric spark when the boat's occupant plugged in an extension cord.
The first firefighters from Engine 1 to arrive saw heavy smoke and fire in the entire marina. A group of people was trapped on the end of “G” dock, blocked from the shore due to the blaze, the statement said.
One man was working on a boat and jumped into the water to escape the flames, onlookers told firefighters. Firefighters checked the man for injuries, but he refused medical care and said he had only minor cuts. Another person on the dock had seen the man jump into the water and assisted with rescuing him, the statement said.
Crews worked to keep the fire from spreading from the two involved boats and also cooled the nearby vessels to prevent further damage, the statement said.
Fairfield's police and fire boats controlled access to the dock, and Bridgeport fire and police boats assisted with controlling marina traffic. Fairfield police helped with crowd control and scene safety.
Boaters were not allowed onto the dock until all hazards could be eliminated, and the burned boats, which were filled with flammable gas and were leaking, could be removed safely from the marina, the statement said.
"This fire showed the results of years of practical training and equipment acquisitions through homeland security grants where all agencies work together as a unified team protecting the coastal waters of Fairfield County,” Bisson said.
A total of 20 firefighters responded to the scene along with Fire Chief Richard Felner.