Alaska cruise yacht burns at Seattle dock

Associated PressApril 27, 2012 

SEATTLE -- Fire destroyed an adventure tour boat being prepared for the Alaska cruise season Friday at Fishermen's Terminal, and the operator says the loss likely will total millions of dollars.

Two people escaped from the Safari Spirit by climbing down a mooring line to the dock, said Tim Jacox, vice president of InnerSea Discoveries.

Company owner Dan Blanchard was sleeping on board and was awakened at about 1 a.m. by popping noises. He called the fire department and got off the boat along with the engineer, Jacox said.

The 105-foot yacht was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore.

They made sure no one else was on board, then had to pull back because of the heat.

Firefighters poured water into the yacht from two hoses on the dock and from a fire boat. There was so much water in the yacht it began to list. Firefighters had to pump out water so they could continue to fight the fire, Moore said.

The Safari Spirit has an aluminum hull and did not sink, but with accommodations for 12 passengers there was plenty of fuel for a stubborn fire.

"It's like an aluminum oven with a lot of stuff that can burn," Moore said. "We pump the water on it. We pump the water out and go back at it."

A Seattle police Harbor Patrol boat also sprayed water on the fire and moved a half-dozen boats away from the flames at the terminal.

Hot spots continued to smolder more than six hours after the fire broke out, and Moore said firefighters would remain at the scene all day to prevent flare-ups.

The Coast Guard put an absorbent boom around the yacht, and the state Ecology Department is monitoring for pollution.

There was no sheen on the water, Moore said. The fuel on board did not burn or spill, Jacox said.

It will be some time before an investigator can get on board to look for the fire's cause, Moore said.

The Safari Spirit was preparing for its first cruise of the year on May 11 out of Juneau, Alaska, Jacox said. After the Alaska cruise season it operated on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Passengers will be accommodated on other vessels. American Safari Cruises and its parent company, InnerSea Discoveries, headquartered at Fisherman's Terminal, operate seven vessels in what the website calls exclusive yacht adventures. Scheduled cruises and charters are offered in Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico, on the Columbia-Snake river and out of Seattle, Jacox said.

It's unknown if the Safari Spirit can be salvaged, Jacox said. The fire destroyed four decks, including the passenger rooms. The ship is fully insured.

"Both Dan and the engineer were able to get off," Jacox said. "That's the most important."

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