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Investigators focus on wood stove after man dies in Seward sailboat fire

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: February 18
  • Published February 18

The Seward fire chief is warning people living in boats and other dwellings to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms after a man and his dog were discovered dead after a fire on a sailboat Saturday morning.

The Perspective, a roughly 30-foot sailboat moored in the city’s small-boat harbor, appears to have lacked the detectors, Chief Eddie Athey said Monday. Video of the blaze on Facebook shows the sailboat mast crashing down, but Athey said damage was limited to the boat.

Boat fire in the harbor today! #sewardalaska #alaska #boat #fire

Posted by Seward Ocean Excursions on Saturday, February 16, 2019

The man appears to have been one of several “liveaboards” who reside on boats in the harbor. Many of the boats lack smoke alarms, though they’re required wherever people sleep, Athey said. They also often lack carbon monoxide detectors, required where diesel heaters burn fuel or, in this case, where a wood stove provided heat.

“We often don’t find them,” on vessels, he said. “We did not find any (in this case).”

Athey did not release the name of the victim, who he said may be in his mid-40s. Authorities were waiting to confirm his identity and contact his family before publicly identifying him.

The ongoing investigation is targeting the wood stove as the possible source of the fire, he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard handles boat inspections in the harbor, Athey said. The fire department educates liveaboards about installing detectors.

"They are such cost-effective insurance,” Athey said. “You can get a combination of both for $35 and they’re good for 10 years.”

The partly volunteer Seward fire department was notified about the fire at about 11:30 a.m. Bystanders and harbor officials had already begun attacking it with extinguishers, Athey said.

Members of the nearby Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department also responded, Athey said. The fire was brought under control within about 10 minutes.

The harbor crews that walk the docks regularly to make sure things are safe had walked past the sailboat just before flames shot out, Athey said. They cleared other boats from the area, helping prevent additional damage, he said.

Bixler McClure, owner of sightseeing company Seward Ocean Excursions, said he was getting his boat ready for the day when he noticed black smoke coming from the Perspective. Bystanders quickly arrived with extinguishers, and McClure called emergency dispatchers.

“About 20-30 seconds from when I saw black smoke, that’s when I saw the flames leaping out top of boat,” he said. “It definitely took a turn for the worse.”

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