A 30-foot fishing vessel exploded and caught fire in the Valdez small boat harbor Wednesday evening, leaving a man with burns on his face and hands. He was released from the local hospital and returned to the harbor before city officials removed the boat from the water.
U.S. Coast Guard officials said they received reports of an explosion aboard the docked fishing boat Fireman shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday. There was one person on the vessel at the time. He was able to walk off the boat and was taken by ambulance to Providence Valdez Medical Center, Coast Guard officials said. They did not identify him.
City of Valdez public information officer Allie Henderickson said Thursday the man was treated for "non-life-threatening burns to his hands and face" and cuts. "He was back down by the small boat harbor before the boat was even out of the water," she said.
First responders, including the Coast Guard and Valdez police and fire departments, found that while the Fireman remained afloat, it had "the majority of its wheelhouse torn apart by the explosion," according to the Coast Guard release.
The explosion shot debris in a 200-foot radius. Pieces of the wheelhouse and mast were scattered in the harbor waters and landed on floats and in a parking lot, Henderickson said.
The Coast Guard reported starting a pollution investigation, but by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday the fire department declared the area safe.
What caused the explosion is still under investigation. Henderickson said the fire department secured a propane leak found aboard the boat. At this point, foul play is not considered a factor in the incident, she said.
A boom truck lifted the wheelhouse and mast -- the remains of those structures had toppled and were partially resting on a float where the Fireman was moored -- before a harbor skiff towed the boat to a lift and it was removed from the water around midnight, Henderickson said.