Squalicum Harbor G East Dock fire in Bellingham
Crews are working to clean up a fuel spill and debris from a major early morning boathouse fire at Squalicum Harbor. Bellingham Police and Bellingham Fire Departments are conducting a investigation and maintaining watch over the fire scene.
Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, WA
Remnants of a sunken boat surrounded by debris and fuel.
April 27, 2012
Final update - All boats recovered, cleanup complete
The last of the oil containment boom has been hauled in, and cleanup has been declared complete at the scene of the March 30 fire at Squalicum Marina that claimed two lives.
All 12 boats were recovered by Tuesday, April 17, and the last boat was moved to an evidence area by Wednesday, April 18. Some of the boats were recovered upright, others were capsized and released gasoline and other fluids.
The diving and salvage contractor and the crane company wrapped up work by Friday, April 20. A cleanup contractor was finished with final details on Tuesday, April 24.
Most of the oily sheen was contained within the booms throughout the cleanup effort. Docks were cleaned and decontaminated. Divers conducted underwater surveys to locate debris and confirm all of it was removed. To the greatest extent possible, debris was matched to boats in the evidence area.
Crews estimate they were able to recover 396 gallons of oil and hazardous materials, and 1,298 gallons of oily water.
Friday, April 13, 2012
High winds Thursday afternoon made conditions unsafe for a barge-mounted crane, forcing the operator to call for a break in cleanup work at the scene of the fatal fire at Squalicum Marina on March 30.
Work resumed this morning.
Workers have removed the boathouse roof that collapsed on top of a number of boats during the fire, increasing the ease and speed of salvage operations.
The number of sunken boats is now confirmed at 12. Five of the boats have been removed and taken by barge to a secure location to be processed as evidence in the fire investigation. A sixth boat has been loaded onto the barge.
Workers continue monitoring booms and cleaning up oil and debris from the surface. Minimal oil sheen has escaped the boomed area. Workers have removed about 396 gallons of oil from the boats and recovered about 1,119 gallons of oily water.
Updated information will be posted on this webpage as it becomes available.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Four boats recovered; estimate now up to 12 boats sunk during fire
Salvage workers have raised and removed four boats from the scene of the March 30 boathouse fire at Squalicum Marina.
Investigators now estimate a total of 12 boats sank.
All boats and debris are being taken to a secure location and processed for evidence by Bellingham Police and Fire departments.
During recovery work Saturday, a heavily damaged boat rolled over, spilling about 100 gallons of gasoline within the boomed area. Because of the flammability of gasoline, workers shut down operations to allow the gasoline to dissipate before returning to the area to work.
Oil continues to leak from the sunken boats. Most of it is contained and some is recovered. Some is able to escape as a work barge leaves the boomed area to take debris to the secure location.
Ecology estimates the sunken boats could have contained up to 3,500 gallons of diesel and gasoline if all tanks were full. Much of the oil likely burned in the fire. About 1,000 gallons of oily water has been collected, and about 400 gallons of oil has been pumped from tanks.
Workers will continue to pump oil out of boat tanks as they are able to.
This site will be updated as new information becomes available.
April 6, 2012
BELLINGHAM - Dr. Gary Goldfogel, Whatcom County Medical Examiner, has completed the autopsies of the two victims of the Squalicum Harbor boathouse fire. In a statement, Dr. Goldfogel commented, “Definitive identifications of Sterling Taylor, 33, and James Langei, 43, were established by dental examinations. Both victims died as a result of the fire. The official cause of death has been certified as asphyxia by inhalation of products of combustion (smoke inhalation), and manner of death as accidental. Members from both families have been informed.”
Langei and Taylor lived aboard their 42 foot boat, which sank as a result of the large boathouse fire that occurred on Friday, March 30, at about 5:30 a.m.
As this investigation moves forward, efforts are under way to continue the removal of debris and several other boats which also sank as a result of the fire. All of the boats, including the boat owned by Langei and Taylor, will be taken by barge to a secure location for further examination. The removal of all vessels is likely to take several days. The cause and origin of the fire has not been established at this time and may take weeks to determine.
Cleanup contractors continue efforts at the surface to recover oily debris, move boom, and change oil-soaked cleanup materials. Small amounts of oil continue to slowly come to the surface, but it is too thin to recover.
At this stage in the investigation, media questions concerning the different areas of expertise are directed to the following contact names and numbers:
- Bellingham Police: Public Information Officer, Mark Young-(360) 778-8815
- Bellingham Fire: Fire Marshall, Jason Napier (360)778-8422
- Port of Bellingham: Director of External Affairs, Carolyn Casey-(360) 715-7366
- Department of Ecology: Communications Manager, Katie Skipper (360) 715-5205
- Global Diving and Salvage: Marine Casualty Project Manager, Kerry Walsh (503)413-9059
- NRC Environmental Services: (206) 607-3000
- United States Coast Guard: Duty line, (206) 910-3524
As Bellingham Police and Fire departments continue investigating the cause and origin of the March 30 fire at a Squalicum Harbor boathouse, agencies and contractors continue careful salvage and cleanup work.
The fire claimed the lives of Jim Langei, 43, and his wife Sterling Taylor, 33. The couple lived aboard their 42-foot boat, which was moored at the boathouse. Their bodies were recovered Thursday, April 5.
During the next several days, the Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. Coast Guard will continue to oversee cleanup. Salvage workers will remove debris and an estimated nine other boats that also sank as a result of the fire. Cleanup contractors continue working to remove oil from the water’s surface, recover oily debris, monitor oil containment booms, and change oil-soaked cleanup materials, but much of the sheen is too thin to recover.
As the boats are brought to the surface, crews will try to access and pump off remaining fuel. The work area is enclosed by boom, absorbent materials and docks on three sides, which is helping to contain most of the oily sheen.
Further updates are not expected until Monday, and will be posted on this webpage.
April 4, 2012
BELLINGHAM - Recovery efforts continue at Squalicum Harbor to reach the sunken boat where two victims are believed to be. Jim Langei, 43, and his wife Sterling Taylor, 33 lived aboard the 42-foot boat that was among several other that sank following a fire at a boathouse on March 30 about 5:30 a.m. locating the victims continues to be the highest priority in this operation.
Today’s efforts began at sunrise to cut away the collapsed metal roof and other material. According to a project manager for Global Diving and Salvage Inc., the roof has been cut away and removed. Straps and other necessary rigging will be placed in order to raise the boat out of the water and onto the barge.
The sunken boats contain an unknown amount of gasoline, diesel fuel, engine oil and other contaminants. Most of the oil that is leaking from the boats is contained by the boom that has surrounded the fire scene since Friday. Contractors continue their work to clean up the oil from the surface.
Global will take precautions to protect the environment such as pumping fuel out of the tanks, as the boats are brought to the surface.
Bellingham Police Public Information Officer Mark Young will be available at the Bellingham Police Mobile Precinct which will be located at the end of Squalicum Way just off of Roeder Avenue on Thursday, April 5thstarting at 8 a.m. This property is owned by Bellingham Cold Storage and has been made available for media.
Access to dock D off of gate 5 will be temporarily limited to boat owners during this phase of the recovery operation due to concerns by Unified Command staff that the docks could be hazardous with the anticipated increase of public and media foot traffic.
April 3, 2012
BELLINGHAM – On Tuesday morning, April 3rd, a large barge with a crane will attempt to sail from Anacortes to Squalicum Harbor to assist with recovery efforts following a boathouse fire.
The fire was reported at 5:27 a.m., Friday, March 30. Two people living aboard their boat are missing and presumed dead. Recovery of the victims remains the highest priority for this effort.
On Friday, divers from Global Diving and Salvage conducted a preliminary search for victims and assessed the underwater conditions. Their efforts were cut short due to poor visibility and hazardous diving conditions.
Recovery efforts will hopefully resume upon the arrival of this necessary equipment. Due to weather concerns, arrival time of the equipment can only be estimated to be sometime in the late morning or early afternoon.
Due to the ongoing investigation and safety concerns, access to all of the impacted areas of Squalicum Harbor’s Gate 3 will be off limits except for emergency personnel.
Cleanup efforts continue at East G dock, the location of the fire.
For more information concerning this press release, please contact Bellingham Police Department Public Information Officer Mark Young.
A barge and crane have arrived at Squalicum Harbor to assist in the recovery efforts of two victims believed to be on board their 42 foot live aboard boat that sank following a fire on Friday March 30th at the boathouse where they were moored. Jim Langei, 43, and his wife Sterling Taylor 33 are still missing, their last known location was on their boat. Locating the victims remains the highest priority in this operation.
Recovery efforts should begin Wednesday morning as early as 8:00 a.m. Today the equipment was set in place and made ready for operations following site safety setup.
The sunken boats contain an unknown amount of gasoline, diesel fuel, engine oil and other contaminants. Most of the oil that is leaking from the boats is contained by the oil spill containment boom that has surrounded the fire scene since Friday. Contractors continue their work to clean up oil from the surface.
Public Information Officer Mark Young and the representative from GLOBAL Diving and Salvage will be at the Bellingham Police Mobile precinct which will be located at the end of Squalicum Way just off of Roeder Ave. on Wednesday morning between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. There will be a view of the recovery site from this location.
Access to dock D off of gate 5 will be temporarily limited to boat owners only during this phase of the recovery operation due to safety concerns by Unified Command Staff that the docks could become hazardous with the anticipated increase of public and media foot traffic.
For more information concerning this Unified Command media release, please contact Bellingham Police Department Public Information Officer Mark Young.
April 1, 2012
Unified Command Media Release: Squalicum Harbor Boathouse Fire
BELLINGHAM - Officials are continuing their investigation of the large boathouse fire at Squalicum Harbor that is believed to have killed two people and destroyed about 10 recreational boats.
Jim Langei, 43, and Sterling Taylor, 33, were aboard their 42-foot power boat, Breakwind, inside the G-East boathouse when the fire occurred. They were believed to be the only people inside the boathouse when the fire was reported at 5:27 a.m., Friday, March 30.
Investigators from the Bellingham Fire Department and the Bellingham Police Department have not yet determined the cause of the fire and they anticipate the investigation will be ongoing for at least several weeks. Because the metal boathouse roof collapsed on top of the burnt vessels, divers and recovery boats have not yet been able to access most of the evidence from this fire.
On Saturday, the unified incident command, which includes the port, police, fire, the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the U.S. Coast Guard, developed plans for the recovery, cleanup and salvage operations and selected Global Diving and Salvage to conduct the work.
Divers from Global conducted preliminary dives on Friday to search for victims and assess underwater conditions. Underwater visibility on Friday was just two to three feet and safety requirements that restricted some areas of the underwater site made the assessment difficult. Recovery of the victims is the highest priority for this effort.
Global, a West Coast company with a branch in Anacortes, has begun staging equipment and personnel at Squalicum Harbor. High winds and unstable weather during the weekend complicated those efforts, which include moving a 150-foot barge with a 150-ton crane.
Ecology remains on scene to help assess environmental damage and oversee cleanup operations. The Coast Guard also is assisting with environmental protection and safety at the site.
The sunken boats contained gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as smaller amounts of engine oil. The amount released into water is not known but combined, the boats likely had several hundred gallons of fuel on board.
The fire scene has been surrounded with oil spill containment boom and cleanup materials have been deployed.
The Port of Bellingham has hired NRC Environmental Services as a cleanup contractor to assist in environmental cleanup.
Because of the ongoing investigation and site safety, people remain restricted from passing beyond the F Dock at Squalicum Harbor. All of the impacted areas are part of the Gate 3 section of Squalicum Harbor, which is accessed near the Bellingham Yacht Club.
On Saturday port officials and police met with families of the victims and owners of the boathouse and the boats to inform them about the efforts that are underway and to answer their questions.
All work has been suspended on the Port’s construction of new pilings and floats on the F-East, F-West, G-West and G-West areas of Squalicum Harbor, located adjacent to the fire scene and that project will be delayed.
March 30, 2012
Unified Command Media Release: Squalicum Harbor Boathouse Fire
BELLINGHAM - Two people remain missing while crews work to clean up a fuel spill and debris from a major early morning boathouse fire at Squalicum Harbor. Bellingham Police and Bellingham Fire Departments are conducting a investigation and maintaining watch over the fire scene.
At 5:27 a.m. today, a fire was reported in the boathouse at the East G dock at Squalicum Harbor. Bellingham Fire Department crews responded and found a well-involved fire. Whatcom County Fire District 8, South Whatcom Regional Fire Authority, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue and Whatcom County Fire District 7 responded to the fire.
Once the fire was extinguished, officials declared that the boathouse and the vessels within were a total loss. It is not yet known the exact number of vessels that were inside the boathouse.
Emergency response crews continue to search for two missing people, Jim Langei, 43, and Sterling Taylor, 33, who were living aboard their boat in the boathouse. Divers will be assessing the situation.
“Our primary concern is for the two individuals who are missing and for their families and loved ones,” said Port of Bellingham Executive Director Charlie Sheldon.
The Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard are on the scene to help assess environmental damage and oversee cleanup operations from the fire.
The sunken boats contained gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as smaller amounts of engine oil and other unknown contaminants. The amount released into water is not known, but combined, the boats likely had several hundred gallons of fuel on board. The fire scene has been surrounded with oil spill containment boom and oil spill cleanup materials. At the fire scene, oil, firefighting foam and debris from the sunken boats are visible on the water.
Access to the area of the docks near G-East is limited to emergency personnel. Limited access is available at Gate 3 in the nearshore area away from the fire scene.
This will be a multi-day operation to clean up and recover materials with the Port of Bellingham, the Coast Guard and Department of Ecology working closely together to ensure a safe recovery operation. The Bellingham Police and Bellingham Fire Departments are conducting the investigation of this fire.
“I was made aware of the fire early this morning and continued to monitor the situation throughout the morning,” said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville. “I’m grateful for the fast response by our fire department and the safety of Bellingham firefighters. I’m concerned about the missing liveaboards. All necessary city resources are engaged, including fire, police and public works departments, in a coordinated effort with the city’s partners at the Port of Bellingham, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Dept. of Ecology. This coordinated effort is continuing as the source of the fire is investigated. I appreciate the support of the city’s neighboring fire districts that came in to assist during these efforts.”
No further press information is expected to be released until mid-day Saturday.