Taken from a boat that was fleeing Shelter Bay Marina as the fire was spreading.
The Skagit County Fire Marshall’s office and several insurance investigators are still examining the charred evidence to pinpoint the cause of the Shelter Bay Marina fire. The Feb. 21 inferno burned and sunk seven boats and severely damaged several others. While there has been much speculation about the cause of the fire — people are guessing everything from electric heaters, faulty wiring and even arson — no cause has been identified so far. “We are probably still about two weeks out before we come to any conclusions on what started the fire. We still don’t know,” said Fire Marshall Kelly Blaine. He said he will be meeting with insurance investigators and the Swinomish Police Department next week to continue their investigation. Meanwhile the Department of Ecology continued mopping up the oil on the shoreline and in the harbor this past weekend. As the tide goes in and out, some residue can still be seen on the jetty. Next step for Ecology, according to spokeswoman Lisa Copeland, is to meet with the Coast Guard and marine representatives from Shelter Bay to pull the boom further in as more and more fuel residue is cleaned up. Firefighters were alerted to the disaster at 4:20 p.m. that Friday afternoon, as the first 911 calls were made by Shelter Bay residents. The blaze on J Dock quickly engulfed several boats and spilled diesel into the marina amid toxic fumes, combusting propane tanks and heat so intense firefighters from all over Skagit County were unable to get close. Water from three fireboats and several tanker trucks on shore were sprayed on the flames. In all, 31 different agencies have been involved in the fire suppression and clean-up efforts, Fire District 13 Chief Roy Horn said last week. Oil containment booms were placed around the marina to prevent the fuel from spreading. The spill was confined to the marina, and no signs of wildlife contamination have been evident. By last Friday, all the sunken vessels and dock debris had been removed from the site, according to the Department of Ecology. Efforts to recover spilled oil continued through the weekend. Ecology officials stated that divers had removed an estimated 10,000 pounds of oily debris and oiled sorbents, and 600 gallons of diesel fuel was pumped off one vessel that was badly damaged but did not sink. This week crews will focus on cleanup of adjacent docks, vessels and shorelines.