Blaze at Stonington boatyard damages several boats

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Stonington — Firefighters battled a blaze Thursday that destroyed one boat and damaged at least three others in winter storage at the Dodson Boatyard in Stonington borough.

A column of thick black smoke was visible from a mile away Thursday morning.

Early stages of firefighting were complicated by live wires in the vicinity and by the proximity of Amtrak rail and electric lines.

The call came in for a fire at the boatyard on Water Street at about 10:25 a.m. Firefighters began streaming water on the fire after electrical power was shut down, close to 11 a.m. They were able to contain the fire within an hour after they began attacking it, said Stonington Fire Chief Jeffrey Hoadley.

No injuries were reported.

About 700 customers in Stonington temporarily lost power due to the incident. Connecticut Light & Power cut off electricity shortly after 10:45 a.m. at the request of fire officials, said CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross.

"The fire burned the lines that ran above the boatyard," he said. "We had to cut the power to a larger area for safety reasons."

The utility restored power by mid-afternoon to all but four customers.

Amtrak shut off service between Kingston, R.I., and Mystic from 10:46 a.m. to 1:33 p.m., due to the incident, according to Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm.

Representatives from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were on site to monitor the drains underneath the boats for any gas or diesel runoff.

Dann Lockwood, general manager of the boatyard, said the fire could have been started in the process of dry-wrapping a boat or because of an electrical problem on one of the boats. But he said there were no definitive answers.

"Something must have smoldered," he said, "but we don't know how."

He estimates the property damage at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Possible damage to a fifth boat is also being investigated.

Lockwood said he hasn't seen such an occurrence in the more than 20 years he's been at the boatyard.

Firefighters and mutual aid from Stonington, Old Mystic, Wequetequock and Pawcatuck battled the fire.

No injuries or damage to nearby houses were reported, according to Hoadley.


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