Twelve emergency departments responded to a blaze aboard the Melissa Ann II for more than six hours after the 56-foot wooden trawler accidentally caught fire Tuesday afternoon at Core Creek Marine Park, Beaufort.
The boat was at the dock and Timothy Gaskill and Phillip Willis were on board at the time. Willis was transported to Carteret Health Care for smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported.
About 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel were also on board, but seems to have been contained according to Fire Marshal Eddie Lewis.
The vessel had recently been out shrimping, and had shrimp on board. Lewis said she is owned by Luther Salter and was not insured.
Lewis said the crew was fixing a motor when sparks thrown from a grinding tool ignited some debris in the boat’s bilge.
“You know those bilges. They’re going to have water, fuel, and stuff built up over the years,” Lewis said. “They tried to fight the fire as best they could.”
When the first fire department arrived, they found that the deck of the boat was soft – meaning fire had destroyed its structural integrity, and no firefighters could board the vessel.
Instead, fire crews took up defensive positions on land, using foam to fight the fire. Land crews were assisted by Beaufort and Morehead City fire boat crews.
“The boats were a real asset in trying to fight the fire because they were able to get around on the other side of it,” Lewis said.
“The fire departments work really well together.”
Crews were finally able to get the fire controlled around 11 pm, but by that time the Melissa Ann II had partially sunk.
The Salvation Army came out to the scene and served drinks and snacks to first responders, which Lewis said was much appreciated.
“We’re very, very thankful for that. It was very kind of them.”
Responding departments included: Carteret County Sheriff’s Office, County Paramedics, County Fire Marshal, Mill Creek Fire, Beaufort Fire, Beaufort EMS, Morehead City Fire, Otway Fire, Atlantic Beach Fire, North River Fire, Stacy Fire and Cherry Point Fire.