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Fire In Virginia Threatens 100 Boats

By Larry Chowning

Firefighters were able to avoid a major catastrophe Wednesday, Feb. 15, as a boat storage facility at The Boatyard at Christchurch near Urbanna, Virginia caught fire with 100 boats inside the building.

Over 50 firefighters from eight volunteer fire departments coming from four counties fought the fire at the Rappahannock River facility, said David Layman, Middlesex County Emergency Service Director.

“We were very lucky that we did not have a major catastrophe. What I think saved us and kept the fire from spreading was the quick response of all the fire companies that came to fight the fire,” he said.

“We got the fire call at 7:43 a.m. and when I arrived smoke was pouring out of the building,” said Layman. “We did not open the doors until everything was set to go inside because we were afraid that wind coming through the door might push the fire inside throughout the building.”

Gloucester County Fire and Rescue Squad firemen used their ladder truck by extending the ladder through the high sliding doors on the front of the building which enabled firemen to pour water down on the fire, said Layman.

“There are 100 boats in the shed. We figured most had fuel in them and were made out of fiberglass which is highly flammable which made me nervous,” he said. “The fire never left the building or burned through the roof. We did cut through the roof and were able to contain the blaze to one corner of the building.”

The fire is being investigated by the Virginia State Police to determine the cause. A HAZMAT team came from Newport News to handle hazardous materials and to control fire water runoff along the shore.

The U. S. Coast Guard was called and arrived on the scene and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials were notified of the fire, said Layman. Firefighters used saltwater pumped from the Rappahannock River and freshwater from fire hydrants located about two miles out on Route 33 to battle the fire.

The boatyard is in winter mode so the storage shed and the boatyard were full of boats inside and outside on the grounds. None of the boats on the outside of the building were damage, said Layman.

“No one was hurt and most of the boats were saved,” said Layman. “We came out on this much better than I thought when I drove up on the fire this morning.”

Larry Chowning is a writer with Chesapeake Bay Magazine.

The fire is a grim reminder to all storage property owners to make sure they have updated all insurance policies. “Every RV & boat storage facility must develop a Risk Management Assessment and Plan. If not, this high-income asset is at the whelm of every weather-related twist and turn,” explains Terry Anderson, President and CEO of Tenant Property Protection, providers of insurance products and services specific to self-storage, RV and boat storage. “For instance, I have witnessed significant windstorms and fires that have wiped out storage facilities because they did not properly keep the brush and trees regularly manicured on their property.

“Owner/operator negligence in preparing for the risk of winds, fires and burglary has led to the rising cost of Property & Casualty insurance rates,” Anderson continues. 

“There have even been situations where the loss of income and lack of reimbursement to replace buildings lost to the elements or outside-related incidents has cost owners their livelihood. A Risk Management Assessment and Plan is a way to save profits and costs when faced with potential losses. Every good general business property and casualty agency in the storage industry should have a resource available to meet this need.”

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