Quick action prevents further damage

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Dragger fire at Port Saunders, N.L. Marine Centre

Boarding a burning boat is always dangerous, but there was a lot at stake.

The Port Saunders, N.L. and Port au Choix, N.L. volunteer fire departments are being credited with preventing the spread of what could have been a catastrophic fire for much of the Northern Peninsula’s dragger fleet. “We were concerned that if the fire broke out, it would have caused a lot of damage,” said Port Saunders Fire Chief Chris Gaslard. “So we called Port au Choix for backup, knocked down the fire on the back deck with water and foam and boarded the boat.”

The 61-foot Straits Venture caught fire at the Port Saunders Marine Centre around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 31 with a full load of fuel aboard. The surrounding boats tied to the wharf, mostly 65-foot draggers, were held in place by the harbour ice and dozens more were on blocks on the surrounding staging area.

If the thousands of litres of diesel onboard the Straits Venture caught fire, a powder keg could have erupted in the middle of a large portion of the peninsula’s dragger fleet.

Some 18 volunteer firefighters put out the fire and stayed on the scene until 7 a.m. to make sure it didn’t flare up again. “The boat was connected up to shore power at the time and nothing burned in the engine room or the fishhold,” said Chief Gaslard. “It appears the fire started in the galley.”

While a greater tragedy was averted, it was still a terrible morning call for the Gould brothers to receive.

Wade, Roland and Alvin Gould somberly picked through the charred remains of the 61-foot Straits Venture’s processing deck and wheelhouse. “This won’t drive us out,” said Wade. “We plan to keep fishing if we can.”

The three Bear Cove brothers owned the modern dragger. They were waiting for word last Tuesday from the insurance company on whether the boat can be salvaged.

Geographic location: Port Saunders, Port au Choix, Northern Peninsula

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