Heroic battle to contain blaze on boat
Arawe was to take part in upcoming Race Week
IT WAS thanks to the heroic actions of Port of Airlie staff, emergency ser- vices personnel, local boaties and members of the public that no lives were lost and damage was contained when a boat caught fire at the Port of Airlie marina on Tuesday afternoon.
Longtime Proserpine resident Eddie Gray had been working on his timber cruiser Arawe earlier that day and went for a lunch break at the Coffee Club when the blaze broke out at about 12.55pm.
Mr Gray said the first he knew of his beloved boat’s fate was hearing the cries of “fire”.
PORT of Airlie staff, boaties, onlookers and even a visiting tourist sprang into action immediately to try to locate and contain the blaze aboard the timber vessel Arawe, about 18m in length.
Port of Airlie manager Andrew Forrster and Daniel Ryan from Townsville, were among the first to reach the smoking vessel, moored at the end of the marina’s F arm.
Mr Forrster had activated the marina’s alarm system alerting emergency service personnel.
Firies, paramedics, police and Maritime Safety Queensland officers were on the scene within minutes.
Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the boat was soon engulfed by flames.
Police quickly moved all non-urgent personnel off the dock and kept the rapidly gathering crowd of onlookers back.
Mr Forrster and other helpers reacted quickly to save the vessels closest to the blaze, working together to move the boats to other docks.
Officer in charge of the Airlie Beach Fire Station Cameron Corneal said the fire was a tough one to fight.
“Even though we knocked the flames out it would quickly grow again so we had to just keep applying water and basically the fire didn’t completely go out until the vessel sunk at about 3.50pm,” he said.
“When it became too dangerous, I had to withdraw crews – it was a choice I had to make.”
Although nothing could be done to save Arawe, Mr Forrster said he was grateful the damage was contained.
“I think everybody reacted really well – the firies, the ambo’s and police were amazing.
“All the safety gear worked well and the first response alarms – everything went to the emergency plans, which we’ve got in place.
“Everybody’s safe and sound and life and property are most important.”
Mr Gray and his wife Betty, were understandably shaken and devastated by their loss. They had owned Arawe for seven years and were preparing her for a role as the start boat in Airlie Beach Race Week. Corneal said the fire was believed to have started in the engine area but the cause was yet to be determined.
FIGHTING THE FIRE: Firies fought the blaze aboard Arawe for almost three hours at Port of Airlie on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Ron Spence.