Heroic bat­tle to con­tain blaze on boat

Arawe was to take part in up­com­ing Race Week

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

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.

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