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Couple Missing After Marina Fire Destroys Boats Near Bellingham

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credit: BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

SEATTLE (AP) — After a fire destroyed a boathouse and several boats at a marina in northern Washington state, officials were asking: Where are the couple who lived aboard one of the boats?

Their boat sank in the Friday morning fire at the Squalicum Harbor marina, and Bellingham authorities were hoping they spent Thursday night elsewhere.

“We’re very concerned,” said Fire Department Assistant Chief Roger Christensen.

Divers would check the sunken boat, he said, but it would be difficult because of the amount of debris in the water.

“We have not been able to reach them on their phones and their family has not been able to reach them,” said Marie Duckworth, a Port of Bellingham spokeswoman.

“They were live-aboards,” she said. “They lived on the boat, and the boat was in the affected area. They were living together. I don’t know their relationship.”

As many as 10 vessels were in the private boathouse at the marina at the Port of Bellingham when the fire was reported around 5:30 a.m. Flames had spread to several boats when firefighters arrived, and eventually the roof collapsed. No firefighters were injured.

The fire was difficult to fight because of its size and crews didn’t have a fire boat, Christensen said. The city decommissioned an old fire boat last year and didn’t replace it because of the cost, Christensen said.

“We were unsuccessful in securing funds to replace it,” he said. “We could have used it today.”

There was no early indication of the cause of the fire or the amount of the property loss.

Port employees immediately deployed booms to contain spilled fuel, Duckworth said. The Coast Guard and state Ecology Department were overseeing the cleanup.

Fuel tank explosions could be heard as thick, black plumes of smoke rose from the marina and drifted into Bellingham, The Bellingham Herald reported.

One witness, Mike Allsop, told the Herald most of the vessels were high-end fiberglass pleasure boats about 40 feet in length.

When Bellingham officials were considering selling the fire boat Fire Belle last year, Fire Chief Bill Boyd was reluctant and said it was necessary to provide basic fire and emergency medical services, the Herald reported.

City officials said the boat was not getting enough use to justify the cost of about $30,000 a year.

– Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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