Smoke billows up from fires on two boats at Michigan Harbor July 28.

Smoke billows up from fires on two boats at Michigan Harbor July 28.

Photo provided by Maureen MacDonald

No injuries reported in St. Clair Shores boat fires

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 29, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Witnesses described hearing a “boom and a whoosh” as a 22-foot Bayliner pulled away from Ken’s Marine Service at Michigan Harbor and burst into flames, according to St. Clair Shores Fire Chief James Piper.

He said the department received a call at 8:15 p.m. July 28 for a boat on fire, but when firefighters arrived, they discovered there were actually two vessels in flames.

The Bayliner had filled up at the gas dock at 24600 Jefferson Ave. and began to pull away from the dock when it burst into flames, Piper said. There were allegedly two men who made it off the boat and swam to shore.

“Meanwhile, that boat continued to move a little bit,” Piper explained. It collided with a 40-foot Sea Ray docked in the closest slip directly across from the gas dock, catching that boat on fire, and then continuing toward the lake with help from the wind and waves. Piper said that created two distinct locations of fire for the department to tackle.

The St. Clair Shores Fire Department drafted water from Lake St. Clair to fight the fire at the gas dock, pulling it through a 6-inch rigid tube out of the lake and into the fire truck, then using two large nozzles to spray the Sea Ray.

“With those things being fiberglass and wood, they go up pretty quick,” he said. “They were hitting that to protect more boats from catching on fire and to protect the boat dock.”

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Marine Division also responded to the scene with its boat, which is equipped with a fire nozzle, to knock down the fire on the original boat, the Bayliner.

“It took a little bit of time, but we got everything under control,” he said, adding that they greatly appreciated the help from the Sheriff’s Marine Division.

The Fire Department also coordinated with St. Clair Shores police and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that no one was left on the burning boat.

“From witness accounts, the two gentlemen made it off the boat, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, they took off,” Piper said. “We would love for them to check in with us and the Police Department so we can talk with them and see if everyone’s OK, nobody’s hurt, and help us with our investigation.”

Piper said the fires were under control within a half hour to 45 minutes, but it took till about 10 p.m. until the scene was able to be cleared by the department.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Piper said they’re not exactly sure what caused the fire and because of the extensive damage there were no identifying marks left on the boat to be able to identify the owner of the vessel.

The damaged Sea Ray was for sale by the marina and no one was on board that vessel when it went up in flames.

One Macomb County Sheriff’s deputy was evaluated because of the heavy amount of smoke, but was released on the scene. No injuries were reported.

Piper said anyone with any information as to the occupants of the boat is asked to call St. Clair Shores Fire Marshal Scott Desmadryl at (586) 445-5380.

“We just want to make sure they’re OK and see if we can help narrow in on what the cause of this was,” Piper said.