This boat storage facility caught fire, but most of the 100 boats inside were saved. Photo: Larry Chowning

Fire in Va. Middle Peninsula Boat Storage Facility Threatens 100 Boats

Firefighters were able to avoid a major catastrophe Wednesday, Feb. 15 as a boat storage facility at The Boatyard at Christchurch near Urbanna, Virginia caught fire with 100 boats inside the building.

Over 50 firefighters from eight volunteer fire departments coming from four counties fought the fire at the Rappahannock River facility, said David Layman, Middlesex County Emergency Service Director.

“We were very lucky that we did not have a major catastrophe. What I think saved us and kept the fire from spreading was the quick response of all the fire companies that came to fight the fire,” he said.

“We got the fire call at 7:43 a.m. and when I arrived smoke was pouring out of the building,” said Layman. “We did not open the doors until every thing was set to go inside because we were afraid that wind coming through the door might push the fire inside throughout the building.”

Gloucester County Fire and Rescue Squad firemen used their ladder truck by extending the ladder through the high sliding doors on the front of the building which enabled firemen to pour water down on the fire, said Layman.

“There are 100 boats in the shed. We figured most had fuel in them and were made out of fiberglass which is highly flammable which made me nervous,” he said. “The fire never left the building or burned through the roof. We did cut through the roof and were able to contain the blaze to one corner of the building.”

The fire is being investigated by the Virginia State Police to determine the cause. A HAZMAT team came from Newport News to handle hazardous materials and to control fire water runoff along the shore.

The U. S. Coast Guard was called and arrived on the scene and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials were notified of the fire, said Layman. Firefighters used saltwater pumped from the Rappahannock River and freshwater from fire hydrants located about two miles out on Route 33 to battle the fire.

   The boatyard is in winter mode so the storage shed and the boatyard were full of boats inside and outside on the grounds. None of the boats on the outside of the building were damage, said Layman.

“No one was hurt and most of the boats were saved,” said Layman. “We came out on this much better than I thought when I drove up on the fire this morning.” 

-Larry Chowning