Blaze takes out building, boats at Wabasha marina

Mar. 8—WABASHA — A blaze at a Wabasha marina seen miles away could have been worse Saturday morning.

At 2:31 a.m. Saturday, Wabasha Fire Department crews answered a call for a structure fire at the 1000 block of Main Street East where a boat repair shed was on fire at the Wabasha Marina & Boatyard, according to Wabasha Fire Chief Darren Sheeley.

One of the shops where boat maintenance is done was completely engulfed in fire, Sheeley said.

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There are two maintenance buildings side-by-side and when firefighters arrived on the scene, the blaze was working its way through a connecting hallway and the second building was starting to burn, he said.

The entrance to the second building and a wall were burned, but most of the damage was from smoke or cosmetic damage, he said. The second building houses drums filled with old fuel or oil, which, if they'd caught fire, would have made the blaze a completely different event, Sheeley said.

The building where the fire started had two or three boats inside, including one 35- to 40-foot cruiser and a smaller family boat, he said.

The fire was under control within a half hour, Sheeley said, but crews were on the scene for six or seven hours, and they kept checking back throughout the day for hot spots. A fuel tank in the larger boat holding an estimated 200-250 gallons of fuel burned for several hours, but the fire remained in place and a HAZMAT situation was avoided because no chemicals, fuel or oil made its way to the river.

Sheeley said the fire marshal arrived at 4:30 a.m., but the investigation is ongoing. Security cameras around the property should help in the investigation.

The marina's owners live in a home just a few dozen feet away, and when Wabasha Police officers arrived on the scene, they woke the owners up and got them out of the house, which was not damaged in the fire, Sheeley said.

In fact, the fire would have been much worse if not for a Wabasha Police officer who, coming out of the jail about 2:30 a.m., spotted a glow on the horizon. Sheeley said Patrol Officer Ken Jacobs is also a volunteer member of the Plainview Fire Department, and when he saw the fire, he also called in mutual aid before the Wabasha Fire Department was on the scene.

"He got the ball rolling for manpower before we even rolled up," Sheeley said, praising the police officer. "Another two to three minutes, we'd have lost the other building."

No one was hurt in the fire.

Fire departments from Kellogg and Lake City, as well as Wabasha Ambulance and the Wabasha Police Department, also responded.

Sheeley said he knew the fire was a big one the moment he walked out his front door after answering the call.

"I came out of my house about a mile away, and I could see the glow from down there," he said.