Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mobile firefighters battle blaze at Pinto Island barge-repair facility

Nature's Way Marine Fire 2011
The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department is on the scene of a fire on Pinto Island on the east bank of the Mobile River Tuesday morning, June 14, 2011, in Mobile, Alabama. The fire is at a barge repair operation called Nature's Way Marine.

MOBILE, Alabama -- The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department this morning battled a fire on Pinto Island on the east bank of the Mobile River.
Officials said at 11:21 a.m. that the blaze was under control.
The fire was at Nature's Way Marine, a barge repair operation. A large plume of black smoke was visible across downtown Mobile, apparently generated by burning fiberglass barge hatch covers.
At one point flames were visible from Interstate 10 and other vantage points. A ladder truck sprayed water directly onto the fire, and a fire boat was on the river side of the blaze. Adams said a Crescent Marine tugboat also responded.
Later, with the fire apparently nearly extinguished, a ladder truck continued to pour water onto two nearby storage tanks.
A Nature's Way employee who identified himself only as Jake said at about 10:45 a.m. that the fire was almost extinguished. "I don't know exactly what is burning," he said, declining to comment further.
Mobile River remained open to traffic, said Judy Adams, Alabama State Port Authority spokeswoman. Adams said the fire was entirely on land and not on any vessel. Workers at the nearby Austal shipbuilding operation were at work as normal.
Police had restricted access to the immediate area, but at 11:15 a.m. police lifted the road block. Before that they had allowed crews that were changing shifts at BAE to exit the area to the north.
Mobile Fire-Rescue Capt. Sean Hicks said the first call about the fire came in at 9:47 a.m. Four fire engines and the city's Fire Boat 4 responded. Hicks said the fire boat worked the fire for a while but "had a mechanical issue" and had to return to port.
Hicks said when firefighters reached the scene "there was about a 20-foot pile of plastic fiberglass-type barge covers." He said that a construction company was on site cutting out the barge covers for disposal in preparation for the land's sale to Austal.
"During the process of cutting the lids the heat got too intense," Hicks said.
He said he didn't know what the construction company was using to cut the fiberglass covers.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the US Coast Guard were contacted, Hicks said. The agencies judged that the fire posed no environmental threat, he said.
Hicks said the fire is likely to continue smoldering for a while and occasionally may emit puffs of black smoke. He said the construction company was bringing equipment to the site to flip the lids over so that the fire department could get underneath them and spray water onto where the fire is smoldering.
Firefighters were wearing self-contained breathing apparatus because of the thick black smoke and fiberglass particles. Hicks said an ambulance crew was monitoring the firefighters to make sure they were not overcome by heat.

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