Stuart boat blaze injures firefighter

By JILL TAYLOR
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 14, 2005

STUART -- A Miami-Dade County firefighter was flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital with burns to his face and back after fumes in a boat cabin ignited Thursday at a dock behind his home.

Michael Berger, 61, was trying to hook up a battery charger to the 33-foot Wellcraft when a spark ignited the fumes and caused a flash, explosion and fire around 3 p.m.

Co-workers said the boat did not belong to Berger but was allowed to use his dock space behind his home at 621 Overlook Drive.

He was able to get off the burning boat and call 911 on his cell phone, according to Stuart police.

His injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, police said.

Stuart Fire Lt. Douglas Killane said no other boats or buildings were damaged thanks to a joint effort from Stuart and Martin County firefighters and no one else was hurt. Foam was used to extinguish the burning fiberglass but the odor lingered in the area.

The county's hazardous materials team was called in to check for any leakage of oil or fuel that might damage the already fragile St. Lucie River, but found no signs of contamination.

The boat, named Amiga Del Mar, was a total loss.

"Once you get fiberglass started, it's done," Killane said.