Arson Not Suspected in $1M Tennessee Marina Fire

Arson is not suspected in a Norris Lake marina blaze that on Monday consumed more than $1 million worth of watercraft and docks.

Brian Costello, who owns the Springs Dock, 1652 Alder Springs Road, near LaFollette, Tenn., said an employee alerted him at 3:10 a.m. of flames visible from the employee's vantage point across the lake.

"He called me and I called 911," Costello said.

Costello made the 10-minute drive from his home to the marina. He said he found "everything in flames and explosions" upon arrival.

Costello said 58-60 boats were burned. Damaged watercraft included fishing boats, pontoon boats and ski boats.

"Everything is pretty much gone," he said. Covered slips impacted by the flames were B, C and D, he said. The marina has 170 slips.

Costello estimated each lost boat ranges in value from $20,000-$30,000. He had no dollar value readily available on the loss of his dock and covered slips.

He estimated about "90 percent of our business is out of state." His employees were busy Monday contacting boat owners about the losses.

Firefighters from the Caryville

and Pinecrest volunteer fire departments and the Campbell County Rural Fire Service converged on the blaze.

"The difficult part was getting something on the water to get to the fire," said Andrew Carroll, chief of the Campbell County Rural Fire Service, which also is a volunteer department. "When it's on the water, you just can't get to it."

Firefighters used floating pumps supplied by the Caryville and Pinecrest departments. Caryville Fire Chief Eddie Hatmaker said the floating pump is a device that can be placed in a body of water that pumps water to firefighters.

Carroll said flames were on docks about 100-150 feet from the main office and restaurant. Flames did not reach the office area.

Firefighters fought flames to keep them from encroaching on other slips and moved boats from burning slips to safer areas, Carroll said. Firefighters were able to move a 1,300-square-foot houseboat from the end of one dock before flames reached it.

At the same time, firefighters commandeered two pontoon boats to fight the flames.

"They did everything they could possibly do to keep the boats from burning," Carroll said.

Costello said he appreciated the hard work by firefighters.

"All the firefighters did a great job considering we're 11 miles outside of town," Costello said.

Carroll said it appears the blaze was ignited on a boat, possibly from a battery charger or a faulty battery.

"We know for sure it wasn't arson," he said. "There are cameras all over the docks and nobody was there."

Copyright 2012 - The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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