Popular Boat Dock on Oregon Lake Destroyed

Aug. 24--Gaston firefighters have doused a fire sparked by a boat's backfire at Henry Hagg Lake Sunday, but not before it destroyed 30 feet of a popular boat dock, restricting access as summer winds to an end.

While boat ramp "C" will continue to be open, deputies say traffic will be slowed from three to two lanes for the rest of the season. The fire is estimated to have caused more than $50,000 of damage.

At about 10:13 a.m., Washington County sheriff's marine patrol deputies responded to the popular recreational spot, to find that Stephen Graham, 50, had been battling the flame with a fire extinguisher.

But the fire had already leapt from Graham's boat, a fiberglass 1978 Mantaray, to the dock. The heat was so intense the deputies had to retreat and wait for fire crews.

"It was that hot, that fast," said Sgt. Bob Ray of the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Contributing to the blaze was that the dock was made of recycled plastic, Ray added. There were no injuries.

Graham told deputies the fire was caused by a backfire when he started the engine.

Ray, the sheriff's sergeant, said that the lake draws 10,000 people a day for boating, picnicking and other recreation. "Fortunately we're coming to the end of the summer because that (damage) would have really bogged things down," he added.

Motorized boats are required to have a clean "backfire flame arrester as safety equipment. Graham's boat had a flame arrester, but deputies could not confirm its operating condition because of damage caused by the heat of the fire.

--Nick Budnick

Copyright 2014 - The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

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