Citizens Try To Stop Fire That Destroys Several Boats

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - Several boats were destroyed after a fire broke out at a local marina on Memorial Day. It happened early Monday morning at Fish Springs Marina on Watauga Lake.

Flames several feet high billowed out of a Fish Springs dock Monday morning, leaving overnight boaters in shock.

?We were asleep up here about 5:15 in the morning and heard a little pop, like a loud explosion, but it sounded like a gun shot," boater Corey Laws recalled.

He and fellow boater Art Barber immediately took action. They grabbed their fire extinguishers and headed toward the fire. "Our first thought was to wake up people on the other boats because it was 5:30, 5:45," said Barber.

But citizens' attempts to fight the fire from the water and from the deck of the blazing houseboat came up short. "We just screamed 'get out of here!' Then we started running, and it was such [thick] black smoke and [we] couldn't see the stairwell. So I'm going down the left side of the boat, feeling for the stairwell, and obviously I found it," said Barber.

Tennessee Wildlife Resource officer Keith Thomas said the fire started with a small docked fishing boat, and from there the flames grew fast.

"There were six vessels involved, three houseboats and three other smaller runabout-style boats,? Thomas said.

"We had a water hose, but it just didn't do. It wasn't enough,? said Laws.

Thomas said two boats avoided serious damage because they were removed from the dock. We found out it was the same citizen crew trying to fight the flames that let the boats go.

"It's just a very frustrating feeling to look out there and see you know what we couldn't save," Barber told News 5.

But what couldn't be saved can always replaced. "Thank the Lord there were no people hurt or injured and [there?s] just a lot of shaken nerves right now,? said Thomas White, owner of Fish Springs Marina.

"A boat's a boat. It's a material thing. You can replace it, but you can't replace lives,? said Laws.

TWRA officers are still investigating the cause of that fire.

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