State investigators on the scene of boat factory fire -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State investigators on the scene of boat factory fire

February 20, 2007

Coffee County--  Investigators with the state fire marshal's office are combing through the burned rubble of a boat factory in Douglas.

Marine Manufacturing  burned yesterday afternoon.  Investigators are on sight now trying to figure out what caused the fire.

Firefighters spent hours putting out a dangerous factory fire in Coffee County. Dozens of people had to evacuate Marine Manufacturing in Douglas. That's where workers make fiberglass boats and use some dangerous chemicals. The business almost lost it all.  

When firefighters arrived on the scene, flames were in control. "Pretty much the building is a loss," said Douglas Fire Chief Tim White.

Still as they do what they can, owner Steve Harris watches in disbelief. "It's difficult to see your life's work go up in smoke. Thirty some odd years of boat building experience burned up," said Harris.

Flames and clouds of smoke filled the air in Douglas after Marine Manufacturing caught fire. It started in the fiberglass lamination area, possibly from an exhaust fan.

"It spread very quickly and we were unable to put it out ourselves," said Harris. About 100 employees were quickly evacuated. They were in danger not only from the flames but also harsh, highly flammable chemicals. "We do use some volatile chemicals and they do tend to flash off pretty quick," said Harris.

Those chemicals include acetone and resin, a recipe for dangerous conditions. Some back buildings held the most danger. That's where the majority of chemicals are kept. Firefighters say things could have been much different.

"Yes sir. It could have been an environmental issue if hadn't contained it to the point that we did," said Chief White.

Harris continues to take it all in. "We lost everything in this building including our offices," said Harris. Things weren't a complete loss though.  Some boat moldings were saved along with a computer hard drive. However, Harris says those things aren't what he's most thankful for.

"I'm thankful that no one got hurt and we'll survive this," said Harris. Strong words from a man who's looking towards the future, even before the smoke clears.

Marine Manufacturing does have another larger facility about 2 miles from this one. Harris hopes to transfer as much production there as possible so that the 100 employees don't lose their jobs.