Fires on land and sea

Alisha Morrissey & Gary Hebbard
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Tuesday blazes claim garage, fishing vessel

Dense, white smoke rose into the fog of a rain-soaked morning as the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's volunteer fire department poured water on a burning garage in that town.

A pumper had to make repeated runs to a nearby hydrant to fill up and return to the scene. An occasional breeze blew the smoke away long enough to allow a glimpse of the gutted, fire-blackened structure.

Left, firefighters pick up hose in the wake of a fire on Round Pond Road in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Tuesday morning that destroyed a garage behind a residence in the community. The structure was gutted and all its contents destroyed. The fire may have

Dense, white smoke rose into the fog of a rain-soaked morning as the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's volunteer fire department poured water on a burning garage in that town.

A pumper had to make repeated runs to a nearby hydrant to fill up and return to the scene. An occasional breeze blew the smoke away long enough to allow a glimpse of the gutted, fire-blackened structure.

Inside, a car, an all-terrain vehicle and other items were reduced to misshapen hulks.

Val Thorne, the owner, said she drove home from work after getting a call from her neighbour, not knowing what to think.

Even hours later, after spending most of the day on the phone with her insurance company, she said she was still in a daze.

No one was injured and the home, as well as a travel trailer parked nearby, were undamaged by the fire.

An investigation into the fire showed that it was electrical.

"I haven't got the guts to go near it," Thorne said, adding that it could have been worse.

Meanwhile, a separate fire, this one on the water, will also be investigated.

Kevin Barnes, regional supervisor for the maritime search and rescue team, said a single mayday call, along with a location, was sent out from the vessel around 9:15 Tuesday morning.

Operators weren't able to get a response from the Marine Clipper II and tasked two coast guard boats, two coast guard auxiliary boats in the area and a supply vessel.

Barnes said the auxiliary boats got there first and reported smoke. By then the boat was fully engulfed in flames and flares.

All five crew members on the boat got off safely and into an oval-shaped, hard-shell lifeboat.

Only one member of the crew didn't make it into his survival suit before getting off the boat and was later taken to hospital for observation suffering mild hypothermia.

The five men were pulled aboard the Burin Sea. Later, when they stepped on shore in St. John's, the Marine Clipper II was still fully alight.

Two Bugden's cabs had been called and the men quickly jumped aboard, declining to say anything to the half dozen reporters hoping for a statement or some comment.

But before one of the cabs could pull away one man opened up the rear door, stepped partly out onto the dock and indicated he wanted to say something.

He said the incident happened quickly and they were powerless to do anything other than abandon the stricken vessel.

The man, who at no point identified himself, said he wanted everyone to know that the only reason they survived was that they had repeatedly practised donning their immersion suits for just such an emergency.

"Practice, practice, practice," he said, repeating himself several times.

A younger man sitting in the front seat of the cab rolled down his window and joined in the conversation. He said this was his first trip ever on a fishing boat and that he owed his life to the captain and crewmembers who insisted he practice donning his survival suit until he could do it quickly and easily.

"That's the only reason I'm alive," he said.

amorrissey@thetelegram.com ghebbard@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, St. John's

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