Deputy Fire Chief Colina gives details on the recent boat fire where one person is still missing

Deputy Chief RL Colina from Monroe County Fire and Rescue joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

There was a fire on a boat early Wednesday morning at the Perry Hotel on Stock Island and Chief Colina was on the scene.

One woman is still considered missing.

Chief Colina said, “We got the reports that we had a vessel fire that was parked there and it ended up being a 70-foot Viking Princess with some out of town guests that are regulars to the Florida Keys and the boat was occupied. There were people on the boat when this thing first started. An attempt was made to try to get one of the other occupants off the vessel and unfortunately they were met with heavy fire and heat and sustained some injuries that were been treated for later. Crews arrived on scene shortly after the dispatch and it was quite a difficult battle.”

The large vessels can contain hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel.

Chief Colina added, “And different types of oils on board and then the proponent of the fiberglass. Once that fiberglass heats up. Crews, they acted quickly. A lot of times you don’t realize we want to put these vessels out as quickly as possible, we want to make sure it doesn’t impede any other vessels that are next to it. But these ropes burn quick. So that was one of the things that was noticed initially was that the ropes were burning. They quickly went into action and threw some chains to the back of the boat, which actually kept the vessel in place as they started firefighting operations. We fought the fire for about a solid three hours by the time the vessel took on enough water. We tried to control it. Like most occurrences with these fiberglass vessels, they finally reach a point where they’ll sink completely or a partial sink. That’s where we’re at. The sheriff’s office was on scene and we notified the State Fire Marshal. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, they handle strictly the death investigations that happen within the county. So those two those two agencies are working very closely right now as we continue this process of trying to extract the vessel from the water.”

Because of the contaminants and diesel fuel in the water, dive teams were only able to do a surface examination.

Chief Colina said, “They were able to do a quick surface view yesterday and try to identify anything from it. Nobody was able to enter the vessel. We’re back at it again this morning. We’ve got crane operators and a barge that the State Fire Marshall and sheriff’s office are bringing. We’re going to look for a partial lift of this vessel to get it out, but due to the amount of contaminants in the water, no recovery operation was assembled.”

There were a number of people on the boat when they fire broke out.

Chief Colina said, “It’s reported there was probably about seven or eight people that were on the boat at the back part of the boat and they identified something going on on the inside. They could see through the glass doors that a fire had broken out and reports so far where that this spread was so quickly that even with them on board the boat, they made exit from the back of the boat and two males had tried to enter in that area and they were unsuccessful because the amount of fire that they encountered so quickly.”

By the time Monroe County Fire and Rescue got on scene, the boat was pretty engulfed.

Chief Colina said, “It was a first alarm fire for us, due to the hazards with the water and the size of the vessel and then also the fact that there’s so many other exposures within these marinas. These vessels, they’re made of a lot of plastic, a lot of fiberglass and then we add that element of fuel in there. They arrived on scene and their initial responses was they were not able to make any type of entry to the vessel, just an extreme amount of heat from the time they got to the dock area.”

There hasn’t been any damage to other vessels reported.

Chief Colina said, “At this time, slight damage to the floating dock area where the vessel was actually tied up to, but the other boats that were in the area or within the marina, no damage was sustained to any of those vessels. It was contained to that one Viking Princess. So that that definitely a positive. The staff at the marina, we got to tell you, top notch, well trained, prevention measures were taken. We were able to work with them early in the morning and as soon as we’re able to extinguish the fire, they quickly deployed the booms. These booms are placed out there to trap any of the fuel and the chemicals that will kind of spill into the greater part of the marina. They deployed those booms immediately, and then started putting absorbent pads throughout the water to make sure that we contained as much as the contaminants as possible.”

With lobster mini season underway, what can be done to lessen the risk of a vessel fire?

Chief Colina said, “A little bit of common sense goes a long way out on the water and understanding that the basic US Coast Guard requirements for any vessel, they always encompass a fire extinguisher to be on board. One of the biggest things I think that’s kind of overlooked over the days is just preventative maintenance, issues that you see going on and make sure that you get these things wrapped up before you head on the water. When we start talking about these larger boats, and these Liveaboards, that we encounter down here in the Florida Keys, they almost have to be treated like a house. We look at those and ensure that you have an evacuation plan if something does happen. A lot of these larger boats do have a lot of safety built into it, where if they have a fire in an area, they know that this is an escape hatch, they can go straight up vertically exit the boat and get off the vessel. But the main thing is have a plan. Always be aware that you have to know what to do in case something bad happens. Be prepared. Being prepared is making sure you’ve got good communication, you’re in a good area and then the other part of that is for those small fires that will tend to grow, have an extinguisher available. Make sure that they’re in date, and make sure it’s accessible and that everybody on board understands where things are. Because a lot of times, we do have friends and family that will join us and it might be a situation where they are the ones that have to be the first one to enact the plan. So just make sure you cover everything with people when they get on your vessel, when they’re at your house, that they understand exactly what your plan is, in case bad things happen.”

Fire Rescue also makes sure everyone is safe in the heat.

Chief Colina said, “Beat the heat kind of took on a new term for us this year down here in Monroe County with the amount of heat and the longevity of stretches we were having. They put on these programs to get the kids out there and we’re always throwing some type of prevention measure that has a little bit of education in there. But more importantly, wanted them to come out have a good time. We were met by a lot of residents, were met by a lot of children, and the crews, they really engaged with these type of activities. We are coming close to the end of that, as everyone starts getting ready to go back to school and get geared up for that, but an extreme success once again, especially with the amount of heat that we encountered with no fire conditions.”

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two conditions Fire Rescue sees in the summer.

Chief Colina said, “The heat for us down here, especially we get a lot of visitors to Monroe County in the Florida Keys. They’re not used to the heat. They’re not used to the humidity and then this summer, definitely we were hit by both of them quite quickly. We ran a lot of different medical calls and that’s something that people need to understand as well, when they’re taking certain medications, that a lot of these medications, they might have a sensitivity to the heat, or they might potentiate people fainting, or feeling the weakness. So stay indoors for these periods where we have this excessive amount of heat. We’re always available, somebody’s not feeling well, just give us a call. We’re more than happy to go out there. We check on people all the time to make sure that there is no medical emergency. But the chance that there is something, we are prepared as a full ALS department to render that care.”

If someone is suffering from heat, the first thing to do is get the person out of the sun.

Chief Colina said, “Try to move them to a nice, warm, nice, cool place that’s dry. Try to do some cool down methods of try to get their clothes off, dry them off. At that point, if there’s any type of shortness of breath, or there’s any type of pain or not feeling how you normally feel, definitely call 911. Calling early statistics have shown that is the key to success, enacting the 911 system. It’s nothing for us to go out there and check a patient out. We’d rather check the patient out and make sure they’re good and get a refusal and go back to the station then wait a couple hours and it’d be more significant for the patient that they should have gotten earlier care. 24/7, Monroe County Fire Rescue, the men and women that are in the stations, that’s the department, that’s the people that are the boots on the ground for us. We’ve got an amazing, amazing group of people that are dedicated and are committed to serving this community. And we’re just proud to be here.”