The Valdez Fire Department is investigating the cause of an explosion that happened at the Valdez Small Boat Harbor late Monday morning. The fire from the explosion left a Fairbanks father and daughter with severe burns.
Owen Guthrie and his family were preparing to go out on the Prince William Sound when they stopped at the Crowley Fuel Dock to fill up their bay liner, The Falcon. When Guthrie turned the ignition, the 28-foot vessel exploded.
His wife and two of his three daughters were able to escape through a window that blew out during the explosion.
Guthrie went back to retrieve the third daughter after she fell into the boat’s engine compartment. He and the teenage girl sustained severe burns. The mother and the other girls suffered cuts while escaping.
A medic from the Silver Bay Seafoods Cannery assisted the family until Valdez Fire crews and paramedics arrived on scene. Several workers from cannery weren’t far behind.
“I was right in the corner, by where the boat was, and then I just saw people running into the factory and just telling us to get out, that there was a fire and that’s pretty just all they said, and everyone just started running out,” one worker said.
“I guess, I don’t know how it happened, and I think like a lot of people got hurt. A lady was caught on fire, I think, and they had to pull her out of the boat, that’s all I heard, though,” another worker said.
Crews arrived on scene to find the vessel engulfed in flames. Valdez Fire Chief George Keeney says the fire burned through the boat’s rope causing the vessel to go adrift. He said the blaze had also spread to the dock by the time crews had arrived on scene.
“The harbor crew was quick. They pushed the skiff back into the docks so we could tie onto it. Meantime, we went ahead and had crews at both locations putting the fires out, so we had fire crews coming over here to the dock, trying to get it out quickly at the same time we’re knocking the one down on the boat.”
The Coast Guard reopened the harbor to traffic 45 minutes later. Keeney says the crews boomed off the area and still had to fight off hotspots on the boat.
The fuel dock will to remain close for the next three to four days while officials investigate the cause of the fire.
As for Guthrie and his daughter, they were medavaced to the Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage and later to the Harborview Burn Center in Seattle for further treatment. The family’s dog, Sweetie, was also onboard the boat. The Valdez Fire Department says Sweetie is safe.