A fire burned down 14 boats docked in the Snodgrass Slough at the Walnut Grove Marina. The Office of Emergency Services said the flames started around 2 a.m. Monday, and spread from boat to boat.
Ed Weldy has had his boat there for 15 years. He said he is extremely fortunate the fire missed his boat by just a few feet.
“It’s a loss, you know. Not a loss of life, but a loss. It’s a lifestyle, us Delta Rats,” Weldy said. “It was luck of the wind, because the wind was drifting that direction, other wise it would have been going this way.”
Despite millions of dollars in damage, no one was hurt.
“Everyone made it off, and there was no one on the boat except one guy who untied himself and moved his vessel away,” Petty Officer Dave Irvin of the US Coast Guard said. “So everyone is safe no one died. I can’t ask for better than that.”
As insurance agents scoured the area for damages, the Coast Guard and California Department of Fish and Wildlife are keeping a close eye on pollution. Witnesses said they heard several gasoline and propane tank explosions overnight.
Daniel Auman is a Farmers Insurance Agent in Sacramento County; he has seen fires like this during his 13-year career. “Often times houseboats have ALE where you can rent a place while yours is being rebuilt,” said Auman.
Because of how the fire spread, Auman says investigators may conclude the fire is the work of arsonists. He said that type of activity sounds like it had some type of fuel source.
The marina says they have their own liability insurance coverage that is separate from the boats’ owners. Some insurance adjusters were out on the water on Monday, surveying the destruction.
“The property owners will have to contact their insurance and get the vessels removed themselves,” said Dave Irvin of the United States Coast Guard. “We will help insure they take the proper actions though.”
Warden Michael Kirchner of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the effects of these oil spills are minimal. Bass and water fowl seem to be acting normally. “There is some light sheen in the water. A lot of the vessels still have the product on board or it was taken care of by the fire,” Petty Officer Irvin said.
Although the area is not closed, Warden Kirchner strongly dissuades people from fishing in the area, for food safety reasons.
The historic Ryde Hotel just a few miles down the Sacramento River is hoping they can help those that lost it all. They said because they are in their slow season, they are able to offer rooms for free.
“We really want people to know that the Ryde is still part of the community, even though we are off in the corner of the delta,” Assistant General manager Dean Villanueva said.
The Ryde will be offering one week of free boarding and 30 days of free boat docking for fire victims.
“We just want to give them a bed to sleep in, electricity and heat, so they can figure out their situation,” Villanueva said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.