A massive fire destroyed seven boats and damaged at least eight more
at Shelter Bay Marina near La Conner in Skagit County on Friday afternoon.

The fire started at about 4 p.m. on one boat at the residential marina and quickly spread to adjacent boats, according to Shelter Bay community manager David Franklin.

One dock was engulfed in flames, which allowed
one burning boat to float to another dock and further spread the fire, he said.

The fire caused an estimated $1 million in damage.

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Firefighters were able to contain the damage on the adjacent dock, but they weren’t able to fully knock down the fire until shortly after 6 p.m., Franklin said.

“There were no injuries,” he said, “just a lot of broken hearts for those boats that were lost.”

Dylan Furst, of Bellingham, said he saw the cloud of black smoke from about two miles away while he was driving to Bellingham from Deception Pass. He could smell the smoke from more than 400 yards away, he said.

Furst said firefighters had trouble aiming directly at the flames because the boats kept drifting.

“It was just one big fire of boats,” Furst said. “They weren’t separated at all.”

Firefighters from multiple agencies responded, including the Swinomish Reservation, Skagit County, La Conner and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Some residents tried to move unaffected boats away from the flames as firefighters battled the blaze with water and foam, the Swinomish Yacht Club reported via Twitter.

“With boat fires, with the water, fiberglass, fuel and the intensity of the flame, it’s very difficult to put out,” La Conner Fire Chief Dan Taylor said.

The 15 boats that burned are 40- to 50-foot pleasure craft kept at the 325-slip marina in the private, gated community of Shelter Bay on the Swinomish Channel. Six of the seven boats that were destroyed sank, and the seventh was severely burned, Skagit County Fire District 13 Chief Roy Horn told the Skagit Valley Herald.

One resident told the newspaper that his $300,000 yacht, with 400 gallons of diesel fuel, burned and then sank.

“They were nice boats,” Franklin said. “Very nice boats.”

Franklin said officials will work to determine the cause and the full extent of the damage Saturday, as well as the possible environmental impacts, including the diesel fuel that leaked into the channel.

“We’ll see what the morning light brings,” Franklin said. “Hopefully, tomorrow, it won’t be as bad as we think.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or pcornwell@seattletimes.com