There was a huge, black plume of smoke billowing from what looked like north of Cal Anderson Park. Stranger staff gathered at the windows, gawking. "Christopher, is your apartment on fire?" Rich Smith asked. Christopher Frizzelle, editor of print, quickly put on his jacket and hat and ran to go check as the smoke kept going. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the staff saw updates from Seattle Fire Department: it was a marina fire in Eastlake. Christopher's apartment, though its view obstructed from new construction, was fine.
But it was a dramatic scene on this dreary Friday morning at E Garfield Street and Fairview Avenue:
A fire aboard a large boat sent a huge plume of black smoke skyward over Seattle's Lake Union. (Video courtesy Erik Long)
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Lance Garland, acting public information officer for the Seattle Fire Department (SFD), told The Stranger by email that two boats were involved in the fire and that it had extended to a small part of the pier. The fire was reported at around 10:20 a.m. and was mostly contained by 11:00 a.m. It was put out quickly with crews using water and foam.
Firefighting foam coated parts of Lake Union, but there's no cleanup necessary.
As part of a $3.8 million grant from the Department of Ecology, SFD "got $247,000 for firefighting foam Novacool, a less toxic foam that doesn’t contain perfluorinated compounds that persist in the environment." And, as of July 2018, firefighting foam containing toxic per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or, PFAs, as they're commonly known, were banned throughout Washington state.
PFAs are bad news. They're linked "to an increased risk of cancer, higher cholesterol, suppressed immune systems and problems in fetal development," according to the Seattle Times. They can wind their way into groundwater and stay there for thousands of years since there aren't any natural processes that break them down. The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to combat them. States, like Washington, have taken action into their own hands.
Garland from SFD described the relatively-new Novacool foam as "safe for animal and plant-life," he said. "No cleanup is needed as it dissipates in about 30 minutes."
Larry Altose, a public information officer at the Washington Department of Ecology, confirmed to The Stranger that no foam cleanup was necessary.
"I don’t know about this specific fire, but in marina fires typically there is debris to be cleaned off the surface of the water," Altose told me over email. "A fuel release is a risk with a vessel fire. Ecology and the Coast Guard are available to support SFD with spill response as needed."
When asked, Garland said he didn't know of any fuel leaks at this time. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Here's some more fire content:
firefighters seen running lines & climbing over boats on fire with Black smoke still rising from 1 of them on Seattle’s Lake Union #Air4 #komonews pic.twitter.com/5WQcqpUvHL
— Denise Whitaker🏃♀️ (@deniseonKOMO) May 17, 2019