June 8, 2023


A shelter-in-place order was issued Sunday for neighborhoods near a burning fishing vessel in the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma, Washington, where a “significant explosion” took place and fire conditions have worsened, officials said.

The burning vessel – which is believed to be carrying 55,000 gallons of diesel and 19,000 pounds of freon on board – caught fire early Saturday morning while moored in the waterway, the US Coast Guard said in a news release.

“We were very fortunate that the fire was quickly spotted and reported and the crew onboard was able to safely evacuate,” US Coast Guard Lt. Stephen Nolan told CNN affiliate KING-TV.

There was a “significant explosion” linked to a heated compressed gas cylinder on the vessel, and smoke production shifted toward Northeast Tacoma, Port of Tacoma officials said Sunday night, citing fire officials.

“Due to smoke from a boat fire in Tacoma, Twin Lakes and Green Gables residents should avoid prolonged outdoor exposure whenever smoke odors are present or if smoke is visible,” Federal Way mayor Jim Ferrell tweeted late Sunday night.

By Sunday, the fire had spread throughout the vessel and was about 100 feet from the ship’s freon tanks, according to the Coast Guard. Freon is a trademark name typically used to refer to several different refrigerants, including chlorofluorocarbons, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

As the fire continues to burn, the heat from the flames can build pressure in the freon tanks, which have built-in heat-activated pressure relief valves designed to release pressure from the tanks in an emergency, according to the Coast Guard.

“While freon can be toxic if inhaled in large quantities or in a confined space, the release of freon into the atmosphere is not expected to pose any health and safety risks to the public,” the Coast Guard said.

Still, the City of Tacoma Fire Department asked residents of the Northeast Tacoma, Browns Point and Dash Point neighborhoods to “remain indoors and limit exposures to smoke.”

“Residents concerned about smoky conditions can provide additional protections by keeping doors closed and shutting outside air vents. Residents may also want to avoid any strenuous activity or exercise outdoors,” the mayor tweeted.

The EPA has been conducting air monitoring in the surrounding areas and first responders have deployed floating barriers around the vessel to contain any spills, the release said.

The Coast Guard has also closed the Hylebos Waterway for all commercial and recreational vessel traffic.

As of Sunday night, no injuries had been reported and there were no signs of maritime pollution, the Coast Guard said.

As crews continue to battle the fire with cooling spray, it remains unclear what ignited the blaze. Authorities said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.


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