The American Express caught fire early Monday morning, tied up at the transient float dock of ANB Harbor. Photo by Katherine Rose/KCAW

A 32-foot commercial fishing boat caught fire early Monday morning (07-25-16) in ANB Harbor. The F/V American Express, a gillnetter, was tied up on the outer side of the transient float. Fire Chief Dave Miller says the department received a 911 call at 1:04 AM.

“The boat was totally involved. Everything in flames. We responded to that scene with two of our engines, engine 1 and ladder 2, and about ten of our volunteers responded also,” says Miller.

When they arrived, Miller says the boat’s crew and others were already at work putting the fire out with the hoses on the dock.  The American Express is owned by Bret Hanson and home ported in Bellingham, Washington. No one was aboard at the time of the blaze.

The Harbor Department confirms that neither surrounding boats nor the dock sustained damage, but the American Express, with its aluminum cabin, wasn’t so lucky. Here’s Miller.

It sustained heavy damage not to the hull of the boat, but to the cabin of the boat,” says Miller. “It was an aluminum boat so the heat was trapped in there. So all of their electronics, anything that was trapped in there was gone. Even the ceiling, the aluminum ceiling had melted from the intensive heat that was in there.”


A closer look at the cabin of the American Express. The aluminum ceiling melted as a result of the fire on Monday morning. Photo by Katherine Rose/KCAW.

Miller estimates the damages could total $100,000 or even more. Upon investigation, he believes the fire started as a result of a leaking diesel stove.

“The diesel stove was the culprit in this case,” says Miller. I would say in probably a vast majority of the boats we inspect after a fire, I would say the majority of them are caused by the diesel stove leaking fuel. It seems to be a culprit for a lot of boat fires.”

How can boaters prevent diesel fires? There’s no easy answer, says Miller, except to always keep an eye on the area, watch for leaks, and keep the system in check.

“If they would have been out on the water and this had happened, it would have been a major thing. To get off the boat, get into the life vest, all that other stuff.”

No one was injured in the fire. Both Miller and Harbor Master Stan Eliason are happy with the quick response by the fire department and other harbor residents.