FORT MYERS, Fla. – A 20-foot sailboat caught fire, sending black smoke billowing into the sky Sunday shortly after 6 a.m. at the Yacht Basin.
The fire startled Jim Healy who lives on his boat in the marina. He alerted other boaters nearby by incessantly honking his boat’s horn.
“I’m getting up. I’m making coffee. I look out the window and see this fire,” Healy said. “I hit the horn. Just keep your thumb on that big loud horn and then hope that it wakes up your neighbors.”
Another boater, Jay Kylehepb said the fire was enough to wake the whole community of boaters. Flames from the boat ablaze were threatening nearby boat homes.
“I woke up and saw the first responders just blocking the street off and I mean a lot of them. Woke the whole marina up. (The boat) drifted over, nearly drifting into a bank of other boats,” Kylehepb said.
Members of the marina community said they are dependent on each other to keep safe because they live in such close proximity.
Three engines and three marine vessels were on scene to put out the fire, which was burning close to other boats in the marina. Crews also worked to clean debris and a small oil spill.
One man suffered from second-degree burns to his hand and was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital, but authorities said there were no serious injuries.
Healy said the fire was so terrible, he wouldn’t have expected anyone to survive.
“When I first saw that boat my only thought was ‘God, I hope there aren’t people on that boat’ because that was not a survivable fire. If he’s got second degree burns on his hands then he’s a lucky guy cause he’s got his life,” he said.
Kylehepb said the two people on the boat lost everything.
“Unfortunately, it looks like they lost everything they had, so they’re in rough shape. Everything — even cell phones. They didn’t even have shoes,” he said.
There is no word on the cause of the fire, but the Coast Guard will investigate.
No further information was available.