POLICE are investigating a boat fire at Blairgowrie Marina on 20 March that engulfed two boats and took six fire units to contain.
The fire has raised concerns about emergency management at the marina and the safeguards for the protection of the sensitive marine environment.
Sorrento and Rye brigades, supported by FRV and Queenscliff Coastguard, responded to several calls to 000 just after 7pm, with crews finding the boats fully alight on arrival.
However, the layout of the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron marina and access to the boats proved difficult for the emergency services.
CFA Commander Sean Kerr said crews were challenged by the distance between where they could park the truck to where the boats were on fire.
“Hoses had to run about 300 metres from the land down a narrow walkway to the boats in order to extinguish the fire,” he said.
The fire was quickly brought under control, and no other boats were involved.
One resident who lives nearby said the fire highlighted “issues” with disaster management and the safety of people and the environment at the marina, which has been the site of several boats fires in recent years.
The resident, who declined to have her name published, said it was clear from the scene that fire trucks had difficulty accessing the boats, with drive access only to the concrete platform on the Sorrento side of the jetty.
“Presumably they ran hoses along to the western end of the marina where the boats were alight, and they would have used a fire retardant to douse the flames from the fuel tanks,” she said.
The woman said she and other residents were also concerned about the marine environment and the risk of fire-fighting products ending up in the water and potentially presenting a risk to swimmers and marine life.
She said no environmental impact study was completed when the marina was extended in 2017.
“Who will assess the quality of the water around the fire incident and act accordingly,” she asked.
“Who will assess the effects on marine life and sea birds, including little penguins, pied cormorants, pacific and silver gulls.”
The woman, who has lived in the area for more then 40 years, said she was concerned for the safety of everybody who used the marina.
“The adjacent Blairgowrie jetty attracts commercial dive and snorkel tours, including night dives, so that people can swim under the pier to see the myriad of coloured sea sponges and the marine creatures they support including sea horses, crabs and fish,” she said.
“And of course, there are always people fishing from the jetty…the marina side of the jetty even proudly boasts a sign ‘Marine Sanctuary – No Fishing’.
There have been several fires at the marina is recent years, including a mysterious fire in January, 2018, where a man was seen leaping into the water from a burning boat and hitching a ride from the scene on a passing boat.
In another fire in 2016, a man suffered burns to his face after a boat caught fire and he had to be taken to hospital.
Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron management was contacted for comment.