A boat caught fire and destroyed part of a dock at Henry Hagg Lake on Sunday morning.
No one was injured, although there was significant damage to both the boat and dock. No estimate was immediately on the boat, but damage to the dock was estimated at $50,000.
According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, at about 10:13 a.m. on Aug. 24, Sheriff's Marine Patrol deputies responded to boat ramp "C" at Henry Hagg Lake in the community of Gaston on the report of a fully engulfed boat fire. The fire was reportedly also burning part of the boat dock.
Deputies arrived and found a 1978 Mantaray fiberglass boat tied to the dock, burnt down to the water line. The dock was made of a composite plastic material and the fire destroyed a 30 foot section. The Gaston Fire Department responded to extinguish the fire.
Deputies contacted the boat operator, Stephen Graham, 50, from Saint Helens. He said the that when he started the boat engine, it backfired and started the fire. Graham said he discharged his fire extinguisher, but the fire spread too rapidly and the heat drove him and others back until the fire department arrived.
The sheriff's office says that a "backfire flame arrester" designed to cool and disperse the flame in the event of an engine backfire is required on motorized boats. There was a flame arrester on the engine, but deputies could not confirm its operating condition because the intense heat destroyed the device.
Boat ramp "C" will remain open, although traffic will be slowed from three to two lanes for the remainder of the season.