LINCOLNVILLE BEACH — Tom Crowley, along with his son and grandson, had just climbed into their skiff after tying their boat, the Big Red, to the mooring following an afternoon cruise on the bay Aug. 24 when he smelled gas. Crowley went back onboard to investigate, and that’s when he noticed the vessel’s inboard engine was ablaze.
He tried to stop the flames with two extinguishers, to no avail. The former lobster boat, approximately 35 feet in length, began to burn, and Crowley evacuated, jumping into the water as the heat and flames grew.
Lincolnville firefighters rushed to the Beach, while some swung by the Center fire station to grab portable pumps. They jumped into Harbormaster Mike Hutching’s lobster boat, the Fundy Spray, and went to the Big Red, whose mooring was further out in Lincolnville Harbor.
Meanwhile, Lincolnville lobsterman Richie Osgood hitched a line to the Big Red and towed the boat with his vessel, the Orca III, further out into the bay so it would not drift into the other boats and cause more fires. The fire occurred just after 4:15 p.m.
“There was quick action on the part of lobstermen and the harbormaster,” said Lincolnville Fire Chief Ben Hazen. “The fire department extends a huge thank-you to them.”
“Most of the fishermen were on the pier when we noticed heavy smoke coming from the boat on fire,” said Osgood. “My boat was running tied to the dock so we used mine to respond. It was obvious the boat was going to be lost so we towed it out to sea, away from other boats.”
Osgood, along with his son, Jay, fisherman Jason St. Clair and firefighter/fisherman Nick Heal kept the Big Red into the wind so that the fire would stay toward the bow and away from the fuel tank. Jay used a hose to keep fuel tank area cool.
He was in radio contact with the Margaret Chase Smith, the ferry that runs between Lincolnville Beach and Islesboro.
Ferry crews, as well as a crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland, stood by while Lincolnville firefighters and Osgood tackled the burning Big Red.
“I dragged the boat in the direction of their normal route and both the Margaret Chase Smith, as well as Fundy Spray, arrived with fire pumps and fire personnel,” said Osgood. “Lincolnville fire was able to put the fire out and I towed the remains of the burnt boat back to shore were it remains.”
The Big Red was not insured, said Hazen.
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