Trident Seafoods’ 233-foot floating processor Aleutian Falcon continued to burn at the dock in the Port of Tacoma early Thursday morning after a fire broke out onboard around 11 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17. The company has said the vessel will be a total loss.
“We are grateful to the Tacoma Fire Department for their swift response and watch on scene, and that no one was injured,” said Trident CEO Joe Bundrant. “We will conduct a full investigation of cause.”
The U.S. Coast Guard issued a 1,500-yard safety zone around the processing ship, which was reportedly tied up for maintenance at Pier 12 when the fire broke out.
Tacoma Assistant Fire Chief Alex Wilsie told the Associated Press that the vessel reportedly had 48,000 gallons of fuel onboard.
“If it does go down or roll over then we will definitely have a possibility of a large fuel spill,” Wilsie said.
In addition to fuel, the processor reportedly is carrying nearly 10,000 pounds of ammonia, which is used for chilling and freezing fish.
“Probably the bigger concern was the tons of ammonia in the stern. Our first couple hours were just trying to keep the fire away from that ammonia,” said Jeff Tatom, a captain and marine pilot at nearby West Pierce Fire Department, who was in charge of one of three fireboats that hosed several thousands gallons of water a minute onto the blazing ship overnight.
Tatom said from the beginning it was fairly clear that fire crews would not be able to put the fire out. After tugs cleared out a nearby fuel barge, firefighters focused on keeping the fire off the docks and neighboring boats while trying to keep the Aleutian Falcon from sinking.
“The fire was down low, probably engine room, so we couldn’t get to the seat of the fire. We swept out some fire, but it was really just a game of cooling the hull to keep it from cracking and letting the contents of the boat burn up,” he said.
According to Tatom, the processing vessel was listing at around 8 degrees when Tacoma Fire crews showed up at the scene and had increased to around 10 degrees when his boat pulled off the fire at 4 a.m. PST.
And while the boat was still floating at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, the outlook from a close vantage was not good. Tatom described an incredibly hot blaze, where water that made it into a cabin or hold largely turned to steam.
“That boat will never be rebuilt, as far as I’m concerned. It’s still burning now, and we’re 12 hours in,” Tatom said.
The Aleutian Falcon is one of two specialized processing vessels, according to Trident, and can carry a crew of 120. They typically “follow the herring seasons northward from Southeast Alaska to Bristol Bay in the springtime and early summer, returning southward to support various Alaska salmon seasons from late June through August.”
The Tacoma Fire Department reported throughout the night to keep the surrounding community apprised of updates in fighting the blaze.
“There are no injuries to report or evacuation orders at this time. Any residents impacted by the smoke conditions should continue to shelter in place,” said the Tacoma Fire Department via Twitter around 2 a.m.
An hour later, they warned the fire was expected to burn throughout the night.
“Booms are in place to help minimize potential environmental impacts to the waterway,” the department reported. “The fire is currently contained to the ship of origin.”
Brian Hagenbuch, NF Products editor, contributed to reporting on this story.