When Twillingate harbour master Gordon Noseworthy looked out to the Notre Dame Seafoods wharf, he saw billows of black smoke and flames reaching to the sky.
Around 6 a.m. Monday morning, Aug. 13 the 60 ft x 23 ft longliner Sebastian Sails had caught fire and the back half of the vessel was soon engulfed in flames.
The boat, owned by Loon Bay resident Morris Anstey, was moored at the Notre Dame Seafoods plant in Twillingate. No one was aboard the boat that has been viewed by many on the Discovery Channel show “Cold Water Cowboys” at the time of the fire.
Morris Anstey was on the scene of the fire, early in the morning, but he declined comment.
The fire had largely been contained by 8 a.m., though flames from within the wheelhouse of the vessel continued to burn as firefighters stepped out from the wharf and boarded the festival, tackling the blaze as directly as they could.
“The fire seems to be coming through the wheelhouse,” Noseworthy said. “Now whether it started down below or in the wheelhouse, we can’t say. When we came down this morning the fire engulfed right to the back of her.”
Because the fire was so immense by the time the fire department arrived, Twillingate Deputy Fire Chief Peter Cooper said the nature of the fire is difficult to access currently. RCMP on scene could also not comment on their investigation into the fire, or whether the fire was deemed suspicious.
With the fire now largely contained, Cooper says their main objective is to ensure the vessel does not sink and it does not leak fuel causing environmental damage.
Local fish harvesters made their way to the plant and helped tow away neighbouring vessels, to ensure the flames did not spread any further.
The plant wharf also caught fire. Around 8:30 a.m., Cooper said the firefighters assessed how best to tackle the wharf, which is burning from underneath concrete and asphalt.
“It’s a lot of old timber, it’s like a tire so it’s burning pretty intense,” Cooper said. “Hopefully it’ll burn itself out or we’ll drill a hole through the wharf and get at it that way.”
By 10 a.m., an excavator was brought in with a rock buster attached to blast through the concrete and contain the fire within the wharf.
By the afternoon, the Sebastian Sails began its plunge, sinking into the water. A fuel containment parameter was reinforced as fuel from the vessel began leaking out into the water.
According to Noseworthy and on scene Coast Guard, divers have been contracted by boat owner Morris Anstey to tow the boat out from the fish plant wharf. They are expected to arrive late into the evening or early Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Noseworthy also says the section of the wharf caught fire will have to be torn out and replaced, and it may take a number of days to do so.