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Investigators monitoring environmental effects of Mattapoisett boatyard blaze

Mattapoisett master plan website

State officials and private investigators will assess the environmental impacts of the massive boatyard fire that tore through Mattapoisett on Friday.

The six-alarm fire seriously injured one person and destroyed six buildings, 47 vehicles and 14 boats, making it the largest fire in town history, according to local officials. They said it was most likely caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors during the replacement of a boat’s gas tank. Fiberglass, resins and fuels went up in flames, making air and water quality a serious concern to Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray.

“Things that shouldn't be burning were burning that day,” he said. “That's why I called the [Department of Environmental Protection] to monitor the atmosphere and find out if we had to evacuate further, if we had to go a half-mile to a mile. I also called in the state hazmat team to set up monitoring stations upwind, downwind and where the firefighters were working.”

Within an hour of the fire response, the harbormaster, Department of Environmental Protection, and a state hazmat team, among others, were called to help deploy a containment boom and an absorbent boom in the water to collect any runoff from hazardous materials.

The town’s assistant harbormaster, P.J. Beaudoin, said not much made its way to the water.

“The way the wind was blowing, it was an onshore breeze. That basically kept the fire away from the shoreline and blew the fire inland,” he said.

Murray agreed.

“This fire was so hot,” he said, “most of the flammable fluids burnt off or evaporated. So it, you know, went into the atmosphere versus into the water.”

A licensed safety professional (LSP) was brought in to clean up the property and address hazmat contamination. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection will oversee additional work on site, Murray said.

“Hopefully the state hazmat team was able to collect most of that data,” he said, “and we can try to take whatever measures we can to move forward in the right direction to ensure everybody’s health and safety.”

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.