By Joe Piasecki
A tower of flame and the sound of small explosions startled boaters in Marina del Rey Harbor’s C Basin last Thursday night, when an unoccupied power boat burst into flames in its slip outside the Villa del Mar Apartments of Marquesas Way.
Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to the fire at about 9:10 p.m. and found the 34-foot Bayliner fully engulfed in flames, Sgt. Brent Carlson said. Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished the blaze, and the boat sunk in its slip a short time later.
Investigators believe the fire was accidental, but its cause remains unknown. Due to the intensity of the fire, two other nearby boats were damaged by flames, Carlson said.
Candice Alström was in her apartment near the water when she heard shouting from the docks, looked outside and called 911.
“All the boaters were running over there to help put the fire out,” including shouting the name of the boat’s owner to make sure he wasn’t inside, she said. “The fire department was here within minutes, but the boat was massively on fire. I heard popping explosions from the boat. It must have exploded five or six times.”
Summer Kjenstad was inside the cabin of her Catalina 34 in a slip directly across from the Bayliner when her dog started growling at the door.
“I looked out little slits and all I could see was flames. I could hear crackling and popping. I thought it could be mine that was on fire,” said Kjenstad, who grabbed one of several fire extinguishers she keeps on board while making her exit.
Recalling that the boat owner had left for the evening, the behavioral therapist and U.S. Army veteran checked to make sure boats in neighboring slips were unoccupied. She quickly instructed bystanders to locate powerful emergency firehoses along the dock — some were using garden hoses, putting them too close to danger — and start dousing boats in neighboring slips to prevent the flames from spreading.
Although firefighters arrived just a few minutes later, those hectic moments highlighted for her the importance of boater safety training. She recommends a free course by the Boat Owners Association of the Unites States.
“I was amazed that no one else had broken into a firehouse box to get fire hoses,” said Kjenstad, also the niece of a city fire chief. “I was really surprised to hear somebody say they didn’t know the firehoses were right there, and they live on that dock — walk past it all the time. … Please share how important it is for everyone who has a boat to know where those hoses are.”