Three houseboats destroyed by fire

As environmental crews work to clean up the mess left by an early morning fire that destroyed three houseboats, investigators are trying to find out what started that fire.

Firefighter say the call came in about 6:30 this morning. Two houseboats at the Holly Bay Marina were burning. By the time crews got here, the fire had already spread to a third and was threatening several more.

"When I got here, there were flames 15-20 feet high," says Chief Doug Creech of the Bald Rock Fire Department.

Although the fires were surrounded by the waters of the Laurel River Lake, crews said there were challenges.

"Fighting fire on water's not an easy task. You don't have as much leg room to work with and of course our trucks can't drive on water," says Chief Creech.

Firefighters used special water pumps to pull water from the lake to put the fires out. They pulled the smoldering remains away from the marina to begin their investigation as well as the cleanup effort. Once the boats began going underwater, fuel became a concern.

"Before it was pretty light, but now it's pretty extensive now that they've sunk," says Chief Creech.

Environmental workers laid down special floats that have long skirts to keep the contaminated water confined until they can get the fuel and oil out. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office, US Forest Service, and ATF will try to find out what caused the fire. There are arson investigators involved, but so far they haven't said what kind of clues they've found. Officials with the US Forest Service estimate the Holly Bay Boat Ramp will be closed at least through the weekend.

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