NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — About a dozen boats were destroyed when the warehouse at the Shore Waterfront Marina and Restaurant complex went up in flames early Monday morning. The warehouse was reduced to rubble.
An orange glow lit up the dark sky over Tonawanda Island before 3 a.m.
The restaurant was spared, according to North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham.
“The winds picked up, pushed the fire right across the building. We had exposure problems with boats all round,” he said.
Flames leaped out into the darkness, fueled by that wind and by the contents of the two-story marina warehouse. There were boats and boating supplies inside.
Robert Stevenson who could see the inferno from his house said he heard an explosion and observed what looked like “lightning pulses.”
That may have been the three transformers that were destroyed next to the warehouse. Power was knocked out to half the island and to a water pumping station, which made it that much more difficult for fire fighters. One of them sustained a leg injury but is doing well.
Boat batteries may have been charging at the time of the fire. There had been a party at the marina on Saturday, celebrating the upcoming boating season.
Mike Charnock, the owner of the warehouse, marina and restaurant, said the cause could be electrical.
“Could have been anything like that. Charging a battery,” he said.
He does not think the fire is suspicious. Charnock told customers who arrived at the scene whether or not their boats survived.
Bill Bender’s boat luckily had been pulled outside of the warehouse a few days earlier so other boats could be reached for seasonal preparations.
“It was pulled out and just has black soot on it,” he said.
Doug Manzella wasn’t as lucky. His boat, worth about $25,000 was destroyed.
“I’ve just learned it’s a total loss. My boat was inside, but what are you going to do?” he said.
He was relieved to know that no one was seriously injured. He said he has insurance for the boat.
Mike Charnock watched the news coverage on the restaurant’s big screen, right across from the warehouse ruins.
“We’re doing as best we can,” he said. “We will be rebuilding.”
App users | App users can click here to view what the owner is saying about the fire.