Bayview’s Vista Bay Marina on Lake Pend Oreille was experiencing an early season warm day.
Just after 7 p.m. on May 14, 1977, a loud pop was heard from the boat docks. Suddenly, flames gushed out of the east boat sheds. When it was all over, 12 boats were destroyed.
A chain reaction occurred, with the 188-foot long wooden dock engulfed in flames within five minutes. Since the boats were parked so close to each other, the fire spread quickly from boat to boat. No firefighting equipment existed on the docks, and people formed a bucket brigade. Others who were boating on the lake sped by the docks at close proximity so as to send a wave of water up over the area.
Nothing helped. Some boats were saved, cast free and pushed out of harm’s way.
Other recent fires include:
May 4, 1986: Boileau’s main dock suffered the loss of a 33-foot boat and a two-story float home at the end of the dock. Minor damage occurred on adjoining structures. Bayview firefighter Gerald J. Franz collapsed from smoke inhalation and later died from a heart attack at this fire.
June 13, 2001: A boat owner was vacuuming his boat inside a boat shed when a spark ignited fumes in the bilge. Within seconds, the owner bailed out and swam to safety. Destroyed were two boat sheds containing four boats and the two float homes at the end of the same dock where the 1986 fire occurred.
Summer 2004: D Dock at Scenic Bay Marina, a small fire from a discarded cigarette was extinguished by locals.
Timberlake Fire Chief Jack Krill issued a report March 16, 2009, outlining the more egregious fire safety code violations he found in his late winter inspections.
Among the requirements that need to be in place by June 1: Fire extinguishers must be placed in boat sheds and boats and must be within 75 feet of any place in the marina. They must be approved devices and be inspected annually. Electrical shut-offs for individual float homes and boat sheds must be identified. All electrical transformers, control panels meters and breaker panels must be readily accessible.
During the 1986 fire, the power to the entire dock was shut down, causing a heavily outfitted firefighter to step off the dock in the dark. Alarm systems or phones not requiring coins must be available for reporting fires.
Open flames are prohibited on docks, bulkheads and piers. The use of fireworks on or within 50 feet of the docks is prohibited. Barbecue grills that use propane are OK on the docks as long as they are at least 5 feet from all structures. Charcoal or wood fired grills are prohibited.
There were many other edicts also, mostly of a technical nature that will undoubtedly be posted at the various marinas. While the subject of this story is Bayview, the codes exist in all of Idaho.
Efforts are afloat to form a search and rescue group of local boaters.
Last Thanksgiving Day, a person drowned when a boat caught fire, apparently from a faulty hose between a heater and propane tank. Three friends going out for a day’s fishing jumped off the boat and started yelling for help. Fortunately, three people with boats in the water responded, saving two of the men. Had they been out around the cape, none would have survived the very cold water.
Boaters interested in joining the rescue group should contact either Chuck Waller at (208) 683-2389 or George Grandy at (208) 683-1859.