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Fire destroys several boats at North Tonawanda marina

Several fiberglass boats were destroyed in an early morning blaze Monday at a storage facility at Placid Harbor Marina in North Tonawanda.

The fire, reported at about 2:35 a.m., was fought by more than 100 firefighters from North Tonawanda, the City of Tonawanda and St. Johnsburg Fire Company in the Town of Wheatfield.

“The fire was through the roof when we got here,” said North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham. “We’re just starting to pull the building apart to hit hot spots.”

Located on the western end of Tonawanda Island, the 2½-story steel and concrete structure measuring 80 feet by 100 feet was left twisted and charred.

The fire chief confirmed that one firefighter was taken to nearby DeGraff Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for a minor injury and released.

Fire investigators were on the scene Monday, trying to determine the cause of the fire. A damage estimate has not been determined, but it is expected to be substantial.

At 5:30 a.m., the blaze was declared under control. Two hours later, the acrid odor of melted fiberglass and smoke still filled the air.

In addition to the storage facility, there are 86 boat slips at Placid Harbor. There were eight to 12 boats inside the building, as well as another eight outside that also sustained heavy damage.

Michael and Nancy Charnock, who have owned the marina for the past 19 years, were on the scene Monday morning.

“There was a major loss here. It’s devastating,” said Nancy Charnock. “But we’ve been moving boats out of the building since the start of spring.”

But the owner also found reason to be grateful. “Nobody was hurt and that’s the main thing,” she said.

Several individuals who work on Tonawanda Island watched as firefighters fought a losing battle.

“It was a fireball. Lots of fire and the wind just kept whipping it up, making it go,” said one man, who declined to give his name.

Arson investigators from the North Tonawanda police and fire departments were called to the scene, but Police Chief William Hall said it is too early to make any determinations at this point.

“With a fire this big, we have to go in there and see where it started,” Hall said.

He said cranes are being brought in to help investigators look through the rubble.

“At the end of the day they might say it is arson, but we have to get stuff in there to go and look,” said Hall.

“In a warehouse this size, it could be anything.”

News Staff Reporter Nancy A. Fischer contributed to this report. email: lmichel@buffnews.com and jhabuda@buffnews.com