The fire was caused by a circuit breaker sparking, then igniting on one of the boats. A husband and wife were awakened by their fire alarm and smoke, which they traced to the circuit breaker. It soon ignited and the two had to escape, as did three other people in boats nearby, said San Diego Fire and Rescue spokesman Maurice Luque.
The Fire Department received a call at approximately 2:35 a.m. Fifty firefighters were needed to extinguish the blaze. The damage was estimated to be around $5 million.
According to Luque, the burning boats, ranging from 30 to 45 feet in length and composed primarily of Fiberglas, were difficult to extinguish.
"It's a very difficult fire to fight because of the volatile nature of Fiberglas," Luque said. "When it's on fire, it burns hot, it burns fast." Luque added that a lot of the vessels have numerous compartments in their cabins, providing no easy access when boats are on fire. With gasoline and other combustibles lighting as well, the fire wasn't easy to put out, taking about an hour.
Crews worked all day Monday cleaning up the mess. While the foam used to fight the fire is said to be environmentally safe, other contents of boats aren't. Oils, greases, lubricants and fuels were all floating around in the embarcadero area. It made for a day long cleanup by the haz-mat team, along with the California Department of Fish and Game and a number of other agencies, which set up buoys to contain the debris and aftermath.