Victoria Fire Department won’t investigate cause of Friday’s barge fire

The cause of Friday’s fire on a barge loaded with scrap cars will probably never be definitely nailed down, fire officials say.

“There was no investigation done just because of the high risk/low reward involved with the barge and moving stuff around,” Battalion Chief Wayne Moody said Saturday.

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“The fire is going to remained classified as undetermined. Most likely it was caused by probably a bit of residual fuel in a tank. With them moving the cars around and stuff there was probably a spark and that was probably the cause. But that’s just a guess — an educated guess on what’s happened historically there.”

Metal-recycling companies are required to empty fuel from vehicles before they are transported.

Witnesses spotted the fire on the Selkirk waterway about 2:10 p.m. Friday and called 911.

Workers on the barge tried to put the blaze out with a small hose, but the fire quickly spread, creating a wall of flames and clouds of dense smoke.

The fire department said the blaze was difficult to extinguish due to its location, buried deep within the pile of scrap metal. An excavator was used to remove debris and expose the fire.

Victoria firefighters used their fire boat and a high-angle ladder truck to pour water onto the barge.

The fire was brought under control by about 4:30 p.m.

A boom was set up around the barge to capture any contaminants that fell into the water.

Moody said the boom seemed to be effective.

“The booms were done pretty quickly by the coast guard. I was speaking to the fire boat operator and nothing was noticed in the way of an oil sheen or anything in the waterway,” he said.

“As far as oil and fuel contaminants [is concerned], there was minimal in that waterway area.”

The Ministry of Environment has been notified of the incident.

The barge is owned by Seaspan and was being used by Schnitzer Steel. No one from Schnitzer Steel could be reached for comment on Friday, and the company was not open Saturday.

In 2015, about 20 wrecked cars tipped off a Schnitzer Steel barge into the waterway, prompting investigations by WorkSafe B.C., Transport Canada and the Ministry of Environment.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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