Virginia marina fire destroys at least a dozen boats

HENRICO, Va. (AP) -- An early morning fire at a central Virginia marina destroyed about a dozen boats Friday, sinking some and sending others ablaze down the James River.

No injuries were reported in the blaze at the Richmond Yacht Basin, said Capt. Taylor Goodman of the Henrico Fire Department.

Fire officials estimate 12 to 15 boats were likely destroyed, Goodman said, along with part of a boat storage structure.

"The problem is, so much of the structure over the boats has collapsed down on it, it's hard to tell" the extent of the damage, he said.

The blaze was first reported about 7 a.m. by a neighbor who went to the scene and alerted people staying on their boats, Goodman said.

Mitch Romig, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was renting a houseboat at the marina for the night, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

"We heard someone running around saying the marina was on fire. So we got up and got off the boat as quickly as we could," he told the newspaper. "It was pretty big already (when we got off the boat). I don't know how many boats on the end were all already ... on fire -- pretty big flames."

Images from the area show a plume of smoke visible from several miles away.

Some of the vessels were floating downriver on fire late Friday morning. Five or six boats have sunk, marina President Max Walraven said.

A Henrico County fire boat was trapped by the burning dock and sustained "quite a bit of damage," Goodman said.

It's not yet clear what started the blaze.

Goodman said he expects firefighters to be at the scene the rest of the day Friday and possibly into Saturday.

The marina is in southeastern Henrico near the Chesterfield border, about 10 miles from downtown Richmond.