Stray fireworks ignite blaze that destroys 14 boats in Seattle

SEATTLE -- Stray fireworks by Independence Day revelers triggered a destructive fire at a boat storage facility on Lake Union, which sent thick plumes of black smoke into the air just minutes before the official Seafair fireworks show began, Seattle fire officials said.

Fourteen boats being stored in dry dock at the Lake Union Sky Launch Marina were either damaged or destroyed by the fire, Seattle fire officials said. The facility, which is located in the 2500 block of N. Northlake Way, was completed in 2007, according to a company website.

Witnesses in the area said they were shocked by how quickly the fire spread throughout the facility.

"It started out as a small ember in a small boat, and they didn't remove it quick enough and the whole thing caught fire. It took off pretty quickly," one witness said.

The fire was first reported around 10 p.m., and firefighters had it out less than an hour later. One firefighter sustained a minor injury and the official fireworks show went ahead as scheduled.

Scott Swantek owns a boat stored at the facility and was nearby when the fire started.

"Yeah, we were there and everyone was like 'Boat on fire! Boat on fire!' " he said. "Everyone was running over there with a couple of fire extinguishers and that didn't work... We looked over, the boat next to ours was on fire. So I think our boat is half burnt at this point in time."

He concurred with fire officials that a stray firework appeared to spark the fire. Despite the loss, Swantek was just thankful none of his friends or family were injured.

"We can get a different boat," he said. "A boat is a boat, but it's definitely a bummer," he said.

Fire officials estimate damage at $1.5 million.