Recovery and cleanup crews worked through foggy weather Tuesday after a fire torched an Alabama dock, killing at least eight people and scorching almost three dozen boats.
The blaze broke out early Monday in Scottsboro at a dock that housed boats, houseboats and pontoon vessels, some for recreation and others that served as homes.
The fire at the Jackson County Park Marina sent people leaping into the river waters as some awoke to the sound of the crackling fire.
Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said after the eight missing people were confirmed dead, the death toll could rise as rescue workers access sunken hulls.
Necklaus said Tuesday that it does not appear that pollution from the incident has fed into the main waters of the Tennessee River.
A salvage crane shrouded in fog rises above a barge in a creek near the Tennessee River at the scene of a fatal marina fire at Scottsboro, Ala., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Photo: Jay Reeves, AP)
Here’s what we know now:
How many boats burned?
At least 35 vessels burned in the flames.
Some boats sank at the dock while others drifted from their moorings and sank, Necklaus said. The fire broke out on the inland side of the dock, making rescues difficult, he added.
Seven people were also pulled from the cold water and treated for minor injuries, mainly for hypothermia, Necklaus said.
What was the scene like on the dock?
Julie Jackson has lived in a boat at the docks with her husband and child for five years.
On Monday, they awoke to a crackling sound. By the time she got off her boat to look, the fire had engulfed half of the dock that mirrors theirs across the water.
“I could hear people screaming ‘help me,'” she told The Gadsden Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. “I never want to go through anything like that again.”
Mandy Durham and her boyfriend also woke up to the sounds of pops. “We could see red through the window,” she said.
She said she saw people leap into the water after a boat ignited at the end of the dock.
“Water was the only place they had to go,” Durham said.
What’s next in the investigation?
It could take several days at the scene to find all the boats and account for the missing people, said Jackson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Rocky Harnen.
“There were numerous people rescued,” Harnen said. “We’re trying to get divers down here to search for possible victims.”
Identifying the deceased and notifying their families could also take several days, he said.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the smell of gasoline was still strong at the scene as an oily sheen and scorched propane tanks were visible in the water. Floating barriers were containing much of the pollution as crews worked through the wreckage.
Authorities have not said what caused the fire.
Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY; Donna Thornton, The Gadsden Times, in Scottsboro; The Associated Press
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