Fire engulfs the Juno in Westport

Flames engulfed the Juno, a 131-foot fishing vessel in Westport early Saturday morning, causing substantial damage, the Coast Guard and a representative of the owners said Monday.

The fire erupted below decks in the galley, waking the 74-year-old master, Gunnar Gudjonsson, said Greg Shaughnessy, manager of Ocean Gold Seafoods, Inc. which owns Juno Tendering LLC.

“Gunnar valiantly fought the fire,” Shaughnessy said, adding he used two fire extinguishers and dumped CO2 from the engine system before it got too smoky.

Gudjonsson “was barefoot, in his underwear and under duress,” said Shaughnessy. After getting off the boat, Gudjonsson went to get some clothes and came back to answer questions, Shaughnessy said.

Gudjonsson’s “breathing was labored so we took him to the (Grays Harbor Community) hospital” where it was determined Gudjonsson had had a mild heart attack, Shaughnessy said. He was kept overnight and released. Shaugnessy described Gudjonsson as feeling “weak” on Monday.

Gudjonsson often stays aboard the Juno during winter months and has been master since Ocean Gold purchased the vessel in 2007, Shaughnessy said. The vessel was built in 1950 and would cost $6 to $7 million to replace new. That does not reflect the insured value, which is less, Shaughnessy said.

The Juno acts as a fish tender for the Makah Tribe fishing vessels which transfer Pacific whiting caught off Cape Flattery to the Juno, which brings it to Ocean Gold’s facilities where it is processed, he said. The vessel also fishes in deep water for tanner crab, slime eels, and tuna, said Shaughnessy.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. The fire was contained to the vessel, authorities said. The Juno is moored at the Ice House, between Ocean Gold and the Washington Crab Dock, officials said.

Westport firefighters were first on the scene at 1:40 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the call came in at 1:34 a.m., Westport Fire Chief Dennis Benn said Monday. The fire burned until 4:24 a.m., he said.

“When you are battling a steel boat fire at 1,200 degrees, water doesn’t cool it … so it stays very hot. It was a very hard fight, ” Benn said. “The crews did an excellent job.”

The insurance company and the Coast Guard deemed “substantial damage” was done and that a total loss had not yet been determined as marine surveyor reports are still being written, the Ocean Gold manager said.

Some 10,000 gallons of standing water used to fight the fire was pumped off the decks of the Juno from Saturday afternoon through early Sunday morning by Cowlitz Clean Sweep, hired by the vessel’s owners, Shaughnessy said. The water will be disposed of safely, he added.

Two 47-foot motor life boats from the Grays Harbor Coast Guard station helped fight the blaze. The Coast Guard also dispatched an incident management team from the Columbia River sector in Astoria.

“Westport Fire had an engine, and a tender and a command unit,” said Chief Benn. A command unit came from Ocosta and Grayland brought another engine, he said. He also thanked South Beach Fire and EMS, and the Ocosta “rehab and support unit.”


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