PORTSMOUTH — A Unified Command established Tuesday evening in response to a fire aboard the Spirit of Norfolk was continuing operations Thursday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Unified Command held a press conference Thursday to update the public on the response to the Spirit of Norfolk fire.
“As you can see behind me, we’re working on currently stabilizing the vessel. We are actively de-watering the vessel into the tank barge,” Captain Jennifer Stockwell, Deputy Commander of Sector Virginia, explained. “We’re also working on a fire overhaul and vessel assessment. We cannot confirm that the fire is out yet because we have not completed the assessment of the entire vessel. That is one of our main goals today.”
Stockwell lauded the region’s response to the fire.
“We’ve been amazed at the response by our port partners in this region to support kind of the efforts ongoing,” Captain Stockwell added. “It’s not just the folks you see behind me today that have responded, but it’s also all of our regional partners.”
The dinner cruise yacht caught fire Tuesday near Naval Station Norfolk. Tugs pushed the vessel to a mooring at the naval station to continue firefighting efforts and keep the waterway clear for traffic. The 106 passengers and crew members aboard when the fire started were safely evacuated, the Coast Guard said.
“I think we need to highlight the fact there were no lives lost,” Stockwell emphasized. “We are very fortunate. We’re standing here today only dealing with a vessel fire, and not dealing with any lives lost.”
The U.S. Coast Guard, Naval Station Norfolk, City Cruises Norfolk and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management/Department of Environmental Quality are all taking part in the Unified Command. The City of Norfolk, Port of Virginia, and NOAA are supporting.
Stockwell also said officials were actively trying to figure out how to safely tow the vessel from the navy pier to the next reception facility, where it will be decided what to do with the vessel.
The Coast Guard said all contaminated water was being handled in accordance with clean environmental standards and that there is no pollution at this time. The area is being continuously monitored.
A survey to determine if the fire is completely extinguished will be conducted once the vessel is deemed safe and stable enough to allow investigators on board.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.