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Yachts Lohengrin and Reflection burn at Universal Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale

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UPDATE: Nov. 19, 9:22 am

By Dorie Cox

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue trucks headed toward smoke and flames on Marina Mile in Fort Lauderdale just after calls came in at 4:43 a.m. to find two yachts on fire at Universal Marine Center on Nov. 16. Flames had engulfed both M/Y Lohengrin, a 161-foot Trinity, and M/Y Reflection, a 107-foot Christensen, that were in-water under membrane enclosure in scaffolding for repairs and refit work in the yard.

By daylight the blaze had consumed both vessels and left remnants of construction scaffolding in a record-setting incident, according to Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue. 

“This is the largest value, in Fort Lauderdale history, lost in one incident,” Gollan said. “We’ve had houses, buildings, but this combined value is the most.”

Estimates range from $20 million to $24 million for the two vessels, depending on different values placed on stages of the refits, he said.

Photo by Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue

The event unfolded quickly in the morning darkness as fire trucks raced toward the scene. Unsure of the exact location of the fire, trucks stopped at the adjacent marina to the east and crews cut through a fence for access.

“We got multiple calls and one call came from Cable Marine,” Gollan said. “So when the trucks pulled up, they wanted to get to the fire however they could, so they took the fence out.”

Docked near the water entrance of the marina, furthest from the road near the New River, the smaller yacht was next to the seawall with the larger yacht side-to it. Lohengrin’s aluminium hull and superstructure, along with Reflection‘s composite construction, quickly became a two-alarm blaze, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jeffrey A. Lucas of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.

“The first pictures showed the whole thing on fire,” Lucas said during a break from fire fighting about five hours after the first call. “The aluminum burned at about 1,100 degrees and melted, creating an umbrella that’s not allowing us to penetrate to put out the fire. We’ll continue to fight.”

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue and fire boats joined the effort using both foam and water to fight the fire.

“The scaffolding is leaning and we cannot put people under there to fight this,” Lucas said. “There is no reason to risk life; the vessels are damaged.”

During the morning and part of the afternoon, wind from the west-northwest pushed smoke toward the east where it was seen from nearby I-95 near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and I-595. By 10 a.m. about 60 fire fighters and three fire boats had worked to prevent the fire from spreading to other yachts in the marina, had refueled the fire trucks, and were using water from the canal.

Fort Lauderdale and Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue fire boats fights a two yacht fire from in the water at Universal Marine Center about 10 a.m. on Nov. 16. Photo by Dorie Cox

“We do what we call drafting; we put a hose in the canal and we drafted out of the river,” Golland said. “We had all the water we could use or needed.”

Several marinas along Marina Mile (State Road 84) have private hydrant systems on their properties, he said. All are regularly inspected and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue officers had recently done the annual check at Universal Marine Center. 

“It’s just a smaller type of system that leads off State Road 84, not quite as big as other pipes, but we regulate the pipe size with the city,” Gollan said. “If this had been a normal fire, say an engine fire or a yacht, anything short of two large yachts, it would not have been a problem. In this case, the size was just a challenge. Like any marina, it’s just a little tight, but that did not delay the crew.”

Two days later, Gollan was at the marina with fire fighters to make sure the yachts were completely extinguished.

“The fire boats did amazing and we’re knocking out the hot spots now,” Gollan reported at 10 a.m. on Nov. 18.

Remnants of scaffolding remained and both yacht hulls were underwater on the marina’s harbor bottom.

M/Y Lohengrin and M/Y Reflection were undergoing refit and repair work on the east dock close to the New River at Universal Marine Center. Photo by Dorie Cox

“It is environmentally contained, there is no fuel product in water and the fuel tanks are intact,” Gollan said. “Now Sea Tow will take over salvage operations. They will offload the fuel and go from there to float and remove them from the marina facility.”

Previously, the largest yachting industry fire in Fort Lauderdale was the Broward Marine fire of 1996. In the early hours of Sept. 5 that year, the former site of Broward Marine on the New River, which is part of where Lauderdale Marine Center’s east yard is now, was effectively destroyed by a fire. More than 100 firefighters fought that fire, and yet five yachts under construction and buildings dating back to the 1930s were consumed by flames. At the time, damages were estimated at $15 million.

Universal Marine Center General Manager Laurent Bensoussan and Marina Manager Bernard Calot are grateful no one was injured. Both yachts’ paint jobs were almost finished, as well as teak and interior work, according to Calot. M/Y Reflection was getting ready to leave in 10-12 days and M/Y Lohengrin was scheduled to depart in about three weeks.

“For now, no comment,” Calot wrote in a text to The Triton. “The case is under investigation with many fire, police, lawyers and surveyors. We’re not allowed to give any info for now.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, however the fire department believes the fire started on Lohengrin and then spread to Reflection.

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

ORIGINAL POST: Nov. 16, 11:42 AM

By Dorie Cox

M/Y Lohengrin,  a 161-foot Trinity and M/Y Reflection, a 107-foot Christensen burned in a fire that started early in the morning on Nov. 16 at Universal Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale. Both vessels were under scaffolding for repairs and refit work in the yard.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue received the call at 4:43 a.m. and crews responded immediately, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jeffrey A. Lucas.

“The first pictures showed the whole thing on fire,” Lucas said. “The aluminum burned at about 1,100 degrees and melted creating an umbrella that’s not allowing us to penetrate to put out the fire. We’ll continue to fight.”

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue and fire boats joined the effort and are using both foam and water to fight the fire.

“The scaffolding is leaning and we cannot put people under there to fight this,” Lucas said. “There is no reason to risk life, the vessels are damaged.”

Wind from the west, northwest continues to push smoke toward the east where it can be seen from nearby I-95 near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Universal Marine Center’s general manager Laurent Bensoussan and Bernard Calot are grateful no one was injured and said the yard had its regular fire maintenance two weeks ago.

The paint jobs where almost finished, as well as teak and interior work, according to Calot. M/Y Reflection was getting ready to leave in 10-12 days and M/Y Lohengrin was scheduled to depart in about three weeks.

Fire-fighting crews have refueled the fire trucks and are using water from the canal. They expect to be on scene for the afternoon and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

“There is still fire inside,” Lucas said about 10:30 a.m.

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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One thought on “Yachts Lohengrin and Reflection burn at Universal Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale

  1. Bobby white

    This fire seems a lot like the fire at Broward Marine caused by painter saturating rags and putting them in the garbage can. This needs to be looked at thoroughly.

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