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Houseboat Fire Ignites Patoka Lake

The idyllic Hoosier Hills Marina at Patoka Lake became a hellish inferno this morning, turning several houseboats into twisted, charred remains in matter of hours.

Posted: Feb 19, 2021 5:14 PM

"It's all together, so it's almost like a big house fire." said Celestine Assistant Fire Chief Kurt Shermersheim.

The idyllic Hoosier Hills Marina at Patoka Lake became a hellish inferno this morning, turning several houseboats into twisted, charred remains in matter of hours.

"At 9 o'clock this morning, I got a call about a boat fire at Patoka Lake," said Indiana Conservation Officer Joe Haywood. "Once we got here, there were several boats were fully engulfed in flames."

First on the scene were the fire fighters from the Celestine Volunteer Fire Department. Followed by units from Dubois County and Schnellville. Not only did they have to contend with the fire, but with the weather conditions, which made the situation even more difficult.

"We had to worry about everything," said Schersheim. "It could ice everything, with the water and everything, we had to worry about everything freezing. As you can tell it's hard to get out there. So we only had one way to get out there with the ice on the water and everything. It was hard to get out there and start fighting everything until we got set up with the ice and everything, it took a little longer. Once it started, it went pretty quick. That was part of the challenge too."

And things didn't get any easier once the fire fighters got to the blaze.

"When the ceilings go down, it's hard to get underneath and it's too dangerous to get on the boat to move the stuff," said Shermersheim. "So we just have to see where the hot spots are. We're putting foam on the fire so we don't use so much water."

So the finally tally from this boat fire goes like this, 19 boats damaged, 11 boats totaled, but mercifully, given time of the year, no one was injured.

"The owner was here," said Haywood. "The workers were here. They saw the smoke and went down and tried to get the boats pushed out where it wouldn't move from one boat to another. They did get one boat on each end which helped contain the fire to those 11 boats."

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, along with the State Fire Marshall's office is investigating the cause of the fire.

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Our third day in a row with very mild temperatures. Highs across the Tri-State were in the low and middle 60's. A few showers at times crossed the area. A cold front will push through the Tri-State and will cause a few strong storms, that could have strong winds and even some torrential rain. Some flash flooding is a possibility. Strong winds overnight switching from the southwest to the northwest and may gust as high as 30 mph.
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