UPDATE: Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Anaya says the victims in the fire were 75-year-old Francis Xavier Blantz and 65-year-old Julia J. Blantz. She says the cause of the fire is still being ruled as undetermined.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia State Police confirms there were two fatalities in this morning’s massive fire at Dozier’s Port Urbanna Marina in Urbanna, Virginia.
Major M.E. Sampson with Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office says the fire was called in at 4:30 a.m. The flames quickly spread, destroying a boathouse and storage facility, 21 boats and two cars. The fire was under control at 8:30 a.m..
Lisa Baechler lost her family’s 43-foot boat in the fire. She was friends with the victims, who were living aboard a boat at the marina during a renovation of their house, she said.
“There are a lot of wonderful memories, a lot of beautiful friendships. You look at it and it’s surreal to see it all kind of going up in flames and we feel for our friends…That is the most devastating of all, because you can replace a boat, but you cannot replace people that you loved, and they were wonderful people,” Baechler said.
According to Sgt. Michelle Anaya with Virginia State Police, this is an arson investigation. During a Monday news conference she said there are multiple agencies working together and there is a unified command.
The names of the victims have were not released on Monday. Their bodies have been taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond for identification.
Divers checked a submerged boat and another partially submerged boat to ensure there was no one on board either of them at the time of the fire, Sgt. Anaya said.
A total of 14 fire departments from around the region responded to help contain the blaze.
Resident Beth Justice shot several video clips of the massive fire Monday morning.
“I looked up and saw orange all over the walls and I looked out the back window and the whole back hill looked like it was on fire,” she said. Justice called 911 and learned someone else had already alerted emergency dispatchers.
The U.S. Coast Guard is overseeing the environmental impact. Spokesman Nick Camemi says they have crews on the scene to watch for any spillage of chemicals. Coast Guard crews have been on the scene since 5 a.m., and have been moving boats out of the way.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a total of seven agencies responded to Urbanna on Monday:
- Coast Guard Station Milford Haven
- Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
- A Coast Guard incident management team
- Virginia Department of Emergency Management
- A Newport News HAZMAT Team
- York County Fire Department
- Virginia State Police
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission also responded, and had a dive team on the scene Monday.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Chesapeake Field Office.
Urbanna Mayor Steve Hollberg said he felt torn up Monday, and hoped the two victims, who were unaccounted for earlier in the morning, would be found safe. He said he was looking forward to rebuilding.
“We have an economy that’s dependent on the water and water traffic and tourism, and we’re doing everything we can as a small town to encourage traffic to come in,” he said.
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