American Steamship Company’s self-unloader St. Clair, laid up for the winter at the Torco docks in Toledo, Ohio, suffered a serious fire on Saturday, February 16. The fire broke out aboard the 770-foot vessel at approximately 8:30 Saturday night, and numerous fire crews from the Toledo area struggled to contain the rapidly spreading flames. The blaze overtook her entire stern, accommodations block, and self-unloading equipment, in addition to the entire length of her self-unloading boom and numerous decks within the hull. Only one fire hydrant in the vicinity was operational due to the cold weather, and a lack of water combined with the size of the fire significantly hampered the effort. The blaze was finally extinguished two days after it began, leaving 48 hours worth of destruction behind. The adjacently docked Great Republic and John J. Boland have not been reported to have suffered any damage from the flames, and an aerial observation by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday morning determined that there is no pollution in the Maumee River. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported, however preliminary observations and photos paint a vivid picture of the true extent of the damage the 44-year old vessel has suffered. It has been confirmed that both of the ship’s main conveyor belts that comprise her unloading system burned and melted, and her pilothouse and crew quarters have been gutted. In addition, severe steel warping has occurred in all areas of her stern, and her accommodation block has sunk slightly into the hull of the ship, with a visible tilt to starboard. The ship has also taken on a starboard list, however it is unclear whether that water entered the hull from a leak or whether it was due to the firefighting effort. The cause of the tragic blaze is unknown, as is the future of St. Clair. A full investigation into the blaze, as well as a damage assessment, will commence as soon as it is deemed safe to enter the vessel.
This drone shot is from early Saturday evening, when fire crews were first called to the St. Clair (courtesy of Kevin Pollock, Facebook). Great Republic is the vessel on the left.
Water can be seen pouring off the stern of the ship as smoke billows around her crew quarters (courtesy USCG).
Although not the best shot, this image from the height of the blaze shows the entire length of St. Clair‘s self-unloading boom on fire (source unknown).
This photo was taken from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Sunday afternoon, and shows the blackened accommodations block and deck of the smoldering St. Clair. Great Republic (left) and John J. Boland (right) are moored in the foreground (courtesy USCG).
The following photos were taken on Tuesday, and show the extent of the damage to St. Clair‘s pilothouse and crew quarters (courtesy of Corey Hammond, Boatnerd.com).