The tugboat “Chief'' was docked at Pacific Tugboat Service in the 1400 block of Cesar E. Chavez Parkway at 1:15 a.m. when the fire broke out. An employee of the tugboat company, who was staying on the boat, was found dead on the top deck by firefighters.
“When the crews got on scene the fire was on the first deck of the boat. Looks like it spread pretty rapidly vertically up the boat to the second deck and into the third deck,” said Battalion Chief Steve Salaz with San Diego Fire Rescue.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it appears to have started on the first deck where the galley, an office and a lounge area were located. The fire spread quickly to the second deck sleeping quarters and up to the wheelhouse on the top deck.
Pacific Tugboat Service said in a statement:
“We believe, as does the San Diego Fire Department, that the fire originated from a lit cigarette that had been placed on the galley table.”
They continued, “An off-duty employee found aboard was apparently overcome by smoke inhalation. All of us in the Pacific Tugboat Service family are grieving this tragic loss.”
The fire took firefighters 35 minutes to put out, causing $300,000 in damage. No fuel was reported spilled into the water.