TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - What to do with an 80-foot shrimp boat completely gutted by fire?
Multiple agencies have been working since early Wednesday morning to answer that question. Coast Guard officials say they are working closely with the Tarpon Springs Fire Department to come up with a continuous plan of action to contain the diesel fuel that has spilled from the boat since Tuesday night.
"[We] are basically assessing how much pollution got in the water," says Coast Guard Spokesman Michael DeNyse. "[We] are determining how much burned off during the fuel fire last night and determining what is the next course of action."
Sue Harris, 73, and her husband say they bought the 30-year-old wooden, shrimp boat about seven years ago for $150,000 dollars. With tears in her eyes, Harris explained to ABC Action News that there was no insurance on the boat as no one will insure a boat that old.
"It's hard seeing your livelihood burn up," said Harris Tuesday night as she watched crews battle the blaze aboard the boat her husband had just put about $17,000 of fuel into hours before the fire started.
The calls to 9-1-1 came in around 7:40 Tuesday night and officials say they are still working to find out what caused the fire.
While getting the unsalvageable boat out of the water is a concern, the most immediate order of business is the fuel spill.
DeNyse says part of that clean up process will be determined by how much fuel actually leaked from the boat. Right now, officials say some light, sporadic patches of diesel fuel are around the area of the boat spanning 300 yards long and about 50 to 100 yards wide.
The safety zone around the effected area has been officially lifted, but the coast guard is still urging boaters to be careful near the area.
"Of course we want all mariners to exercise caution because there is still pollution in the area," says DeNyse.
Coast Guard officials say there is currently an oil pollution fund set up for $25,000. They are using that money to pay for the cleanup of the fuel, as well as securing a crane to move the ship. They say when the investigation is complete, they will make a determination as to whether the owner's of the boat will be financially responsible for the clean up.