Port of Port Townsend Evicting Owner of Boat that Burned in Boat Haven

By Charlie Bermant, October 27, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

The owner of a boat that caught fire in Boat Haven in September has been served with an eviction notice.

The notice issued by the Port of Port Townsend gives Karen Broome of Brinnon until Nov. 16 to move the 50-foot Treasure Hunter out of the area it has occupied since June 2010.

Port officials said that Broome had violated aspects of her agreement with the port and that the way she maintained the area around her boat created a safety hazard.

Broome, who said she has contacted an attorney on the matter, disputes that.

“I didn’t cause this fire,” she said as she worked on her boat Friday, work that port officials said she has been forbidden to do.

“The fire didn’t start on my boat,” Broome said. “It started under the boat.”

On Sept. 27, the former Navy pilot ship built in 1942 and a wood-and-plastic frame that surrounded it, caught fire.

The boat quickly was enveloped by flames that also seared four adjacent boats under repair.

No one was injured, but the Treasure Hunter was badly damaged, and the other boats were damaged by heat and flames.

After the fire, Broome said she was uninsured but intended to make restitution to the owners of the boats that were damaged by the flames.

As of Friday, she had not paid for repairs to surrounding boats, she said.

An East Jefferson Fire-Rescue investigation days after the fire found that it was accidental and originated from a power strip below and outside the boat.

Broome said that all her cords were up to code and that the fire could have been caused by rodents or a power surge.

She also claimed that the “there is a chance that the fire was of suspicious origin,” although she did did not elaborate.

“We have no reason to believe the fire was of suspicious origin,” said East Jefferson Fire-Rescue spokesman Bill Beezley after the department’s investigation in September.

The port wants to clean up the area under Broome’s boat.

Once the boat is moved, the soil beneath the vessel will need to be tested and then removed or replaced, said Al Cairns, port environmental compliance officer.

Broome paid a $7,000 derelict boat deposit when she brought the boat into the yard and that money will be used to pay for environmental cleanup costs, according to Cairns.

If Broome fails to remove the vessel the port may take action itself and deduct the cost of the move from the deposit, Cairns said.

The ability to contain the fire was hindered by a locked fence around the boat, Cairns said.

The wooden frame covered in plastic was secured by a padlock. That violates port rules that access to boats cannot be hindered, according to Cairns.

Broome had been warned about the violation and had until Sept. 30 to correct the situation, Cairnes said, but the fire occurred before the barrier was removed.

“It wasn’t locked,” Broome said of the structure that surrounded the boat.

“We just had the barrier there to protect our tools. You could get into the area using a razor blade” to cut through the plastic.

Aside from not allowing access to the boat, Port Director Larry Crockett said that Broome violated three elements of the agreement she signed when she put the boat into the yard: keeping the area around the boat neat and clean, not using hazardous materials and keeping up a neat appearance at all times.

Hoist and Yard Manager Doug Lockhart said he paid regular visits to Broome and told her to remove hazardous materials and clean up the area.

“She said she would clean up the area but I’d come visit her a week later but nothing had changed,” Lockhart said.

Broome disputed that, saying: “I was never inspected in three years.”

She said that had she been inspected, she would have complied with requirements.

“That’s like blaming a policeman for not pulling you over after you were speeding off the road and slammed into a wall,” Cairns said.

September’s blaze was the second fire on the vessel.

A small fire in April was contained because Broome was on the premises and was able to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher.

After that time she was given a verbal warning to clean up the area, but failed to do so, according to Lockhart.

Cairns said Friday that Broome had been forbidden to do any more work on the boat until the burned tarp underneath the vessel was replaced.

Broome said she had not received any such notice and continued to work toward the boat’s restoration.

“I’m right here working on the boat and I have been for three days,” she said.

“I’m sure they know I’m here. They have eyes everywhere in the boat yard.”

Said Cairns: “The work she wants to do on the boat is best done somewhere else.

“The best outcome will be had if she moves the boat and we can clean up the site and make it safe for other tenants.”

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