As probe into Charlestown boat fire continues, marina residents try to start over

The investigation into how the fire started and the environmental cleanup of the area is ongoing, officials said Friday night.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
The investigation into how the fire started and the environmental cleanup of the area is ongoing, officials said Friday night.

A frantic series of loud knocks awakened Kate Harrison and Will Leon in their boat, docked at a Charlestown marina, sometime around 11:30 Tuesday night: The vessel next to theirs was on fire.

Leon grabbed a fire extinguisher and Harrison called 911. Within three or four minutes, the boat they called home was also on fire.

“We felt extremely helpless,” said Harrison, a 27-year-old who works for a Roxbury nonprofit.


Both watched it go up, along with their possessions, including bank cards, keys, shoes, gifts from a recent baby shower, and Harrison’s wedding dress. Harrison is pregnant and due to have their first child, a girl, in early March, and the couple is slated to get married in August. Their home, a 36-foot power boat named “Chickadee,” was reduced to a charred husk. It was one of three vessels the fire ruined.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Now the couple finds themselves launching a GoFundMe donation drive to rebuild their lives just six weeks before the baby is due.

“Everything we had in our home is gone,” said Harrison during a phone interview Friday night.

Meanwhile, the investigation into how the fire started, along with the environmental cleanup of the area is ongoing, officials said Friday night.

The blaze caused at least $1 million worth of damage and displaced a handful of people who lived on the vessels. The investigation is expected to continue through the weekend, according to Boston fire spokesman Brian Alkins.


The environmental cleanup of the area, meanwhile, is “still underway” and progressing, said Coast Guard Lieutenant Brandon Aten.

Two of the vessels that were sunk in the fire have been removed from the water, said Aten. One of the boats, a 54-foot vessel, had 612 gallons of diesel fuel onboard. That fuel, according to Aten, was contained on the boat and recovered before it leaked into the water.

No fuel was recovered from the other boat that sank, said Aten.

“It was severely damaged. There was nothing recovered once that vessel was salvageable,” he said.

Crews are still doing environmental assessments in the area and will leave containment and absorbent booms in the water for the time being, he said.


The fire at Constitution Marina drew scores of firefighters, who worked late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Fuel was thought to have played a role in complicating the response to the blaze, which kept re-igniting.

For Harrison and Leon, the loss has been devastating.

Leon, who does maintenance work at the marina, said he thought of all the work he had put into the vessel since the couple moved in last February. He had ripped up the carpet and re-done the plumbing, among other things.

He was disappointed that all his work on the boat would not bear fruit.

“I had felt like we were just taking the final steps, all the work that needed to be done, was done,” said Leon, 27. “We were ready for this baby.”

Harrison said there were five people total displaced by the blaze. She and her fiance are currently living in a hotel next to the marina. They are hoping to move into temporary accommodation in a boat at the marina next week, but might move back into a hotel near Harrison’s due date.

Harrison tried to look at the silver lining. She said the fire has reinforced that the couple has the ability to “roll with the punches, be flexible and resilient,” as they enter parenthood.

All the things the couple has now, including the shoes on their feet, came from donations from friends, family, and neighbors, said Harrison.

“It’s been very humbling,” said Leon. “The response from friends, neighbors, and strangers has been overwhelming.”

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.