A fire that erupted on a barge in Delaware Bay early Monday morning that kept the Coast Guard, fireboats and environmental agencies busy well into the afternoon has been extinguished.

The fire was extinguished Tuesday. Northstar Environmental and Marine Services has been contracted to assess the integrity of the barge and manage salvage operations. 

A Coast Guard 87' patrol boat is monitoring the situation and enforcing a safety zone, which is prohibited from entering unless authorized by the Captain of the Port of Delaware Bay. A 500-yard safety zone is being enforced around the barge and the Northstar Independence, the contractor’s 185' salvage vessel. Should the fire reignite, Northstar Independence has firefighting capabilities onboard.

No sheening or discoloration has been observed on the waterway.

The barge was carrying discarded household appliances and scrap metal when the fire was reported around 1 a.m., according to the Coast Guard 5th District. Located about nine miles off Port Mahon, Del., the fire illuminated the night sky for miles around.

A unified command led by the Bowers, Del., Fire Company, the Coast Guard, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control was established to respond. A 500-yard safety zone was established around the barge and response vessels. The Coast Guard launched a 29' RB-S boatcrew to assist and continue to monitor the situation. Initially, there were six fireboats on scene from local fire agencies actively fighting the fire. 

DNREC's emergency response team monitored for environmental impact from the fire. While the towering plume could be seen for miles around, air monitoring stations in the region showed low levels of particulate matter, the agency said.

The environmental agency and Coast Guard crews looked for debris from the barge, and any signs of wildlife affected by the fire, with none reported.

“I want to thank all the responders, especially Fire Chief Aaron Warren, the local fire companies, and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control who initially responded to this complex and dynamic situation," said Capt. Jonathan Theel, Sector Delaware Bay Captain of the Port. "The fire is out due to their dedication and adaptability.”

Barge fires involving scrap cargo are an occasional hazard in the industry. In 2018 a spate of blazes involving scrapped automobiles occurred in Louisiana, Alabama and Washington state, requiring determined effort by local firefighters to douse the fires.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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