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Yacht at Chula Vista shipyard catches on fire

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CHULA VISTA (CNS) - Flames engulfed a dry-docked 110-foot luxury yacht at a South Bay shipyard Thursday, sending intense flames and thick smoke into the air alongside San Diego Bay and leaving two people with minor respiratory trauma.

The vessel, valued at roughly $17 million, was undergoing repairs at Marine Group Boat Works in the 900 block of G Street in Chula Vista when it caught fire about 9 a.m., according to city officials.

“I’ve never seen a fire that big spreading that fast before,” said Christopher Gonzalez, who works at the Marine Group Boat Works machine shop. He was just yards away when the blaze ignited.

“One of the hoses blew out; I saw smoke coming out from one of the holes. I looked and it started spreading forward climbing up to the bow and before you knew it, the whole thing was going up,” Gonzalez said. Due to the intensity of the blaze, crews could not board the vessel.

They fought it from a safe distance, spraying retardant foam and water from ladder hoses, Chula Vista Deputy Fire Chief Jim Garcia said.

“There is fuel on board and we all kind of knew that so there was that slight chance it could have exploded,” said Bill Cavanaugh, who was working on a nearby boat and saw smoke billowing into the air. "We could feel the heat coming off that thing within a hundred yards,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an issue like this that has ever happened before,” explained Kate Hougaard, who lives next to the yacht that caught fire. “My captain and the captain of the boat Polar Bear that went up in flames were good friends and it’s really sad to see something like this happen,” she said.

An industrial building adjacent to the marine repair yard was evacuated as a precaution. Two people were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

It took firefighters about six hours to fully subdue the flames, Garcia said. Crews remained at the shipyard in the late afternoon, dousing smoldering hot spots.

The yacht likely was a complete loss, the deputy chief said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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