“Luckily we were able to stop it before it became an environmental disaster in the Mississippi Sound,” said Gulfport Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt.
The fire started in the engine room of the 70-foot tug boat sailing south of Pass Christian Thursday afternoon. The tug was carrying 2,500 pounds of anhydrous ammonia used as a coolant for cargo aboard the 195-foot barge. Beyerstedt says firefighters were able to douse the flames before they burned through the chemical container.
Along with the chemical, firefighters say the tug had 900 gallons of diesel fuel, which firefighters had to secure to prevent it from feeding the fire and making it bigger.
The fire was reported to Coast Guard Station Gulfport just before 12:30 p.m. Four people on board the tug were not injured according to a Coast Guard spokesman. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and Department of Environmental Quality also responded to the fire.
The tug is not in danger of sinking, but Beyerstedt says it will need to be towed ashore. The shipping company is sending a cleanup crew from Galveston, Tx. to handle the removal of the vessels.