Disaster averted on Island’s vital summer marine link

File photo.

THUNDER BAY—Extensive damage was done to the boiler room of the MS Chi-Cheemaun, the result of a fire that took place Saturday, early in the morning.  The ship is in Thunder Bay for its regular dry dock maintenance and upgrading. However, while damage was done, the Chi-Cheemaun is expected to begin the sailing season as scheduled between South Baymouth and Tobermory in May.

“On March 12, the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) confirms that one of the two heating boilers was damaged by fire on the MS Chi-Cheemaun,” said Kaleena Sandford, manager of customer relations and media with OSTC. “No injuries resulted from the incident and no other machinery was negatively affected by the fire.”

Ms. Sanford told The Expositor, “we are still waiting for more information from the investigation being carried out by one of our engineering crew. One of the two heating boilers was affected by the fire and further equipment testing is required. No other machinery was negatively affected.”

“When the fire crews arrived on scene,  the fire was essentially out,” Eric Nordlund, deputy fire chief of Thunder Bay Fire Rescue (TBFR) told The Expositor on Saturday. “We responded to a fire in the boiler room which was essentially out when we arrived. Spot fires were extinguished.”

Mr. Nordlund, who was not at the scene of the fire, told The Expositor, “I listened to the firefighters’ report, and things went fairly smoothly. Ship fires are not common.”

A TBFR release states, “at approximately 2:20 am, TBFR crew were called to 201 Shipyard Road for a fire inside the ship (Chi-Cheemaun ferry). The first arriving unit encountered some light smoke upon entry to the ship and a second alarm was initiated, bringing five pumpers to the scene. The fire was found to be in the boiler room, deep in the bowels of the ship. The initial fire attack was done by staff on board the ship who managed to knock down the first fire to a great degree,” the TBFR release noted. “Fire crews, after some time, were able to bring the fire under control using CO2 fire extinguishers to totally extinguish the fire.”

“The boiler room received extensive damage to one of the ship’s boilers and electrical system. All fire damage was held to the room of origin with very light smoke in other areas of the ship, which was cleared by the ship’s ventilation system,” the TBFR explained.

Ms. Sanford said, “we are assessing and getting information and will provide updates when information is available. We have to evaluate the damage done to the ship.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“Yes, we are very optimistic that the ship will start sailing as scheduled beginning May 6,” said Ms. Sanford. The Chi-Cheemaun normally spends the winter in Owen Sound, then runs from the spring to fall between Tobermory and South Baymouth. The vessel had gone to Thunder Bay in October as it underwent routine repairs and its five-year inspection and was expected to return to Owen Sound but had to remain in Thunder Bay with the winter closing of the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.