A fire burns at Delong Dock after an explosion on fixed barge in Whittier, Alaska, July 8, 2019. In addition to Coast Guard crews, response efforts included members of the Whittier Fire Department, Whittier Police Department, Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel Fire Department and Girdwood Fire Department. Photo courtesy of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard District 17)
WHITTIER, Alaska — Coast Guard crews are searching for one person missing after an explosion and subsequent fire at Delong Dock in Whittier, Alaska, Monday.
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, forward deployed to Cordova, searched by air while crews aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur and Coast Guard Auxiliary 336 continue to search for the missing person.
Shortly after midnight, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage watchstanders heard the phrase “Whittier fire, Whittier fire” over VHF Channel 16 and contacted Whittier dispatchers, who confirmed there was a fire at Delong Dock. Several minutes later, an Alaska Railroad security officer also reported the situation.
The explosion reportedly occurred on a fixed barge, and the fire spread to the pier and then to the Alaganik, a 99-foot commercial fishing vessel that was initially reported to have two people aboard at the time of the explosion. Whittier Police Department personnel have since confirmed one of those two is safely aboard a different vessel en route to Whittier.
Sector watchstanders issued a Safety Marine Information Broadcast that established a 100 yard safety zone to keep vessels a safe distance from the fire while the crew of the Chandeleur launched in response to help maintain the safety zone and conduct a search.
By 2:50 a.m., Whittier Fire Department personnel confirmed the fire extinguished.
The fishing vessel and barge sank in 85 feet of water at the pier with a potential maximum of 5,500 gallons of fuel oil aboard. The fishing vessel owners have contracted Global Diving and Salvage for clean-up and salvage efforts.
Brian Hicks, Whittier Fire Department chief and the on-scene commander, confirmed personnel from Whittier Fire Department, Whittier Police Department, Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel Fire Department and Girdwood Fire Department all involved in the response, including crews aboard Tender 41 and Tender 42 from Girdwood.