Fire burns houseboats in California marina

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An estimated 14 houseboats burned Monday at a Sacramento County marina.

The fire was reported early Monday near the community of Walnut Grove in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, according to the Associated Press.

Houseboat owners at the Walnut Grove Marina on Monday afternoon took in the damage done after flames destroyed more than a dozen watercraft just after midnight. They call each other “Delta Rats” — the community of houseboaters on Snodgrass Slough for whom the water is a second home and playground.

“Everybody knows everybody out here — it’s a community,” Ed Weldey of Santa Rosa, who has berthed at Walnut Grove for the past 15 years, told the Sacramento Bee. “I heard about it on the news and called everybody I knew.”

Although an estimated 14 boats burned, no one was reported hurt and the destruction could have been much worse if one flaming boat had continued to drift toward a fueling station.

“I can’t believe the destruction of those houseboats,” Don Russo, who also berths at the marina in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta community about 30 miles south of Sacramento, told the paper. “There’s absolutely nothing left.”

Nearly all of the boats were reduced to twisted metal and piles of ash. A large section of metal roof that had collapsed from its supports dangled in the water.

Many of the owners live out of town and did not know anything was wrong until they saw televised images of flames devouring their boats or got phone calls from friends.

“The worst part was seeing it on the news,” said Sherry Anders of Vacaville, the owner of It’s a Hoot, looking out at the wreckage along the marina’s dock just feet away from her houseboat. Just starboard in the slough was another boat, its interior blackened by flames.