A commercial fishing vessel left dockside in Fort Bragg's Noyo Harbor on Wednesday evening was found ablaze early Thursday, leaving its skipper facing severe financial hardship.
The cause of the fire, discovered around 6:45 a.m. by Harbor Master Jere Kleinbach, remained under investigation, but there was suspicion it may have been ignited by someone seeking refuge from the cold overnight.
Kleinbach said the cabin of the 36-foot Blue Northern was "pretty well gutted," though flames were confined to the cabin and neighboring boats were spared.
"The cabin is destroyed, all the electronics are lost," said Keith Olson, owner of the vessel for three decades. "Major loss."
Fire Chief Steve Orsi said fire investigators could find no explanation for the blaze, which started on or near a bench in the cabin and wiped out all the radio equipment.
Olson's boat, built in 1949 in San Francisco, had been back in the water just four or five months since it was dry-docked for major repairs last summer. Because of its part-wood construction, he'd been unable to insure, Olson said.
Orsi said it was a "very, very good possibility," that someone camped out in the cabin, which was unlocked when Olson left the harbor around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"We can't say that's what happened, but that's definitely a possibility," he said. "We were out there for a while. We just could not find a good source of heat" that would have sparked flames.