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City and Allegheny County police and the Allegheny County Fire Marshal's Office are investigating a blaze early Monday morning that damaged five boats stored near the McKee's Point Marina.
At least three of the boats appear to be total losses, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said.
Just after 2:30 a.m., a caller to Allegheny County 9-1-1 reported hearing an "explosion" in the vicinity of Strawberry Alley and Sixth Avenue. The caller looked out the window and saw flames.
McKeesport firefighters responded and found several boats --- large cabin-cruiser type boats --- fully engulfed, Tomovcsik said.
The boats were primarily of fiberglass construction, he said, but may have had other inflammable or combustible material on board.
"When you're dealing with a large boat like that, you basically can have anything there that you might have in a house," Tomovcsik said. "So in addition to gasoline, you might have had household cleaning products, propane tanks for a grill, and so forth."
Firefighters attacked the blaze with water and then switched to foam to fully extinguish the flames, he said. "The boats started to collapse on themselves, which made it tough to get access," Tomovcsik said.
In addition to McKeesport stations 1 and 2, volunteers from Glassport, Duquesne Annex and Dravosburg also assisted at the scene, Tomovcsik said. Fire crews from Allegheny County Airport also responded. White Oak No. 299 and Liberty Borough firefighters stood by in McKeesport's stations.
The nearby Intersection homeless shelter suffered from the blaze as well, the chief said, including broken windows --- apparently from the intense heat of the fire --- and some damage to soffit and fascia.
Tomovcsik said he couldn't speculate on the origin or cause of the fire. Firefighters remained on the scene until about 9 a.m. Monday.
The boats were stored in a fenced, open-air storage yard between Water Street and Strawberry Alley, not far from the Palisades Ballroom.
The marina is notifying the owners of the boats that were damaged, Tomovcsik said.
Originally published December 12, 2016.