The biggest fire in the city's history engulfed a wooden pier and more than a dozen boats Thursday, killing one person and injuring two others, officials said.
The spectacular blaze was reported at about 6:15 a.m. in the scenic coastal village 200 miles north of Los Angeles and engulfed the entire City T Pier and all of its boat moorings in the first 10 minutes, police Sgt. Norman Smyth said.An unidentified man was found dead in one of the 12 to 15 boats damaged by the fire, and an elderly man and woman who jumped from their burning boat to escape the flames were pulled out of the water by rescue crews.
After nearly drowning, Naomi Griffith, 78, was in critical condition at Sierra Vista Hospital in San Luis Obispo, a hospital spokeswoman said. Her companion, Henry Pederson, 70, was under observation for chest pains and in stable condition.
City Manager Gary Napper said the cause of the fire had not been determined. He estimated the total damage would approach $1 million.
"It's the biggest fire we've ever had," said Napper, of the blaze that generated a dark plume of smoke that could be seen 5 miles away.
Morro Bay will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, and the pier was reconstructed in 1982 at a cost of $300,000, Napper said.
The fire was contained in about an hour by more than 50 firefighters and a crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Pt. Winslow, but smoldered for nearly three more hours.
Firefighters said creosote, which was used as a preservative on the wooden pier, contributed to the heavy black smoke that blanketed the area.
Most boat owners and fishermen who lived on their boats were able to get their vessels unmoored before the fire reached them.
Little of the pier, which reached out 100 yards into the bay and had a 100-yard "T" at its end, was left standing. "It's almost totally destroyed," Smyth said.