Solomons Fire Pictures

On March 15, 2006, there was a huge fire on Solomons Island as two restaurants caught fire and burned to the ground. According to published reports, the fire was caused by a discarded cigarette that ignited dry grass and wooden decking, which then spread to the Lighthouse Inn and the bar and restaurant portion of Bowen's Inn. Both restaurants were totally destroyed in a spectacular blaze.

At the time of the Solomons fire, I was living on my boat at Solomons Yachting Center, a marina just across a narrow body of water from the restaurants that burned. We had a front-row seat at the marina, and could easily feel the heat from the huge fire. Luckily, the wind wasn't headed in our direction, so we weren't in danger, but other areas of Solomons Island did suffer damage from burning embers. Although nearly 70 firefighters fought the fire with dozens of pieces of equipment, the fire was such a raging inferno and the wind was so gusty that it was a struggle to bring it under control. Due to the strong winds fanning the flames and spreading embers, many people thought the whole island downwind from the fire could have burned that day.

Luckily, two large fire-fighting tugboats arrived and saved the day. They had such a huge pumping capacity that they made short work of the fire and it was quickly under control. The tugboats have fire-fighting capability in case of fires at the nearby liquified natural gas terminal at Cove Point, but one has to wonder how they would cope with an LNG fire. Just like the land-based fire engines were severely challenged by the Solomons fire, I think even the tugs would be severely challenged by a blazing LNG tanker.

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I was on my boat at Solomons Yachting Center when the fire started. I heard lots of fire engines and looked out to see what was going on—this is the view that greeted me. At first, I thought a boat in the marina was on fire, which was really scary! It was so windy that a boat fire could have easily spread to the rest of the marina. I walked over to the other side of the marina and saw that the fire was across the Narrows on Solomons Island. It was so windy the smoke didn't get a chance to rise before it was whipped sideways by the wind. A couple of workboats came into the harbor to see if there was anything they could do.

The fire was so intense they couldn't even get close. This shows the Lighthouse Inn burning, as well as an adjacent small condo building that was part of the facility. The covered sailboat in the foreground is docked at Solomons Island Yacht Club, which did not appear to suffer any damage. Another view of the fire. Every now and then a gust of wind would momentarily lift the pall of smoke to show the blazing inferno underneath.

Another view of the fire. This picture appeared on the front page of The Washington Post on March 16. A black-and-white version appeared in the Southern Maryland insert on March 19. The picture is archived on the Post's web site ("Day in Photos" for March 16, 2006, picture number three). An overview of the fire scene. Another view of the fire. This picture appeared in the May issue of Chesapeake Bay Magazine.

The two fire-fighting tugboats are entering Solomons harbor and preparing to fight the fire. The tugboat on the left is A J McAllister; the tugboat on the right is Emily Anne McAllister. A closer view of the tugboats at work; Emily Anne McAllister is in the foreground. As the tugs poured water on the fire, the flames quickly subsided. This picture appeared in The Washington Post on April 20, in the Southern Maryland insert.

A closer view of the tugboats and workboats in the harbor. This picture appeared in the May issue of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Looking across the harbor at Harbor Island Marina, where fires were started by wind-blown embers. The small fires were quickly extinguished. By late afternoon the fire was out; the two restaurants had been reduced to smoldering ashes and charred sticks of wood.

I took this picture the next day, showing the remains of the bar and restaurant at Bowen's Inn. Local residents contemplating all that remains of the Lighthouse Inn and adjacent condo. The scene of the destruction as seen from the end of the Tiki Bar dock next to Harbor Island Marina.

A closer look at the destruction. The residential portion of Bowen's Inn is damaged but still standing. This boat was damaged by a fire caused by burning embers. It is located in the boat storage yard behind Harbor Island Marina. About a week before the fire, I happened to be taking pictures around the marina and took this picture of the Lighthouse Inn and Bowen's Inn. You can see the structures that were destroyed (Lighthouse Inn condo, Lighthouse Inn restaurant, Bowen's Inn bar and restaurant) as well as the residential portion of Bowen's Inn that was damaged but not destroyed.

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