By SAM METZ and RIO YAMAT
More than half a dozen house boats momentarily caught fire at a popular boating destination on the Utah-Arizona line on Friday, igniting while tourists and jet skiers stood by before the flames were extinguished.
The decks of boats docked at Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell smoldered as black plumes of smoke wafted into the air above the lake and the red rock walls that form its perimeter, video from observers shows.
Robert Wilkes, the owner of Skylite Houseboat Management, said the fire began in the early afternoon and grew for about an hour and a half. Wilkes, a trained firefighter, used a garden hose and worked with park rangers, who he said arrived soon after the boats ignited, to help put out the fire.
“I started pulling boats off the dock trying to create a gap so it didn’t act like a tree line,” he said.
As of Friday evening, the fire had been extinguished and contained, said Lisa Cesaro, a spokesperson with Aramark Destinations, which maintains the marina.
“The cause of the fire is being investigated and information will be released by the National Park Service when available,” Cesaro said.
The Park Service did not immediately respond to requests from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Wilkes said he had not heard of anyone injured. But he said one of his management company’s boats had been destroyed.
Throughout the spring, boaters have returned their vessels to the marina after an abnormally wet winter elevated lake levels that had previously hit historic lows. More than two million visitors go boating on Lake Powell annually, according to the National Park Service.
Park rangers previously responded to houseboat fires several times in recent years, including in 2022, 2015 and 2011.