Hyannis Firefighters quickly extinguish fire aboard the Lady Martha

Fire aboard the Lady Martha quickly extinguished by the Hyannis Fire Department

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Firefighter, four crew members receive medical treatment

HYANNIS - A fire aboard the Lady Martha Thursday morning was quickly brought under control by Hyannis firefighters within a half hour of it first being reported. All four members of the vessel's crew and one firefighter (right) were transported to Cape Cod Hospital.

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Lieut. Richard Knowlton of the Hyannis Fire Department said the crew members were treated for smoke inhalation and released. The firefighter was treated for an injury and was scheduled to undergo more tests.

Lieutenant Knowlton said the six passengers on board the ferry were unhurt.

The Lady Martha is a high-speed ferry owned by Hy-Line Cruises. The ferry provided service between Hyannis and Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard.

Hy-Line Vice President Philip Scudder said the vessel was seriously damaged and would remain out of service for an undetermined amount of time. To fill in for the Lady Martha, Scudder said the company likely would either run additional trips with the Brant Point, a conventional passenger ferry also operated by the company on the Hyannis-Oak Bluffs route, or lease another high-speed ferry.

The Lady Martha, an 11-year-old vessel, was returning to Hyannis Harbor from Oak Bluffs around 9:23 a.m. when the fire initially was called in by an assistant harbormaster.

Lieutenant Knowlton said the fire broke out in the starboard engine room at the vessel's stern. The fire first became known to the crew when the ferry entered Hyannis Inner Harbor, not far from the Steamship Authority docks.

The assistant harbormaster heard radio transmissions about the fire and called the fire department, which subsequently received many calls from people in the harbor area.

The crew had docked the ferry at one of the Hy-Line berths at the Ocean Street docks when firefighters arrived. Lieutenant Knowlton said much of the fire had been knocked down by a carbon dioxide extinguishing system activated by the crew by the time firefighters boarded the vessel.

Within 15 minutes, firefighters contained and extinguished the remnants of the fire.

Passengers aboard another Hy-Line ferry, the Brant Point, in its berth at the time,  were evacuated from the ferry.

The Coast Guard and the Hyannis Fire Department are investigating the fire. Lieutenant Knowlton said preliminary findings point to a malfunctioning oil filter in the starboard engine. Oil may have escaped in a mist from the filter, filling the air in the engine room compartment and subsequently igniting.

A total of 23 Hyannis firefighters and officers responded to the ferry fire, bringing two engines, a ladder truck and a heavy rescue truck. Four ambulances responded to the fire.

Firefighters from the Yarmouth and Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills departments provided mutual aid at the scene, while Dennis sent an ambulance to cover the Hyannis Fire Station.

Barnstable police secured the scene and re-routed traffic in the harbor area.

Lieutenant Knowlton said both the Hy-Line crew and the responding firefighters handled the situation well. "We had plenty of help and good communication," he said.

Scudder said the timing of the fire could have been much worse. A full load of 150 passengers were scheduled to travel on the next departure of the Lady Martha to the Vineyard. Instead of being five minutes away from the dock with a few passengers, he said, the ferry could have been out several miles out in Nantucket Sound with many more passengers on board.
Photos by Peter Robbins.

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