MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Fire and smoke rippled through the Safe Harbor Great Lakes Marina in Muskegon starting at around 11:30 Monday morning.

“It’s really sad because I have seen a lot of the boats that are in there and there are just a lot of beautiful boats that have been lost to it,” boat owner Travis Nadeau said.

The fire broke out at building 3 of the marina, located at 1920 Lakeshore Dr. near McCracken Street. The building houses about 150 boats. A Muskegon fire chief told News 8 a large boat in the center caught fire that quickly spread to other boats. Smoke billowed from the building as fire crews worked to get inside.

Smoke rises from a fire at Safe Harbor Great Lakes Marina on March 6, 2023.
Smoke rises from a fire at Safe Harbor Great Lakes Marina on March 6, 2023.

Muskegon Fire Deputy Chief Jay Paulson said it was difficult for fire crews to reach the origin of the fire.

“Just had a hard time getting into it because the boats were so condensed. … So it took us a bit to get to the one that was on fire, which was almost right in the middle of the boat lane,” Paulson said. 

Three other boats were seriously damaged in the fire, but all of the 150 boats in the building were affected, whether it be heat, water or smoke damage.

“The building has a fire suppression system and the suppression system kept the fire in check until we could get in and put out the rest of the fire, but the boat that did burn is a 39-foot cabin cruiser,” Paulson said.

Boat owners like Travis Nadeau and John Steinhauser have been members at the marina for two years. Nadeau was preparing for the upcoming boating season he would enjoy with his family. Now he’s not sure if that’s an option.

“I guess that is just the risk that you take putting your property in somebody else’s care,” Nadeau said.

With the amount of smoke coming from the building, many boat owners like Steinhauer came to see the scene for themselves.

“A little bit concerned, a little bit worried, not really knowing what’s going on and the extent of the damage,” Steinhauer, whose 33-foot cruiser yacht was in the building, said. “With the amount of smoke coming out of that building, I don’t know. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that the damage isn’t horrible.”

He said the owners devote a lot of time and invest a lot of money in maintaining their boats.

“We treat our boats like they’re our kids,” he said. “It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking.”

The Muskegon Fire deputy chief told News 8 no one was hurt, but the damage was extensive.

“They are larger, more pricey boats. It’s going to be well over a million dollars’ worth of damage. once the fire marshal gets … ascertains all the owners, the owners boats and all that information we’ll get a better number on how much the damage is,” Paulson said.

The marina is working to bring updates to boat owners like Nadeau who are concerned about what’s next.

“Looks like we are going to have to get moving soon. Hopefully we know something so we can make a decision and be ready for the boating season,” Nadeau said. “It’s such a short season and I’d hate to miss any of it really.”

“Well we’ll have to wait and see when we can get in there how much the damage is… hopefully they are fixable,” Steinhauer said.

 News 8 reached out to the marina owners, but hasn’t received a response.

The public was asked to avoid the area. The Muskegon Professional Firefighters Union in a Facebook post said “many gawkers are attempting to access the property and are getting in the way of fire suppression efforts.”

The Muskegon Police Department was called for traffic control.

The fire remains under investigation.

— Corinne Moore contributed to this report.