Story last updated at 2:37 p.m. Thursday, December 5, 2002

Man dies in boat fire in Homer harbor
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

A fire aboard a fishing vessel in the Homer Harbor claimed a life early Sunday morning. Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Painter said it was the first fire-caused fatality in Homer since the late 1980s.

A harbor worker reported the fire about 3 a.m. Sunday after seeing smoke coming from the 58-foot steel boat F/V Konrad I.

Firefighters entered the smoke-filled boat and extinguished the fire. They discovered the body of 43-year-old Mark Dennis, of Kodiak, in one of the berths.

No one else was on board at the time, Painter said.

The Konrad I is registered in Seattle, but is owned by a Juneau-based Limited Liability Corporation.

The Homer Volunteer Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire and has made reports to the U.S. Coast Guard and the state fire marshal's office.

Homer police officers also responded to the scene.

"Our investigation was very preliminary," said Chief Mark Robl. "We'll be leaving it up to the fire department, and the Coast Guard is investigating the cause as well.

"But right now it looks like the fire was caused either by smoking or by a faulty heater under the bunk (Dennis) was on," Robl said.

Painter said the fire began in the bunk area, but the cause is still under investigation.

"Essentially, it's a process of elimination," he said. "Right now, what's being looked at is smoking materials. It's looking more and more like smoking. It will be interesting to see if there was any alcohol involved. That would have diminished his ability to self-rescue.

"There were heat detectors on board, apparently, but no smoke detectors that we're aware of," he said. "People should make sure they have smoke detectors installed, and they need to be serviced and checked regularly."

Painter also cautioned about the risks of smoking in bed.

"Don't do it," he said. "Especially if you're drinking, or medicated, or drowsy. It's too easy to miss the ashtray and start a fire."

Chris Bernard can be reached at cbernard@homernews.com.

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