This photo of the bar on the Columbia ferry was taken in July. (Meredith Jordan/ Juneau Empire)

This photo of the bar on the Columbia ferry was taken in July. (Meredith Jordan/ Juneau Empire)

Columbia bar soon to be back online after minor fire

11 people, two of them crew, were treated in Wrangell and returned to the ship

The bar on the ferry Columbia should be back up this weekend or early next week after an outside company finishes cleaning up from a fire that started with the ice machine in the middle of the night Wednesday and was quickly contained.

Nine passengers and two crew were transported to Wrangell Medical Center, and then back to Columbia to resume the trip after being evaluated for smoke inhalation.

“The vessel waited to collect all passengers back on board before departing, so no apparent serious injuries,” said Sam Dapcevich, spokesperson for Alaska Marine Highway System.

A professional cleaning crew came on board the vessel in Bellingham, Washington, during Columbia’s regular stop Friday, Dapcevich said. In the event they can’t finish the job, AMHS has “cleaners standing by in Ketchikan” for the vessel’s scheduled arrival Sunday.

Craig Tornga, director of AMHS, talked about the incident on Friday during his report at the monthly meeting of the Alaska Marine Highway System Operations Board. “It was pretty isolated to the machine and a couple of cardboard cases of beer, and just the side of the cases.”

The fire broke out about 3:15 a.m. in the bar, which was locked. Crew members went into the smoky room and extinguished the fire. The trained fire team on the ship arrived a short time later wearing protective gear to secure the scene.

Tornga credited the crew with the fast response time. One passenger reported some issues with finding the proper muster station, the designated place on a ship where passengers assemble in the event of an emergency. It was just the one cabin, he said, rather than an entire hallway. Crew was working to address that issue.

At the end of the board meeting, Tornga read an email he got from two passengers who had been on the ship. They wrote that the fire in the lounge had been scary, but the crew was calm and professional, which put them at ease.

A board member suggested Tornga pass the note on to the crew. “Just did,” he said.

• Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

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