Investigators: Deadly Alabama marina fire was accidental, exact source still unknown

Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Investigators have determined that a fire which killed eight people at an Alabama river marina earlier this year was an accident, a fire official said Wednesday.

Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said in an email that the blaze originated on one boat at Jackson County Park Marina.

“The investigation could not determine the precise area of origin or cause of the fire, due to the amount of fire consumption,” he said. “The report states, ‘It does appear that the fire is accidental.'”

Necklaus referred further questions to the state fire marshal’s office, which investigated the fire but did not immediately respond to a request for a copy of the findings.

Fire erupted on a dock early on Jan. 27, and eight people died as wind blew the flames from one vessel to another.

Five children were among the dead.

About two dozen people had lived in boats tied to a long wooden dock at the marina, which is located on a wide creek that feeds the Tennessee River. Fire broke out on the end closest to land, blocking the lone exit and leaving boats or swimming as the only way to safety.

Fire inspection reports from 2012 and 2016 did not cite any structural problems with the dock that burned. Both reports said the docks were clean, well-kept and had fire extinguishers, but they also noted the presence of items including gasoline containers and grills.

Grace Annette Watson Miles, 40, died in the blaze, officials said, along with five young people who relatives identified as her children: Dezli Nicole Miles, 7; Kesston Damien Miles, 9; Traydon Dominic Miles, 10; Bryli Long, 16; and Christopher Zane Long, 19.

Authorities identified the other two victims as Yancey Roper, 54, and Amanda Garrard Foster, 38.