New England Boatworks (NEB), in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, caught on fire on April 23 at roughly 5 a.m. The four-alarm fire wasn’t extinguished until after 1 p.m. Four buildings that were previously used to manufacture boats were destroyed in the blaze, but the remaining 15 buildings in the complex, which comprises three other businesses and a full-service marina, were unharmed; they were re-opened shortly after the blaze was extinguished.
There were additional safety concerns after cyanide gas was detected emanating from the fire. The gas is produced during the combustion of some plastics. Several firefighters were treated for exposure to the potentially deadly substance.
NEB is one of the premiere manufacturers of custom boats and has produced racing yachts for the America’s Cup and the Whitbread Round the World Race. The boat-building community has expressed concern for the overall impact on the industry. As a major player, NEB provides a significant amount of business to subcontractors and materials suppliers. With production stalled and the economy already in slowdown, smaller players could be hurt. However, NEB is expected to resume operations in the near future.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.