ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – At least one vehicle caught fire on the Golden Ray, the 656-foot transport vessel that has been sitting on its side since early September in the St. Simons Sound, the St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command said Sunday.
Smoke could be seen coming from the ship Sunday morning. According to the Unified Command, welding was going on inside the cargo ship when a piece of metal dropped and at least one vehicle caught fire.
The Unified Command said Texas-based salvage company T&T Salvage, which was hired to remove the Golden Ray, has firefighter teams standing by at all times, including while the welding work was going on. As soon as smoke was spotted, according to the Altamaha Riverkeeper, crews responded by boat in 15 minutes and began to extinguish to the flames.
The Unified Command said it will be monitoring the situation to see whether there’s a reflash.
The Altamaha Riverkeeper said the fire started in a different portion of the ship than where smoke was seen Oct. 20. Sue Inman, with the Altamaha Riverkeeper, said any time there’s a fire or smoke, especially with a car on fire, toxins are released into the air.
“If you have one small fire, there’s a chance of the fire becoming larger, because if one car starts a fire, you have all those other cars plus you still have 50,000 gallons of fuel still left on the boat that they couldn’t reach," Inman said. “Which really bad for air quality, whether it’s for the workers on the ship or anyone that’s on the pier. And folks that live here.”
According to Inman, there haven’t been any recent oil spills, but she said it’s always a concern as the ship starts to be disassembled.
Right now, the longterm environmental impact is unclear.
“There’s just a lot of unknowns still. It’s over four months the ship has been on its side, so it’s definitely unstable. The plan for salvage has not been released, so we don’t know what the plan is to minimize the environmental impact from cutting the ship up, so there’s just a lot of unknowns making people uneasy,” Inman said.
The Golden Ray was carrying 4,200 vehicles when it ran aground and overturned Sept. 8. Teams rescued four crew members who were trapped inside and then hospitalized.
Since then, according to the Unified Command, 320,000 gallons of fuel have been removed from the Golden Ray, as well as the rudder and propeller.
The plan is for the ship to be disassembled in place.