Chuck Stevens of Mystic, Connecticut is a member of the Coast Guard auxiliary air wing. He is one of thousands of men and women civilian volunteers who assist the Coast Guard on land, on the water, and in the air.
Pilot Phil Cox and observer Chuck Stevens were on aerial patrol on July 12, 2010 when they spotted a plume of smoke that led them to the Menemsha Boathouse fire.
Looking northeast toward Dutcher Dock, work proceeds on the town’s drive-on dock and the Coast Guard dock.
The Coast Guard dock is on the left. The town drive-on dock is on the right.
On Tuesday, Mr. Stevens took photos of Menemsha Harbor. The Coast Guard is currently constructing a floating dock and pier out from the lot where the Coast Guard Station Menemsha boathouse once stood, in order to moor its two workhorse rescue boats this summer.
On July 12, 2010, Mr. Stevens was the observer in a plane flown by pilot Phil Cox. The men were on routine patrol in Buzzards Bay when they spotted a plume of smoke flat on the horizon.
“So we followed the smoke,” Mr. Stevens said in a telephone conversation with The Times. “And as we got closer I thought, that’s Menemsha and my gosh, that’s the Coast Guard boathouse.”
The men arrived soon after the fire began. Mr. Cox took a series of dramatic photos that showed the entire boathouse and dock enveloped in roaring flames. “It was just right place, right time,” he said.
The fire destroyed the Coast Guard Station Menemsha boathouse, docks, and boats, and might have spread to the surrounding village, but for a fortuitous wind direction and quick, heroic action by numerous individuals.
On February 15, 2011, the Coast Guard released the results of an investigation begun by federal, state, and local authorities right after the fire was extinguished. The fire may have been the result of a discarded cigarette on the pier, faulty electrical wiring to the boathouse, or faulty electrical wiring to the town’s pier. There was insufficient evidence to determine a more precise ignition source.
There is a $10 million line item in the president’s budget for the rebuilding of the Menemsha boathouse. The best case is the boathouse would be completed in late 2013. The outside date would be mid-2014, Coast Guard officials said.
by Nelson Sigelman