Barnegat Light Scalloper Karen L Being Refurbished After Fire

Fire Marshal Rules Blaze ‘Accidental’
Jan 12, 2018
Photo by: Kim Hollander

The veteran scallop boat Karen L will be repaired after damage from a fire at the Viking Village dock last Friday morning, according to a Larson family member.

The office of the Ocean County fire marshal investigated and ruled the blaze accidental. No injuries were reported.

“It was an accidental fire originating in a storage room below the deck galley,” said Assistant Fire Marshal John Pasola. The cause was “not electrical,” he said, and “we can’t rule out spontaneous combustion.”

The Barnegat Light Volunteer Fire Co. responded to the call at 8:10 a.m. Jan. 12 and fought through “an active fire, heavy smoke conditions” and “very hot” temperatures, fire company Lt. David Voris said.

The location to which the firemen advanced to fight the blaze was above the engine room, firemen said.

The blaze was extinguished with foam in 10 to 15 minutes. Mutual aid from High Point and Surf City volunteer fire companies provided backup manpower to assure that the fire stayed out, Voris said.

Mayor Kirk Larson, whose mother, Marion, owns the boat and is a co-owner of the commercial dock, said that morning the fire burned the whole cabin.

“They had just gotten in at 3 in the morning from scalloping, 50 miles out,” he added.

Dozens of people in the fishing community said online that they were thankful that, as many put it, “everyone was OK.”

The assistant fire marshal joined their sentiments when he said the next week, “Thank God the guys were docked, not out at sea.”

“They had just gotten in from a 24-hour day trip,” said Karen Larson, the boat’s namesake, who had corresponded with the interested community on social media. “We’re all just relieved that, thank God, they weren’t out there. We have lots of safety equipment and communications for any trouble, but still, thank goodness it didn’t happen out at sea. The fire department was there and they were really good.”

Karen Larson said refurbishing has already started.

“There’s a great crew on there. They love that boat and take care of it.” The current captain is Dwight Kooyman.

A fixture on the Barnegat Light horizon since the late Capt. John Larson purchased it in 1983, Karen L is a 60-foot vessel that has a valiant history. An online summary says the boat was built in 1974 in California and was pole fished in New Zealand and Brazil, with a capacity of up to 82 tons of albacore.

“When it came to town, Dad refurbished it into a longliner, and eventually a scalloper, and named it Karen L,” she said. It was not the only scalloper at the time, or at present, but part of a fleet.

Several folks close to the boat said the fire is not the only incident the boat has been through.

“This is the same boat that hit the bar right by the lighthouse in the fall of 2006,” Karen Larson said. “It eventually turned over – and was salvaged a week later, and (later) brought back, totally redone.”

— Maria Scandale

(Photo by: Kim Hollander)
(Photo by: David Voris)
(Photo by: David Voris)
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