published Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Delta Queen fire under investigation

Firefighters stand near the Delta Queen this afternoon.
Firefighters stand near the Delta Queen this afternoon.
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    A picture of the Delta Queen on the river where a small fire was reported this afternoon.
    Photo by Will Maley

A small fire caused minimal damage to the Delta Queen on Thursday evening, fire officials said.

Crews responded just after 5 p.m. to the boat, moored just off Coolidge Park in downtown Chattanooga. Fire crews discovered the small blaze on a barrier known as a “bumper rail” on the river side of the vessel, Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said.

“Smoke did get into some parts of the Delta Queen, but not enough to be an issue,” Garner said.

No injuries were reported.

About 100 occupants were evacuated, Garner said. At least half of them were members of Christian Tours, a private, North Carolina-based tour company.

Tour member Jo Shuford said she was sitting on a chair swing on the main deck when smoke started to billow from below.

“At first I thought someone was grilling, but then it got worse,” the Matthews, N.C., native said. “It got to the point where I started to question it.”

Shuford and several other members of Christian Tours said a Delta Queen employee told them a lit cigarette was flicked off the boat and landed on the wooden area, starting the blaze. Garner said he had heard the same rumor but it was not confirmed.

When the fire crews returned from the boat, the occupants of the Delta Queen met them with jovial applause.

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