Fire breaks out on Spirit of Norfolk

More than 100 passengers on board

UPDATE: As of 10 pm Tuesday, crews are still battling the fire with a large portion of the vessel appearing to be fully engulfed.


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Fire broke out on board the Spirit of Norfolk cruise yacht Tuesday afternoon.

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Norfolk Fire and Rescue confirmed the fire was reported shortly after noon. The City of Norfolk said the Coast Guard called 911 at 12:10 pm about a fire on the Spirit of Norfolk, which was in the water near Pier 3 at Naval Station Norfolk.

The Hampton, Portsmouth and Norfolk fire departments all responded.

Naval Station Norfolk confirmed its tug boats and emergency services also aided in the firefighting efforts.

Norfolk spokesperson Stephanie Ramsey said there were more than 100 people on board at the time of the fire. No injuries have been reported, she said.

The passengers were all moved from the Spirit of Norfolk to the Victory Rover, which returned them to the dock at Town Point Park. The Spirit of Norfolk was towed to Pier 4 with its two crew members on board, the Navy said. Those crew members disembarked upon arrival.

There were two groups of students on board: a group of preschoolers from Virginia Beach, and 5th graders from Newport News.

It is a field trip elementary school student, Grace Telfare told 10 On Your Side she will never forget.

“It was stinky, and a bunch of smoke, and then we had to go to the other part of the boa,t and then get on another boat which was also scary because I thought I was going to fall.”

Parent Chaperone Jason Sleeth was playing foosball on deck when he smelled something burning. He looked over the side and saw flames. He said the crew did a great job of herding the groups and getting them all into lifejackets.

“I was a little nervous with kindergarteners and 5th graders. I figured it would be a little chaotic, but they were very brave and listened well. There were a few tears, but overall they did a really good,” he said.

The fire is still active, in the Spirit of Norfolk engine room. The Navy said there is no threat to the vessels docked at Pier 4, but personnel have been asked to remain clear of the waterfront area.

Chopper 10 flew above the Spirit of Norfolk shortly before 1 pm Tuesday. It was out in the Elizabeth River near Naval Station Norfolk. Video from Chopper 10 showed several tugs surrounding the boat. One of the tugs was actively spraying water on it. Smoke could be seen coming from the back left of the Spirit of Norfolk.

Several WAVY viewers reached out about the fire Tuesday and provided images from both on board the Spirit of Norfolk and from shore. You can view those images in the gallery below.

As of 6 pm Tuesday, Fire Chief Tony Sickell with Naval Station Norfolk said the fire was still ongoing as the fire vessel fire is “extremely complicated” and putting too much water on the boat could capsize it.

Sickell along with Captain David Dees, Naval Station Norfolk Commanding Officer, and representatives from
Naval Station Norfolk Fire and Emergency Services and Norfolk Fire and Rescue held a press conference on Pier 4 Tuesday evening to discuss the firefighting efforts.

Watch the press conference below:

The Spirit of Norfolk, a small cruise ship, offers dinner cruises and private group events. It was built in 1992 by Services Marine Industries and is currently owned by California-based Hornblower Group. It’s capacity is 372.

This is breaking news. 10 On Your Side is working to learn more. Check back for updates.

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