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Explosion and Fire at Oxbow Marina

Monday Night’s Explosion and Fire

Just as we were preparing to Zoom in to a Storytelling Night presented by Island Yacht Club’s Women’s Sailing Seminar, we were startled by a very loud explosion. We looked in the direction of the blast, toward the G Dock boat shed, and saw nothing for a moment. Neighbors ran outside to see what had caused the noise. Suddenly, the stern of a powerboat burst into flames, and we heard another explosion.

Fire at dusk
As dusk fell, at 7:30, the fire was spreading, radiating a wall of heat and pouring out a huge plume of black smoke.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The scene was Oxbow Marina on Georgiana Slough in the Delta, the time 7 p.m. on Monday evening. Our vantage point was Latitude’s ‘Delta Bureau’, a house facing the marina. So many observers dialed 911 at once that we jammed the circuits. Residents began hosing down their decks and preparing to evacuate, and boaters in situ began moving their craft out of the way of danger, one even towing a houseboat.

Nearby mariners who were at the marina on a Monday night evacuated their boats. Some of these are still berthed at the guest dock, a popular stop for Delta sailors, at the opposite end of the marina from the conflagration.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Fire Crews to the Rescue

River Delta Fire District Engine 94 picks up the story: “At 7:02 p.m., River Delta Fire District Engine 94, along with our mutual aid partners, responded to a second-alarm structure fire at Oxbow Marina. While en-route, Battalion 94 provided a condition reported of a large black column of smoke. Additional resources were immediately requested.

“A ‘direct’ fire attack was initiated by Engine 94 and following mutual aid engines. The fire was stopped from advancing further into area and boats. River Delta Firefighters will remain on scene on fire watch throughout the night with engine 294 and Engine 94 and 549 ready for response from station 94.

“No injuries to civilians or firefighters were reported. The cause of the fire … is under investigation.” Locals have speculated that it a battery on board that first boat exploded.

River Delta Fire District wishes to thank Isleton Fire Department, Montezuma Fire Protection District, Woodbridge Fire District, Walnut Grove Fire, medicambulance and Cosumnes Fire.”

The blaze seemed destined to completely destroy G Dock and possibly jump to F Dock. Homeowners worried about flying embers. But the light breeze pushed the column of smoke directly down G Dock, not toward the encircling homes or neighboring boat sheds. We packed up the cat first, then some necessities, and loaded all into our inflatable dinghy, tied off our swim stairs, and prepared to evacuate by water. There’s only one way out by road, and we feared that that exit might be blocked. Nevertheless, we held off and took pictures.

At 7:57, we breathed a sigh of relief, and a general cheer went up when a fireboat from Walnut Grove motored into the marina, having come down Georgiana Slough. From our point of view, the fireboat seemed to turn the tide on the raging fire.

At 8 p.m., the fireboat crew threw some water onto the roof of F Dock, then onto the fire.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The roof and walls of the boat shed are made of corrugated metal, but its support structure is wood. Soon the roof began to fall.

Video by

Tuesday’s Aftermath

The next day, we were surprised at the extent of the damage. We had expected more destruction. The fire had claimed four boats and the corresponding section of boat shed. Although the roof had fallen, it was a limited section, and, amazingly, the side wall was only scorched and the boats across the dock from those that burned appeared to suffer only minimal damage.

Partially damaged dock with boom
Checking on the scene the next day.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

On Tuesday, the marina maintenance crew was already hard at work on cleanup. A crew from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department arrived by boat. Representatives from California Fish and Wildlife and Contra Costa County’s fuel spill response team were on site. They’d placed a boom around the damaged dock, but burnt debris speckled the water and a telltale iridescence sheened its surface.

Fish and Wildlife officer and man in Tyvek suit
What a mess! Officials and maintenance crew got to work right away.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Our condolences to the owners who lost their boats, and best wishes to the marina and nearby boatowners with repair and cleanup.

This is Selene, a wooden trawler, the last in the line of boats destroyed.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris


  1. Christine Weaver 3 years ago

    Today, Wednesday, Parker Diving Service, Berry Bros. Towing, and TowBoatUS were working at refloating and hauling out the burned boats that sank on Monday night. Quite an operation.

  2. nabor 3 years ago

    Have they determine the cause yet? Was it truly an exploding battery?

    • Christine Weaver 3 years ago

      Haven’t heard an update on the cause of the fire.

  3. Leila Mazo 3 years ago

    Great report and pictures! Thank you for the update, glad everyone was safe as you watched this unfold.

  4. Bruce Sinclair 3 years ago

    Great job, Christine!

  5. Christine Weaver 3 years ago

    The four burned-up boats have been towed/hauled out. Here’s an update from Oxbow Marina: One boat exploded, three boats sank, and there is damage to 16 slips within G Shed. No one was hurt! The cause of the fire is still being investigated. We’ve had owners and proper authorities on-site at all times to ensure we are taking all of the right legal and environmental steps.

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