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One boat’s generator backfired — igniting a blaze that quickly spread across SC lake

Boat fire spreads across South Carolina's Lake Hartwell

A fire raged through Portman Marina on Lake Hartwell that seriously injured one person, while damaging or destroying more than a dozen boats and a dock.
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A fire raged through Portman Marina on Lake Hartwell that seriously injured one person, while damaging or destroying more than a dozen boats and a dock.

Smoke, flames and explosions were seen on the waters of a South Carolina lake Monday.

A fire raged through Portman Marina on Lake Hartwell that seriously injured one person, while damaging or destroying more than a dozen boats and a dock, foxcarolina.com reported.

The fire started when a boat owner cranked a generator that backfired, according to wyff4.com.

The boat owner suffered burns to his face, neck and arms and was evacuated by helicopter to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia, independentmail.com reported, adding the man is believed to be in stable condition.

As the injured man's boat became engulfed in flames, the fire soon spread to other boats on the same dock at the Anderson County marina, according to foxcarolina.com.

"I just heard explosions and watched the flames grow and just get thicker," said Adam Medicus, who told wyff4.com that he moved his boat minutes before the fire started. "I saw stuff flying off the ceiling, hitting a bunch of boats, and falling in the water. I saw boats explode. Just smoke filled the entire sky."

Boats on fire were pulled away from the dock, emergency officials said, foxcarolina.com reported.

Emergency officials moved them to protect other boats and the dock, but also because many, if not all, of the docked boats had tanks full of fuel — an accelerant that would quickly ignite.

"You take 200 and multiply it by 20 boats, and that's what you have fueling this thing," Greg Shore said, according to independentmail.com. "We are just praying that the firefighters stay safe and hydrated."

Between 200 and 250 firefighters from 24 departments were called to fight the flames, wyff4.com reported.

The fire will be investigated by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Portman Marina draws thousands of visitors from South Carolina, Georgia and beyond each year, and is the site of an annual holiday flotilla that draws crowds from across the Upstate, according to independentmail.com.

There is no word on how the fire will impact any plans or celebrations for Memorial Day weekend.

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