Owners prepare to start cleanup at Seaport Marine

Feb. 3—MYSTIC — Except for the chain link fence that now surrounds the site of a Nov. 27 fire, the charred grounds of Seaport Marine hasn't really changed much.

There's a reason for that.

"We're dying to clean it up and the insurance company is not giving us the go-ahead to do it," Seaport Marine owner John Holstein explained on Friday.

So, for now, the charred timbers, piles of metal and burned remains of vehicles and boats off Washington Street will remain where they are even as the investigation into the cause and origin of the fire continues.

There are no indications there was anything criminal about the cause of the fire, Mystic Fire Marshal Anthony Manfredi Jr. has said.

Seaport Marine General Manager Harry Boardsen, said Friday he predicts it will be at least another week before the insurance company gives the green light for cleanup to start.

Once the cleanup is completed, Boardsen said Seaport Marine will continue to operate as a marina for the upcoming boating season. Despite the tremendous amount of damage the fire caused when it tore through a warehouse and residential home on the 11-acre property, the 122 boat slips and facilities were mostly unaffected, Boardsen said.

Much of the marina's operations, including boat storage, had shifted two years earlier to Noank Shipyard, a sister facility that has since been sold.

Boardsen and Holstein both credited the response by firefighters in limiting damage to the site.

"We're very fortunate no one was hurt," Boardsen said. "And we're happy nobody else was negatively affected."

Boardsen said there are no current plans of the magnitude of Smiler's Wharf in the works for the property. In 2019, Seaport Marine was the proposed site for the Smiler's Wharf development, which would have led to demolishing the aging warehouse buildings to make way for a hotel, marine service and events center, restaurant, apartment building, townhouses and 200-foot boardwalk, among other elements. The proposal was eventually withdrawn after public opposition.

Instead, Boardsen said, "We'd love to add some new marine facilities and expand the in-water offerings."

But for now, Boardsen said the focus will remain on cleanup to make the site safe. He said the company also plans to help repair damage to the fence at the nearby playground.

Mystic Fire Marshal Anthony Manfredi Jr. said he's assembled a team to investigate one of the largest fires in the historic village's history. He is working with his deputy fire marshal, three fire inspectors, the state fire marshal's office and specially-trained police detectives from the Stonington and Groton Town police departments. The work is done in conjunction with insurance company investigators, who bring their own experts in, Manfredi said.

The fire investigation team has duties that include interviews with witnesses, collection of camera footage, documentation of the scene and examination of the physical evidence. Manfredi said while it will still take some time to complete the investigation, there is no evidence to date that would indicate the fire was intentionally set.

"It's a huge footprint and takes a lot of time," Manfredi said. "Everybody has a common goal to find out what happened."

Manfredi declined to give a timeline for completion of the investigation.