Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Duluth fire crews battle blaze on 118-year-old lake freighter

The J.B. Ford, which is the oldest intact lake freighter still floating, has been housed at a scrapyard since 2015.

The oldest intact lake freighter still floating caught fire in Duluth on Monday. 

The Duluth Fire Department says crews responded at 3:21 p.m. to a call involving the J.B. Ford, a lake freighter that was in the process of being scrapped. 

According to FOX 21, the freighter was being dismantled at Azon Scrapyard on Rice's Point near the Blatnik Bridge. 

The fire department says a spark hit 118-year-old wood in the captain's area of the freighter, causing the fire.

Fire crews contained the fire and knocked down the flames within an hour. No injuries were reported. 

But fighting a fire on a freighter is much different than a structure fire on land. 

“When we’re going into a residential home or apartment building, a boat is not very different,” City Public Information Officer Kate Van Daele told FOX 21. “In terms of the questions that come into play of where to step, and they certainly have to do quite a bit of analyzing to make sure that they’re safe and they’re not putting themselves in harm’s way.”

Fire crews had to use a crane to lift up a portion of the freighter that was on fire so they could spray water all over the area so it didn't become more engulfed. 

The freighter's history

The J.B. Ford, which was launched in 1903 in Ohio with the name Edwin F. Holmes, is known for surviving two massive storms on the Great Lakes – the Mataafa Storm of 1905 and the Great White Hurricane of 1913, M Live reported in 2015 when the freighter was making its last voyage before being decommissioned. 

According to Professional Mariner, both storms "wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes region and took several ships and lives with them."

The J.B. Ford hauled iron ore, coal and grain at the start of its life, and then in the 1950s started hauling cement before being turned to a storage vessel, the publication reported in 2016. 

The freighter made its last voyage on Oct. 9, 2015, when a pair of tugboats towed the J.B. Ford two miles across the Duluth harbor to Azcon Metals, M Live said. 

There was an effort to save the turn-of-the-century freighter that predated both World Wars. Steve Haverty in 2012 launched the nonprofit Great Lakes Steamship Society in hopes to preserving the ship and turning it into a floating museum, M Live said.

But the society was unable to raise the $2-3 million needed to restore the J.B. Ford, the Professional Mariner said, noting the freighter was filled with asbestos and lead paint.

The latest forecast from Sven Sundgaard

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

Kirill Kaprizov

Kaprizov gets into the holiday spirit to rout Jets

Kirill Kaprizov's four points led the Wild to a 7-1 victory.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: Cure to Vikings' disrupted season lies in an explosive passing game

The Vikings go to San Francisco knowing that a win would be a huge boost to their playoff hopes.

unsplash football helmet ground

Judge upholds star QBs suspension for state championship game

Sam Backer, of Chatfield Senior High, won't be allowed to play in Friday's title game.

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.

Related

kozy bar fire

Fire at Kozy Bar building in Duluth is the second in 6 months

The building has been uninhabitable since a fire in 2010.

duluth fire house

15-year-old girl helps save family from burning home

“If she hadn’t woken up, and notified her parents, this could have been a different situation."

Screen Shot 2021-07-09 at 12.51.56 PM

Fire crews battling large blaze in downtown Virginia

The fire is impacting multiple businesses.

ice rescue 4

26 anglers rescued after Lake Superior ice sheet floats away in Duluth

After multiple trips, all the anglers were safely rescued from the ice and brought to shore.

duluth fire department rescue

Firefighters rescue teenager who got swept 350 feet out into Lake Superior

Four teens were swimming together off Park Point in Duluth when they began struggling.