By Deb Patterson
LAKE WAWASEE — The cause is not known, but one of 10 barges used to shoot off fireworks on Lake Wawasee was destroyed by fire Saturday evening, July 3.
Turkey Creek Fire Territory responded, using the airboat and portable pumps to extinguish the fire from a safe distance. Fire Chief Mickey Scott said precautions were taken due to live firework shells still on the barge. Firefighters were also stationed off Sunrise Drive on Ogden Point in case the barge broke loose and drifted toward piers and land.
Chris Campbell, fireworks director for Wawasee Property Owners Association, reported a fire broke out on one of the 10 barges 15-20 minutes into the show. Only one-half the show was then shot off.
It is believed a shell or fountain caught the wood of the barge on fire. He said the fire had melted one of the anchor lines causing the boat to shift and rotate toward Ogden Island. The barge came within 700 feet of shore.
Lake Patrol officers worked to keep boaters away from the burning barge and notified the fire department.
Campbell explained there are three clusters of barges harnessed together containing the fireworks. The other two barges in that cluster were not damaged.
Since the fireworks are fired off through a wireless signal, no one was on any of the barges at the time, and the crew was able to interrupt the signal to other sections on the barges to keep the fireworks from going off.
He noted if there were fireworks going off after the display was halted, it was due to the fire reaching the unlit shells.