After a Bad Fire, Determination Prevails in Restoring PT 658
October 2, 2003
Restoration of PT 658 was nearly complete, when a fire on October 2, 2003, caused serious damage to the officers’ quarters and surrounding area. (See updated photos on the photo page). The fire started at the 24-volt electrical circuit panel on the bulkhead next to the skipper’s bunk. It badly damaged bulkheads, beams, ribs, bunk, shelves, desk, and the deck in the cockpit. Flames also spread to the crew’s quarters, but did not enter the engine room, although control cables and electric lines from there to the cockpit were damaged.
The fire started several hours after the last volunteer worker departed on Thursday afternoon, October 2. It was reported by personnel on a ship moored at Swan Island, across the lagoon from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center dock where the barge holding PT 658 is moored. The Portland Fire Bureau fire boat and fire engine personnel responded and quickly extinguished the fire, but serious damage had by then already occurred.
PT 658 was manufactured by Higgins Industries in New Orleans in 1945, but did not see active duty in World War II. The private owner in 1992 donated the boat to Save The PT Boat, Inc., composed of more than a dozen WW II PT boaters. Broad cooperative effort brought the boat from Oakland, CA. To Portland in the fall of 1994, and restoration began the next spring. Ravages of half a century of exposure left the boat in pretty bad shape. Half of the hull planking, all of the deck, the chart house, and many structural parts were replaced. The entire 78-foot boat was painted inside and out. Meanwhile, three Packard V-12, gasoline engines were acquired, reconditioned, and subsequently installed in the engine room on July 11, 2002. Restoration of fuel lines, oil lines, water lines, exhaust pipes, and electrical circuits was nearly completed when the fire occurred. Essentially all carpentry work had been completed.Volunteers immediately started planning how to remove fire-damaged parts and replace them with new material. To facilitate access to damaged areas inside the boat, the chart house and one chart house wing and 50-cal. Gun turret were moved aside, and the deck in that area was removed. Meanwhile, volunteers removed badly damaged beams, bulkheads, and other structures. Charred wood was cut, scraped, wire-brushed, sanded and vacuumed from parts not seriously damaged enough to require replacement. Mike Green, President of Maritime Classics Inc. Restoration and Repair has been engaged to assist in the installation of new material.
Katu news article:
October 3, 2003
Fire damages World War II patrol boat in Portland
PORTLAND - An accidental fire scorched a restored World War Two patrol boat in Portland tonight, causing an estimated $100,000 worth of damage.
According to the Portland Fire Bureau, the blaze was sparked by an electrical shortage in the patrol boat's onboard battery.
It burned a 15-by-15-foot section below the mahogany deck.
The 78-foot wooden boat, moored at Swan Island, has a value of $10 million.
It belongs to Save the PT Boat Incorporated, a non-profit group based in Portland.
Members hoisted the boat onto a floating deck nine years ago. They spent seven years restoring the craft -- and planned to put it in the water next year.
Tonight's fire will delay the project substantially, officials say.
Noted for their speed and stealth, patrol torpedo boats were employed in World War Two and Vietnam as the so-called Mosquito Fleet.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)