A diesel powered Houseboat on the river Lee near London was gutted by fire last night, the third attack by arsonists on this stretch of river in the past few months.
Last year, a houseboat yards from the same site was completely destroyed by what was thought to be a suspicious fire.
A second houseboat was gutted overnight while moored on the River Lee at Nazeing several months ago.
When the fire started crews, from Cheshunt and Waltham Abbey, spent 90 minutes putting it out but had to return at 7am when the boat began to sink, causing its fuel tank to split and diesel to pour out.
At first it was feared the houseboat’s owner was trapped inside the vessel, but fire crews found it to be empty.
Parts of the River Lee were blocked off for hours as emergency crews, along with officers from Environment Agency, worked to contain the rest of the boat’s fuel.
“We returned to the scene after being alerted by fire investigation officers that the boat was sinking and about to spill diesel from its tank into the river,” said a fire brigade spokesman.
“We closed off the lock to prevent further spread and immediately launched an emergency mop-up using environmental kits carried on our appliances.”
An investigation into the cause of the fire is being carried out but it is believed the blaze could have been the work of arsonists.
The Environmental Agency said it was one of the best examples of a fire service pollution preventative operation they had seen.
One onlooker said: “The firefighters were amazing. They effectively stopped a massive disaster from occurring on the river by containing the rest of the fuel.”
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