12/27/2011 12:22 EST | Updated 02/26/2012 05:12 EST

$40M marina fire blamed on faulty lighting

Fire officials say an electrical fault likely caused a massive $40-million boathouse fire last week in Port Lambton, Ont.

Several boats and cars went up in flames Dec. 20, in the community on the shores of the St. Clair River, south of Sarnia.

The St. Clair Township Fire Department fought the stubborn blaze for more than 17 hours.

Chief Roy Dewhirst said an investigator from Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal narrowed down the cause after sifting through the mounds of rubble.

"We eliminated the chances of something within any one of the boats; we eliminated the chances of heaters, anything gas related," said Dewhirst, who worked with the investigator. "It led us back to the electrical."

Dewhirst said a light or its bulb may have malfunctioned dropping burning embers onto one of the boats stored up high near the roof line.

Boats were stacked to the top of the 9-metre structure.

"The light bulb could have possibly broken and then a hot ember or a spark could have come down on one of the boat tops. It could have shorted out into one of the ballast's and again overheated and then dropped pieces or drippings down on top of it," Dewhirst explained.

Dewhirst said the investigator took pieces of a light fixture away for further forensic testing and it could be three months before the department gets the final results of the forensic testing.