Smoke & Fire
Shortly after the longshoremen entered the ship's holds, they smelled smoke. Soon after, several of the men noticed smoke vapors near the surface of the hold on the inshore side of the ship. After they removed a few fertilizer bags, a small fire became visible ten to fifteen feet below, near the hull. Workers tried to put out the fire with several jugs of water and a fire extinguisher, but the flames continued to spread.
At 8:25 am, the railway terminal sounded a siren alerting the fire department. Two fire trucks were dispatched first, followed shortly thereafter by the two remaining trucks from the city's volunteer fire department. By this time, however, the area beneath the ship's hatches was heating so quickly that it is unlikely that water could have done much good to extinguish the fire.