A massive boat dock fire in Alabama early Monday killed at least eight people, including minors, authorities have confirmed. Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus says it will take days to confirm the identities of the victims and learn the cause of the fire, which destroyed dozens of boats, AL.com reports. The chief says the fire is "one of the most devastating things" he has ever seen. Necklaus says the number of dead could go up, "because we don't know how many were on boats" that sank. The blaze, which began just after midnight, destroyed the wooden dock and at least 35 boats. An aluminum roof that covered many boats melted, cutting off escape routes, the AP reports.
Necklaus says some of the burning boats floated away from the dock before sinking. Authorities say some of the boats anchored at Dock B in Jackson County Park along the Tennessee River were houseboats that served as primary residences for the owners, the Jackson County Sentinel reports. Some of the seven survivors pulled from the water were treated for hypothermia. Marina resident Tommy Jones tells the AP that winds rapidly spread the blaze and he and several other men could only watch helplessly as flames engulfed a boat carrying a woman and her children. "We didn't have time to do nothing," says Jones, who cut several boats free before swimming 200 yards to shore. His brother, Yancey Roper, drowned after swimming in a different direction. (Read more Alabama stories.)