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This article was published 19/6/2012 (1862 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SELKIRK -- The fire that destroyed the MS Lord Selkirk II was deliberately set, but before the flames were out, the storied vessel's fate had ignited a war of words on who was to blame for its long, sad decline.
Once proudly touted as the biggest cruise ship between the Great Lakes and the Rockies, the Lord Selkirk sailed the Red River to Lake Winnipeg for nearly 20 years and welcomed the Queen on a royal visit to celebrate Manitoba's centennial in 1970.
Fire crews were dispatched Tuesday after a noon-hour 911 call reported flames aboard the relic, which has rusted in a slough north of Selkirk since 1990.-P96xavpg.js">
It would take firefighters the entire afternoon to douse the blaze but not before the top two floors of the vessel were gutted.
Local politicians were clearly frustrated by the inability to get the ship removed before the fire.
"There will be hell to pay. We had to put guys on that thing to get the fire out. Lives on the line due to irresponsible ownership," Selkirk deputy mayor Duane Nicol scolded in a Twitter message.
Mayor Larry Johannson, returning from the fire scene, called the ship an eyesore and a safety hazard.
Successive city councils tried to move the hulk out of its watery grave, he said. But unable to dismantle it themselves, the mayor said the city hoped new owners would do the job for them this spring.
The city's planning department signed a permit last week to allow new owners, represented by a Toronto scrap firm, to cut up and haul out the hulk.
Homeowners near the site expressed frustration while history buffs lamented the Lord Selkirk's decline.
"I'm beefed," nearby homeowner Shelley Floss said after fire crews evacuated her and half a dozen others for the afternoon.
"It needs to be dismantled... I've been talking to the City of Selkirk about the vandalism there. I've called the police three or four times and last year, one officer asked me if it was my boat. I said, 'Are you kidding me?' It's been sitting there for 20 years and something needs to be done about it," Floss said.
Former owner Joseph Slogan also noted the vandalism, and said nobody wanted the ship as a piece of history.
"I offered it to a marine museum but they weren't interested," said Slogan, who preferred to remember the ship's glory days.
"The highest moment it had was when the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, I guess, it was 1970 for Manitoba's centennial. They were all on the Lord Selkirk. That was something. It really was a historical marker."
History buffs came close to eulogizing the ship.
"It's truly sad that such a once great ship has come to such an unfitting end," Adrian Ames, a captain for Paddlewheel Riverboats, wrote in an email.
"Everyone would have liked to have seen it as a floating casino and plenty tried. It just didn't happen," said Mel Stuart, a consultant involved in the ship's final sale. "It's been 20 years rusting in that swamp."
It took six hours, the temporary evacuation of several homes, and 26 volunteers to put the fire out.
"Because we were fighting it from outside, it was a challenge to get the water in," Selkirk fire Chief Dan Thorsteinson said. "We used compressed foam and we foamed the heck out of it."
The hull was listing after the blaze, making it more of a hazard than ever.
In recent years, youths were seen to frequent the ship for late-night drinking parties. The night before the fire, one resident reported counting 20 partiers aboard.
Manitoba Conservation and the Fire Commissioner's Office of Manitoba were investigating the cause of the fire and its impact on the environment. City workers were building a fence to keep people out Tuesday night.
-- with files from Katherine Dow