A fisherman’s effort to rebuild the vessel Erin went up in smoke early Monday.

Brian O’Riley was working on the 36-foot fiberglass boat behind the post office and had stepped into a trailer he was using as a shop about 20 feet away when he “heard a crackling noise” behind him. When he looked out, the vessel and a shed built around it were engulfed in flames.

“I was only in the shop for a few minutes (cutting fiberglass), but it was too far gone. I said, ‘Forget it,’ and called 911,” O’Riley said.

O’Riley said he was adding fiberglass to the vessel’s holds. He said the fire may have originated with a touchy oil stove inside the vessel that had been turned on.

O’Riley said he recently put a new engine and transmission in the boat. He said he was unsure whether those would be salvageable. “It’s close to a total loss. I don’t know if an engine can stand that much heat.”

“I was planning on launching it this spring. That’s not happening now. It’s like spending years building a house and having it burn down just before you move in,” O’Riley said.

Even watching as firefighters cut large holes into the vessel, O’Riley was optimistic. “It’s all right, man. Nobody died. I’m healthy. It’s just an object.”

O’Riley was also optimistic Tuesday, having salvaged the shaft, rudder chute, propeller and other parts of the transmission. A mechanic was looking at the engine to see if it could be restored.

An insurance policy that came with a loan for the new engine will cover some of his losses, he said. “It doesn’t cover my losses, not even close. But it covers my loan with the state for the engine. Now I might ask for a loan for a boat. But if we can salvage the engine, that would make my day.”

The Erin was built in 1974 and was fished in Kodiak as a pocket seiner. O’Riley said he recently rebuilt the boat’s pilot house and flying bridge. He was converting it into a gillnetter that would have been twice as fast and twice as spacious as his current vessel, the Lynn Christie.

Firefighters said the vessel’s fiberglass made the fire burn hot and long. The blaze also destroyed a shed O’Riley had built over the vessel.

The fire started a few minutes after 9 a.m.

O’Riley has worked as a gillnetter here since 1987. He also has served as a sports coach, primarily working with junior high students.

O’Riley said he has been working on the boat for years, on and off, as he has time for the project.