THE shell of a 47' boat remains half submerged in the River Ouse today, after a fierce blaze completely destroyed it and covered parts of York with thick black smoke last night.

Dozens of firefighters tackled the fierce blaze on the boat, moored near King's Staith, from around 7pm yesterday.

The boat, a Fairline Squadron 57 called the Silver C of York burnt for more than three hours. Ouse Bridge was closed as thick black smoke - produced by burning diesel and the fibreglass boat's body - engulfed the area.

Several members of the public called 999 at about 7pm when they saw smoke coming from the boat. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service sent two officers in breathing apparatus on to the boat to see if anyone was on board, but it was empty.

The owners, who lived on the boat, told firefighters they had recently filled the boat's fuel tank with diesel and the fire brigade were concerned about a possible explosion.

At the blaze's height, 35 firefighters and seven engines were on the scene.

They tried to place booms on the river to prevent the flow of diesel but have were unable to.

Seven fire crews from York, Acomb, Tadcaster and Huntington were called to deal with the fire.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Fire Service said a number of calls were received from members of the public.

"No persons are believed to be involved in the incident," he said. "We are dealing with a quantity of marine fuel which was involved in the fire. Due to the large quantities of smoke a number of neighbouring properties were evacuated as a precautionary measure."

Members of the public were advised to avoid the area at the time but large crowds gathered on both sides of the river to watch the incident unfold.

One man who was watching the scene at 10pm from King’s Staith said he had been at Reel Cinema earlier this evening and could smell the fire as he left.

“As soon as I came out you could smell it and there was a thick fog, like bonfire night.”

Customers at the riverside bars and restaurants had to be evacuated while the fire was being tackled.

Nicky Drake who works at the Waterfront Restaurant on King’s Staith said diners had had to abandon their meals and drinks and leave the building.

“The fire took about two hours to put out. It was out eventually at about 9.30pm but there was black smoke billowing.

“The poor man [owner] was in the King’s Arms and someone went to get him. He ran on to the boat. It all started really slowly at first but then ignited. I have never seen anything like it. You could taste it in your mouth. When he came off his legs just buckled."