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It could take months to identify all 8 victims of Alabama boat blaze, fire chief says

DNA and dental records will have to be used as investigators slowly reconstruct deadly incident.
People on boats patrol near the charred remains of a dock following a fatal fire at a Tennessee River marina in Scottsboro, Ala., on Jan. 27, 2020. Authorities said the explosive fire was reported overnight while people were sleeping on boats tied up at the structure.Jay Reeves / AP

It could take up to six months before identities of all eight people killed in a massive Alabama marina fire can be learned, authorities said Tuesday.

Investigators will need to use DNA and dental records to conclusively identify some of the people who died Monday on houseboats docked at Jackson County Park, along the Tennessee River, in Scottsboro, Alabama, about 100 miles northeast of Birmingham and 40 miles east of Huntsville, officials said.

"That identification process is going to take potentially a great deal of time," Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus told reporters. "That could take up to six months, unfortunately. Unfortunate for everybody, but particularly for the families."

In total, 35 boats were destroyed in Monday's blaze.

"I'm not comfortable releasing names and ages until we have absolute certainly," the fire chief said.

Officials believe they have recovered remains on all eight victims, but dive teams were still at work on Tuesday just to make sure.

"We remain at eight fatalities. We are cautiously optimistic that that's the number we're going to have," Necklaus said.

Fire officials said they're in the early stages of the investigation, but have already zeroed in on one vessel as a potential source of the fire.

"One of the boats that they're looking at heavily has been removed from this site at a secure location so they're looking at it there," Necklaus said.