MARTINEZ -- A fire that damaged an old fishing pier along the Martinez Marina late Sunday night may have been sparked by a lit cigarette, but investigators likely will never know if the blaze was purposely set, a fire marshal said Monday.

The one-alarm fire started just before 11 p.m. at the marina on North Court Street and took crews about three hours to extinguish, said Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Robert Marshall.

The fire did not injure anyone, but it did damage the pier and some of its surrounding pillars, Marshall said.

The relatively small blaze was difficult to fight because it was tricky to approach from both the water and the pier side, Marshall said. Crews used boats at one point to get close to the blaze.

The pier is a popular fishing spot and is also frequented by transients. Fire investigators found cigarette butts inside one of the pillars, in a hole that had been carved out to be an ashtray, Marshall said. Other discarded material at the scene also was flammable, he said.

"It's impossible to tell if this was malicious," he said. "It's possible that it may have come from a lit cigarette, but we don't know for sure."

Investigators found a plastic folding chair amid the debris, but such chairs are not unusual in the area because people fish from the pier, Marshall said.

A small structure at the end of pier that used to serve as the Ferry Master's building burned and sustained some exterior damage, but the interior remained mostly intact, Marshall said. The building was not in use.


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Crews kept the blaze from spreading to other parts of the marina.

Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com'3rderh.