A fire broke out in the woodshop of Weld Boathouse shortly after 6 p.m. yesterday, shooting flames 30 feet in the air and damaging windows and supplies stored in the ground-level room.
Six members of the women's heavyweight crew team were in the building when the fire started, but no one was injured, officials said.
Firefighters on the scene would not estimate the extent or cost of the damage.
Spontaneous combustion of flammable materials stored in the shop sparked the blaze, R.C. Cully, Cambridge deputy fire chief, said yesterday. An asbestos door triggered by the fire alarm system closed, preventing the flames from spreading into the adjacent room where about 100 boats are stored, Carey B. Graves, women's crew coach, said yesterday.
An unidentified man ran into the boathouse shouting, "Fire! Fire! Get out of the building," alerting the six women of the blaze, Natali A. Roe '81, a team member, said yesterday.
Sarah J. Spence '84, a member of the crew team, notified Cambridge fire officials of the blaze immediately.
"It looked like the whole place was going to burn down," Spence said.
Firefighters arrived within twenty minutes Cully said, and quickly doused the flames. They also blocked traffic on Memorial Drive between Plympton Street and Boylston Street, where the boathouse is located.
Damage to the structure of the building was minimal because it is mostly brick, Sgt. Richard W. Smith of the Cambridge police said yesterday.
Graves said the room where the fire occurred, which was used to paint and repair boats used by the crew teams, contained flammable liquids such as turpentine and paints, as well as several oars.
"If you get the right temperature and the right substance, see you later," Cully said.
Neither firefighters nor Buildings and Grounds officials would comment on the probable cost of the damage or how soon it could be repaired.
Spence said an infrequently-used bat, and a motorcycle may also have been in the room.
Three fire trucks and several police cars stayed at the scene of the five until about 7:30 p.m., blocking traffic and attracting a small crowd of spectators until the fire was completely doused.