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The blaze, at Underfall Yard in the Hotwells area of the city, started in the early hours of Saturday, with a plume of smoke visible across the city.
More than 20 people were evacuated from their flats close to Underfall Yard as a precaution, but they have now returned to their homes.
Group Manager Sean Spearing from Avon Fire and Rescue said they tried to prevent the fire from spreading.
In the case of one boat, it was moved from its mooring to stop the fire spreading to others.
"I had the tether lines cut from that boat and I had it taken out into the harbour and moored alongside the harbour wall by the Cottage pub," he said.
"The boat self-scuttled due to the fire spread within that boat. So we saved the other boats from being affected by fire.
"We had gas and acetylene cylinders, numerous paints and varnishes and processing equipment within the various units and that has helped to fuel the fire.
"Plus, being a Grade II listed building with the timbers, that's helped to drive that and produce the smoke plume that the residents of Bristol have been able to see."
Ian Wilkinson, chair of the Underfall Trust, said members of the community were in a "state of shock".
"It's really bad. It's the main shed - the building everyone can see, the forge to the side of it and the boat building to the other side. It's a big part of the heart of the Underfall Yard which has been burnt out.
"The positives are that no-one was killed and no-one injured but we have tenants' livelihoods that are in the balance.
"They're highly skilled and live hand-to-mouth. Our neighbours have had their lives disrupted too and the whole Underfall Yard community is reeling."
Underfall Yard has been crucial to the operation and maintenance of Bristol's Floating Harbour, which was dates back to the early 1800s.
The yard is home to maritime businesses involved in boatbuilding, marine engineering, metal working and training.
Both the Harbour Master and the Docks Engineer are based there.
A planned open swim at the harbour has been called off because firefighters are using water from the harbour.
This has led to "debris in the harbour water".
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04 October 2023