A police boat and a B.C. Ferries vessel responded to a large yacht on fire off the coast of Galiano Island near Active Pass Wednesday afternoon.
The 3 p.m. sailing of the Spirit of British Columbia from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay was diverted to assist the boat. Black smoke and flames from the boat were shooting high into the air when the ferry arrived.
“I’ve never seen black thick smoke like that before. By the time we got there it was fully engulfed,” said Kim Steel, a Vancouver resident heading to the Island to visit her mother. Passengers were told the ferry was diverting in case anyone on the boat needed medical assistance.
“We were standing by in case there were any injuries but we were told the people on the boat, plus a dog, were able to get out onto a dinghy,” Steel said, adding she could see the dinghy floating between two boats that responded to the fire.
“We were preparing to launch our rescue boats but with the arrival of police boats, we decided to stand down,” said Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries.
B.C. Ferries responds to 20 to 25 marine rescues a year, Marshall said.
Steel said she was impressed with the quick response from emergency crews and the ferry captain. “I’ve been riding the ferry for 30 years and I’ve never been on a rescue before. He turned this thing on a dime,” she said.
Passengers were told the ferry was set to arrive at Swartz Bay by 5:10 p.m.
Coast guard officer Darren Morely said the two boaters got into a dinghy with their dog and paddled away from the burning boat. A nearby vessel picked them up.
He said there were no reported injuries, but an RCMP boat took the pair to a nearby medical clinic as a precaution.
Morely said coast guard vessels remained at the scene as the boat burned.
There’s no word on what caused the fire.
With a file from The Canadian Press