(Twitter/Nanaimo Port Authority)

UPDATED: Five people rescued after boat catches fire near Gabriola Island

Incident happened late Wednesday afternoon east of Nanaimo

A fire on a fishing boat led to a marine rescue near Gabriola Island late Wednesday afternoon.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre reported to media that five people were rescued from an American fishing boat after a fire broke out aboard the craft.

The Sea Valley II was passing Thrasher Rock off the southeast tip of Gabriola Island when the craft caught fire.

“It was a fishing boat on its way from Alaska, apparently, to Oregon,” said David Mailloux, Nanaimo Port Authority spokesman.

Mailloux said according to reports, the vessel was engulfed in flame in seconds.

John Rose, search and rescue coordinator at the joint rescue coordination centre in Victoria, said the centre was notified of the fire at 4:40 p.m.

“At that point we tasked the coast guard hovercraft from Sea Island, we tasked the auxiliary from Nanaimo and we also had some vessels of opportunity responded,” Rose said.

He said the people aboard the burning craft were evacuated off the boat by a sailboat that was in the area. They were transferred to the coast guard hovercraft when it arrived on scene.

“The coast guard medics assessed them for any injuries. There was no injuries and then the persons were transported away from the scene back to Vancouver where they were met by the RCMP for customs and immigration because they were U.S. citizens,” Rose said.

Mailloux said both Nanaimo Port Authority patrol vessels MV Eagle and MV Osprey responded to the mayday and were tasked by the coast guard to set up a safety perimeter and assist with fire suppression.

“Once the fire got to a certain point we were able to go in and put some suppression on it along with the Seaspan Swift, which also knocked down the fire and made it available for us to get in a little closer,” he said.

Rose said the fire was just one of 23 cases the joint rescue coordination centre responded to in the region in a span of about 12 hours Wednesday. The centre deals with about 3,500 cases annually, the bulk of which occur in the summer months.

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