Southeast commercial fisherman rescued from boat fire

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

A commercial fisherman lost his boat and his season's earnings in a fire Friday morning in Keku Strait near Kuiu Island, about 140 miles south of Juneau.

Kim Peterson, 43, a fisherman from the Craig area, was treated Friday afternoon at Bartlett Regional Hospital for smoke inhalation and released.

Peterson said he was headed toward Point Baker on Prince of Wales Island when he smelled smoke coming from a cooking stove inside his 42-foot fishing vessel Barbara Jean.

"I started to smell something and looked back at the stove, and there were flames shooting back from behind," Peterson said.

He sent out a distress signal at about 9 a.m. He turned off the engine and used fire extinguishers and 5-gallon buckets of water to try to put out the fire as thick black smoke billowed out of the ship.

"I was gagging and puking black stuff out of my lungs," Peterson said, but noted that his injuries were minor.

Peterson said the flames spread quickly, eventually reaching the ship's fuel tanks.

Sam Carlson, Herb Hoyt and Elmer Duncan of the fishing vessel Ruffies One responded to the distress call and took Peterson aboard their boat, but they were unable to put out the fire, the Coast Guard said.

Jim Barber, a Coast Guard search and rescue coordinator, said the Barbara Jean was engulfed in flames when a Coast Guard helicopter from Sitka arrived at the scene.

The crew of Ruffies One transported Peterson to Point Baker at about 11:15 a.m., where he was treated for smoke inhalation by local emergency medical technicians and a Coast Guard flight surgeon, Barber said. A Coast Guard helicopter airlifted Peterson from Point Baker to Juneau at about 1 p.m. for further treatment.

Peterson, a commercial fisherman for 20 years in Southeast Alaska, was returning to the Point Baker area after fishing for halibut. Along with his ship and fishing gear, Peterson said he lost all the money he made during the halibut season and six months worth of groceries he had just bought to stock the ship before heading back out to fish for king salmon.

"Every last scrap is gone," Peterson said.

Peterson said he has owned the fishing boat for three years but has no insurance.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Office will investigate the incident.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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