02/08/2012 07:28 EST | Updated 04/09/2012 05:12 EDT

3 N.B. Fishermen Plucked From Burning Boat


Three Grand Manan fishermen had to be rescued Wednesday morning after their boat caught fire just a few kilometres from where the ship's captain's father drowned 40 years ago.

It was the captain’s younger brother, Joseph Middleton, who answered the call for help.

“I thank the Lord above that he’s OK,” said Middleton, who's the New Brunswick production manager for Cooke Aquaculture and was able to send one of the company's nearby boats to assist.

"Our family’s learnt to have a lot of respect for the ocean," he said.

Captain Arthur Middleton told CBC News the day started off like any other.

He and two crew members headed out in his 13-metre fibreglass boat, Jesse and Girls, about 5:30 a.m. to fish for scallops in the Bay of Fundy.

About 7 a.m., when they were in Duck Island Sound, just off the eastern shore of the island, he noticed something coming from the engine room.

"I smelt wood burning so I checked it out and brought my gear back and tried to put the fire out," he said.

"I couldn’t get it out with the fire extinguisher and there was so much smoke, I had to get out."

Middleton called the Coast Guard. Then he called his brother.

"I might have been excited on the phone, but I never panicked," Arthur Middleton said. "If you panic, that's when things really happen."

Memories of father's drowning

It was, however, a scary call for his brother Joseph to get. It brought back memories of 1971 when their father was thrown overboard from his lobster boat and his body was never recovered.

"That’s the first thing that comes into my mind, sir, and my heart when there's someone in trouble on the water, on the ocean," Joseph Middleton explained.

"It's a very scary situation with a fire on board a vessel because there's nowhere to go except into the cold, freezing water.

"I'm just glad there was aquaculture guys around to help save his life," Joseph Middleton said. "As you can tell with the smoke, that fire was getting ready to go really out of control on that vessel."

Arthur Middleton said he shut off the engine and fuel tanks, and got the lifeboat ready, just in case.

But a Cooke salmon boat arrived within about 15 minutes, took him and the crew on board and towed their boat to shore.

Meanwhile, Arthur Middleton and a crew member from an auxiliary Coast Guard boat tried to extinguish the fire with a deck hose.

The fire department used foam to ensure the fire was out.

He estimates the damage to be in excess of $100,000, but has to wait for the insurance adjustor to assess the damages on Friday.

"Fire don't help out a boat," he said.

Still, the harrowing experience won't keep Arthur Middletown from doing what he loves.

"If you're scared of the water you don't want to be on it. I'm not scared of the water. I love fishing," he said.