Children rescued after fire on B.C. school ferry
No injuries have been reported after an engine fire broke out on a school boat in B.C. waters on Thursday morning.
The ferry, called the Graduate, was in Active Pass taking students and staff from Galiano Island and Mayne Island to Pender Island and Salt Spring Island when it suffered mechanical issues, according to the Gulf Islands School District (SD64).
The fire was discovered by crew members after an engine alarm activated. The flames were "quickly extinguished" and all safety procedures were followed by the operator, Gulf Islands Water Taxi, according to the school district.
First responders received reports of the fire around 7:30 a.m., according to Lt-Cdr. Tony Wright with Maritime Forces Pacific.
A Canadian Coast Guard team stationed in Ganges, on Salt Spring Island, responded to the emergency, as well as a BC Ferries vessel, the Coastal Renaissance.
The school district says 33 people – 31 students and two adults – were aboard the vessel at the time of the fire, and all passengers were safely transferred onto another Gulf Islands Water Taxi boat called the Scholar.
SD64 secretary treasurer Jesse Guy says students onboard the vessel were in Grades 6 – 12.
"We share the concern of family and community," said Guy on Thursday morning. "We have reached out to impacted families and will continue to do so."
She adds that students were met by district staff when they came ashore, and have been offered counselling supports at their schools.
"We have been assured by Gulf Island Water Taxi, the contract holder of our district's student water transportation, that all safety procedures were followed during the incident," said Guy.
The coast guard has since towed the Graduate to North Saanich, B.C., for repairs.
BC FERRIES RESPONSE
BC Ferries says it was contacted by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria to assist with a vessel in distress in Active Pass on Thursday morning.
The Coastal Renaissance, which was travelling from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay at the time of the fire, launched a rescue boat to assist in the rescue.
It was later stood down by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and BC Ferries did not take on any passengers from the Graduate.
"BC Ferries is involved in marine rescues from time to time and our crews are highly trained to respond to marine emergencies," said BC Ferries spokesperson Astrid Chang.
The ferry was delayed about 30 minutes due to the incident.
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