A group of fishermen were rescued by quick-thinking boaters after their vessel caught fire off the coast of Gabriola Island Wednesday.

The Coast Guard was alerted to the boat fire, in a high-traffic marine area one kilometre northeast of the island, at around 4:45 p.m.

Thick, black smoke and flames could be seen pouring out of the boat, a 22-metre commercial fishing vessel registered in Kodiak, Alaska.

It took rescue crews about half an hour to reach the burning vessel and in the meantime, a civilian sailboat pulled all five people aboard to safety.

“They were all reported to be in stable, good condition. No medical assistance was required, just a little bit shaken from the event,” said John Sartisohn of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

All of the fishermen were transported back to the Coast Guard’s hovercraft base on Sea Island in Richmond where they were met by an RCMP victim services unit.

Two firefighting boats eventually arrived on scene to try to extinguish the flames, but the boat was still too hot and it was left in the water and has since capsized, according to the JRCC.

As for the civilian rescuers who pulled the boaters to safety, Sartisohn praised their quick actions in a potentially life-threatening situation.

“I’d certainly say a job well done. We never want to see a vessel of opportunity put themselves in danger, so it takes an assessment on their part to see if they can react,” he said. “This is a pretty dangerous situation, but in the end, it all worked out well.”

The JRCC said the fire appears to have sparked in the ship’s engine room, but the cause is still unknown.

The vessel was reportedly in transit from Alaska to Oregon when it caught fire.