Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 3:51 PM on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Charter fishing vessel catches fire late Sunday; no one injured

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

A fire late Sunday afternoon aboard the Optimist, a 28-foot Uniflite used for charter sport fishing, ended well, thanks to the fast actions of the captain, Daniel Donich of Daniel's Personalized Guide Service, and Stanley Haman, the captain of a nearby vessel. No one was injured, everyone kept the halibut caught earlier in the day and Donich has a spare engine and is "hoping to have (the Optimist) back in the water in a couple of days," he told the Homer News on Monday.

Donich was returning to Homer after a day of fishing, just off the end of the Homer Spit, when a fuel line developed a leak and caused a fire near the manifold. The vessel lost power and Donich got his six customers on deck.

"I went back inside, got the fire extinguishers, cracked the engine room hatch open and started squirting the extinguishers on the engine," he said.

Signs that a vessel was on fire drew a quick response from the 28-foot Chaser, a privately owned vessel operated by Stanley Haman of Kenai.

"We turned around, went over and gave (Donich) a couple more fire extinguishers," said Haman, noting other vessels also headed toward the Optimist to lend a hand.

With two passengers already on his boat, Haman offered to remove the six aboard the Optimist. Donich used the additional two extinguishers given to him by Haman to ensure the fire was completely out.

Haman said Donich's passengers "were pretty calm. It was just a smoky deal." He also teased the fishermen, telling them, "Now, you've got smoked halibut."

Using an auxiliary motor, Donich returned to the Homer Harbor.

U.S. Coast Guard and Homer Harbormaster personnel were alerted of the fire, with the Harbormaster staff assisting the Optimist into its stall.

Donich, who has chartered out of Homer since 1988, and operated the Optimist for the past 18 years, has two items on the top of his to-do list. The first is thanking Haman. The second is replacing the Optimisti's damaged engine.

"It'll be some long nights, but we'll get it done," he said.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.