By Devin Fehely

MALIBU (KPIX 5) — Two Bay Area boaters and a dog were rescued from a life or death situation as flames engulfed their vessel off the coast of Malibu.

They had only minutes to react and call for help as the two men were headed back to Half Moon Bay.

The fast-moving fire sent a column of thick, black smoke billowing off the fishing boat.

When the first fire broke out, there were two people on board, Captain John Burris, a well-known fisherman and diver from Half Moon Bay, his passenger Jackson Gentry, and Burris’ dog “Rocket.”

“They were on their way to Half Moon Bay when they smelled smoke,” said Venture County Fire Chief Norm Plott. “When Mr. Gentry went to check it, a lot of smoke came billowing out the engine compartment.”

In a matter of minutes, the flames chased all three into the sea.

“The fire came out of the engine room and into the cabin. The captain, Mr. Burris, was able to get a mayday call out. They were in the water and got picked up by a good samaritan who happened to be close by at the time the fire started,” said Plott.

Plott noted that both men had survival suits which they donned immediately and even had a life jacket for the dog.

The only thing to spread faster than the flames was news of Burris’ narrow escape back home in Half Moon Bay.

“He’s definitely a survivor. He had a well-maintained boat,” fisherman David Bloom said.

Bloom said he’s known Burris for a quarter-century, and is saddened for the loss of his boat, but relieved his friend and everyone else on board was OK.

“He’s such a nice guy. He was so peaceful and calm he probably repelled evil people,” Bloom said.

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