In the Deadliest Catch episode airing June 21 on Discovery Channel, viewers will see some of the incredibly frightening incident that took place when the Northwestern, captained by Sig Hansen, caught fire. Fortunately, the crew was able to spring into action and control the fire, but not before Sig’s brother Edgar suffered from smoke inhalation, and several thousand dollars worth of damage was left to the ship.
We spoke with Sig Hansen ahead of tonight’s episode to see how he, his family and crew, and his ship were doing, and to find out what that intense experience was like.
How did the fire happen, and how intense was it putting it out?
Sig Hansen: I think it came about — the boats are getting older. She was built in ’77. It’s age. The panels were never intended for what they’re being put to nowadays. It’s adding more and more, the electrical systems and the hydraulic systems, and with little things just old age. I keep up on the boat. We take it out every year and try to do as much as we can to keep her super looking good. It’s one of the things you just never saw coming.
Has this ever happened to you before?
Yeah, we had a fire every upper town all up in the wheelhouse. I don’t know if they showed that on television or not. Matt Bradley caught it. He bumped into it and put his hand on there and thing was just glowing and red hot. I’m not saying it’s a common thing. We were just lucky that the guys were up and awake and maybe responded when they did.
How challenging was it to put the fire out?
It was a challenge because you’ve got all that smoke. I think had the guys been — if the guys were sleeping it would have been a whole different scenario. We were damn lucky.
Was everyone okay afterward?
No, my brother Edgar had smoke inhalation and he was pretty messed up. Like I said, I don’t know, you got to remember, they’ve only got so many hours to show what happens. I don’t know if they’ll even show that on the program.
Given your heart attack earlier this year, stress like this isn’t helpful to you, clearly. How are you holding up after this?
I was doing fine after the fact because I live in denial [laughs]. It’s a great world to live in. Me and denial are good friends. [But] I thin it took its toll, and it’s strange. When I look back now, I see things very differently.
Was there substantial damage to the boat?
The cost was well over, probably between I would say around $150,000, $200,000 worth of damage. I believe you replace the whole panel and it was a kicker fixing this harbor. They had to redo it here in Seattle when the boat came down. It was a lot of money.
Your daughter Mandy was on board with you. How old is she, and how did she handle the experience?
Mandy’s 20. She did well. At the time, it was all about the fire. When we got it put out, then I started thinking to myself, ‘Well, Jesus, here you have your brother’s on board, you have a second generation of family with Mandy.’ That’s when I started thinking then. A lot of it, on the way in, because we were hand-steering and trying to get the boat into the beach, that’s when I started to worry about her. I didn’t want to alarm her because we were never really out of the woods. It was very scary. She really wants to be a part of our family business, but this wasn’t something that I would wish on anybody.
Has this experience made you consider any additional precautions or safety measures you may want to implement?
Well, I mean everybody kind of sprang into action. We do safety drills. I was very surprised about how responsive the guys were. It’s almost like it happens on — and anybody in the Navy or police force, you go through these drills and it becomes just secondhand, right? You just do it. I was very happy about that. As far as what are you going to do different, there’s nothing you can do different. It’s a mechanical thing. You know? You just got to be ready. Very lucky. And they’re getting older, kind of like me.
Where does this fire rank among the most extreme incidents you’ve experienced in your years of fishing?
I would say it’s quite a ways up there. As far as extreme, we’ve had the boat on its side, it was sinking under our feet. That was scary. The fire kind of gets you after the fact because you have to react so quickly, but then you really see it after the fact when you get it out. You’re thinking, ‘Boy, you know, you’re in the middle of nowhere and had it been a different time of day or had the guys not responded as well as they did …’ That’s when you see it.
And viewers can see it in the June 21 episode of Deadliest Catch, airing at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery Channel. The episode is preceded by the return of The Bait at 8pm ET/PT. Here’s an exclusive sneak peek of the June 21 episode of The Bait: