BATON ROUGE, La. — Sinking or catching fire are two of the worst dangers for commercial fishermen and their vessels.

Both happened to George Barisich two weeks ago when his beloved fishing vessel Peruga sank in Lake Borgne.

"They say fires, when they catch they catch," Barisich said. "Next second (fire) come up through the bathroom and the flames was coming. I had to run out the door. No wallet, no glasses, no phone. That's how quick it was."

The boat caught fire around 10 at night. By 10:20 p.m., thick smoke and flames had spread across the vessel.

Barisich said he and his deckhand Robert Campo, Jr., came close to jumping in the cold water.

But, somehow the winds that night kept the fire away from them long enough for the Coast Guard to rescue them.

"We hung on the back of the boat and we put some ice chests in front of us just to deflect the heat," Barisich said.

Tuesday, we caught up with Barisich safe and sound at his home in Baton Rouge.

"I came home and my daughter was crying," Barisich said. "I said don't cry. I made it. Luckily the good Lord kept me here."

Boat Fire before and after
All that is left is some of the hull and the metal rigging
George Barisich

Barisich has been fighting for Louisiana's seafood industry for nearly 30 years as president of the United Commercial Fisherman's Association.

Despite the fire, Tuesday he was expected to fly to Washington D.C., to seek disaster relief money for fishermen hurt by last year's Bonnet Carre Spillway openings.

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Freshwater from the Mississippi River inundated saltwater estuaries, killing oyster beds and driving away other forms of seafood.

Some of Barisich's friends created a Go Fund Me account to help him raise money to salvage what's left of his boat and for a down payment on a new vessel.

"I'm humbled by it," Barisich said. "I don't want to ask for any help, but I'm not too proud to take it."

Barisich is determined to get back on the water as soon as possible. He's hoping to be in a new boat in time for the brown shrimp season in May.

"I'll be there," he said. "I don't know on what boat yet."

Barisich may get a new boat, but he plans to keep the name of his old vessel, Peruga.

It was his father's nickname.

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