Man saves bulldogs first, then swims away from burning yacht


BREMERTON, Wash. (KOMO/CNN) - A couple lost their home, but is thankful their family is alive after their yacht caught fire and sank.

"It's overwhelming that we have to start from scratch," Mike Babbitt said.

"And that's probably as close to a punch in the gut as I've ever had," Jamie Babbitt, his wife, said.

Mike Babbitt risked his life to save his two dogs and keep the fire from spreading to other boats.

He was leaving his slip at the Bremerton Yacht Club to fuel up when smoke started to come from the boat. He didn't have much time to react.

That smoke from the engine compartment burst into a big, orange ball of fire.

"And I can tell right away that it was just more than I was gonna be able to do with an extinguisher," Mike Babbitt said.

His first instinct was to move the burning boat into the middle of the bay so it wouldn't spread.

"The wind was blowing from the north. That would have blown the boat back into the yacht club. So I just gave it all the power I could to get it away from the yacht club," Mike Babbitt said.

When his boat wasn't a danger to anyone else, his thoughts turned to his bulldogs, Hootie and Pearl. He put the 70 and 60-pound dogs on a paddleboard before jumping in the water, not taking a second thought for his own safety.

"I didn't even grab my own vest. I just slid into the water and started paddling away from the fire and I could still feel the heat from the fire," said Mike Babbitt.

Friends rescued him and the dogs. Then he went to a hospital where his wife met him.

"As I was driving from the freeway, I could see the smoke. It suddenly became very, very real," said Mike Babbitt.

Fighting for survival is part of Mike Babbitt's life as he's a retired detective with the Boise City Police Department. He also was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for five years with the Army.

"You just have to put it in perspective that we're still alive and we're still together. We'll just take it a day at a time and figure out the path we're going to walk next," Mike Babbitt said.

"And we're just thankful for the blessings that we've been given," Jamie Babbitt said.

Fire investigators are still working to confirm a cause for the fire.

The boat sank and is still under Phinney Bay.

The Babbitts started a GoFundMe to help them get back on their feet.

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