SAUGUS — An orange lobster boat “Dependable” sits patiently in the Saugus River. Its captain, George Mabee, is healing from wounds sustained in a house fire two weeks ago and is unable to work.
“The season is just starting to kick off now, it’s just picking up,” said Mabee. “Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to be there to do anything because I’m too prone to infection right now. Lobstering is my whole business.”
July 29 started off as a normal day for Mabee, a commercial fisherman. But by the end of it, he found himself lucky to be alive.
“I was fishing on Sunday and at about 4 in the afternoon I went home and had some jelly lobsters,” he said. “The ones with the soft shells. I had some fresh mackerel that I was cooking in a frying pan when the oil splattered onto the heating element and started a flame.”
Mabee, who lives in a multi-family home, ran to his neighbor’s door to alert him of the danger. When he returned, he tried to move the frying pan to the sink and the fire worsened, he said.
Struck by the flames, Mabee still managed to get out of the building. He was met on the front lawn by first responders, who ran into the burning home and pulled out his dog, Max. His other dog, Tucker, was already out of the house, he said.
A veterinary technician happened to be outside the home, and helped administer oxygen to Max using the fire department’s dog mask, said Fire Chief Michael Newbury.
Mabee’s 17-year-old daughter was not home at the time.
Mabee was brought to Massachusetts General Hospital with burns on his arms, head, and forehead. He was released a day later, but is still returning every few days for follow-up visits with his doctor. A visiting nurse changes his bandages daily at his brother’s home in Saugus, where he is staying.
“The landlord said it will be six months before I can get back in, but I came too close to not being here today for that,” he said.
The Saugus native comes from a long line of lobstermen. Both his grandfather and father were fishermen. His father died when he was young, and the family lost his commercial fishing license, but Mabee continued to work pulling traps on his neighbor’s boat.
About eight years ago, he bought the boat and license from his neighbor, painted the boat orange, and became a lobsterman with his own vessel.
“The color is from Nova Scotia, where my family is from,” said Mabee. “It’s Nova Scotia orange.”
Mabee will be looking for a new place to live, but faces the added challenge of not being able to haul lobster traps during the busiest few weeks of the season. He’s not sure when he’ll be able to get back behind the wheel of his boat.
A lifelong family friend, Josef Koch, who owns Clean Joe Inc., a cleaning and restoration services business in Saugus, has set up a GoFundMe page to help Mabee get back on his feet.
“He lost everything,” said Koch. “He’s a fisherman. He doesn’t live the high life. He just needs some help.”
Donations can be made at gofundme.com/george-mabee.