Are you prepared for a boat fire?

PacificBlue

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Nov 25, 2011
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I have noticed a trend of more boat fires over the last few years, be it charter or private boats and not just in our local waters, there have been quite a few recent yacht fires in various locations in the Mediterranean. More so than in the past.

I have had one fire onboard, in the 80’s had a radar display cable short and flames shooting out in the early morning at San Clemente Island. Was quickly handled with a fire extinguisher but still a bit unnerving to see flames onboard the boat.

On another occasion, we had picked up our boat after repairs to the GMC Toro-Flow Diesels and were coming back from Long Beach to Dana Point. Lost power in the stbd engine and shut it down, opened the engine compartment and observed the copper fuel line to one of the injectors cracked and spraying copious amounts of fuel , luckily forward and not aft to the hot turbo. If it would have sprayed aft, no doubt we would have caught fire and been swimming, although we always carried a Zodiac inflatable ready to go at all times.

Lastly, working in the industry, had a yacht owner with an engine room fire off of Cat Harbor, the reman AC Delco starter that was original equipment on his Cummins QSM 11 Diesels shorted and caught fire. Luckily no injuries and the boat was able to be repaired.

Do you have enough of the right types of fire extinguishers onboard and easily accessible? Not hidden in cabinets? Do your crew and guests know where to find them?

We always had an inflatable dinghy ready to go as well as an emergency life raft. Personally, I wouldn’t go Offshore without a life raft , what is your strategy for having to ditch your boat? Are all your life jackets easy to locate and everyone onboard knows where they are at and how to put them on?

Fiberglass or any resin coated structure burns hot and the thick black smoke and fumes can kill you. What is your plan in advance of this type of boating catastrophe? Think about it and be prepared, it could happen to you.

Be safe out there.
 

af dreamer

I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
Apr 16, 2007
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tom
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Mentally,not sure anyone is really prepared.My engine room has a auto system,up to date units thru out the boat,skiff on the bow,epirb,water proof hand held VHF.Hope to God I never need the stuff.Tom
 
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sealskinner

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Apr 24, 2005
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Boats are ripe for fires.
Gas, oil, fiberglass, wood, plastic,,,,
Fires run through boats like shit through a goose.
 
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Shewillbemine

"should of" is NOT a thing
  • Oct 19, 2012
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    Shewillbemine
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    I have a tiny 20 foot center console. My fire extinguisher is strapped underneath the Captain's bench, so it's easy access and not in an enclosed space.

    It's just two Velcro straps that pull off and I'm set. Hopefully it will be more than enough for the remote possibility of a fire onboard.
     
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    PacificBlue

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    I use to think Diesels were so safe especially when compared to volatile gasoline. But I would say diesel powered boats may have even more fires than gasoline boats without checking Coast Guard statistics.

    Boat manufacturers tend to provide the minimum level of protection, and it is really up to the owner/captain to be on top of the situation.

    I would double the amount of extinguishers as a good start, with current dates on the charge. It is a hassle to find places onboard for them for sure.

    As far as automatic engine room fire protection systems, I hear more and more flare-up situations after the initial discharge, seems to me that a second bottle would be a good plan after shooting your wad the first round!

    A good practice of regular engine room checks especially at the dock to make sure the hot turbo areas are free from cables / clutter. Can’t have any oily surfaces or rags all over the place.

    Being able to shut off air to the engine room is a whole other topic, most boats are not setup that way as it gets complicated and expensive, but oxygen is fires friend and your enemy when the sh... hits the fan.
     
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    MYNomad

    Heading South
    Dec 12, 2007
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    We do have a life raft and lots of fire extinguishers. First choice would be to launch the dinghy, but that takes about 5 minutes. Engine room has automatic suppression system. And a monitor camera as well as a window in engine room door. I try not to have any smoking on board, and don't keep gasoline (for the dinghy) on board, except the gas in the dinghy tank. Smoke alarms. Galley stove (but not oven) and cockpit BBQ are propane, but propane is in a proper, vented locker with solenoid valve. And the propane lines are all copper, with chafe protection. No smoking in doors and very little outdoors. Found that my wife had brought candles on board -- I replaced those with battery powered fake flame types.
     
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    PacificBlue

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    I think we are all limiting the amount of plugs in an outlet now, no more octopus tentacles coming out of a double outlet. I have heard of some people putting all lithium charging devices in metal containers.
     
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    PacificBlue

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    It’s a bit odd the fire extinguisher requirements have stayed the same for a long time, the USCG hasn’t made significant changes for years and they mesh with ABYC boatbuilding requirements. Marine Insurance companies follow suit.


    But remember the USCG starts at minimum levels, the rest is a judgement call on the owner / captain.

    Personally, I would have 2 or 3 of the UL type described in the links.

     
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    sickcat

    Silverback
    Aug 5, 2003
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    Majority of onboard fires are electrical in origin according to the USCG.
    Proper circuit protection is important.

    A note about dry chemical extinguishers. Make sure to shake them up well a couple times a year. The powder can get packed in enough to cause the extinguishers to not work when you need them.
     
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    May 13, 2004
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    Bob Ballew
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    ...Good tip on shaking them...On my 2520 Parker, I have one extinguisher strapped to the seat pole under the driver's seat and a loose one by the rear cabin door...we wear life preservers while traveling...you can still end up in the water suddenly...
    ...Upon .approaching within 3 miles of Avalon a few years ago, a massive eruption of water suddenly occurred in front of the bow...spun the wheel hard left and just missed the tail of a 70' blue whale....Fortunately for us, he was a tourist heading for Avalon also....:)

    Moral: All Birthdays are good...it means you got to live another year...
     
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    flytie

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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Out of Office - Custom Invader CC
    I run your basic fire extinguisher on my outboard set up and then two of these:


    Product is called Blazecut. I have one in my center console and another in my battery compartment. Those are the two most likely places a fire would start on my boat.
     
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    brick_haus

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    Feb 13, 2006
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    This guy was right next to me off of Anacapa while fishing last year. Im not sure of the cause. I saw one extinguisher discharged before they had to abandon ship. Luckily it was a busy day and help everywhere.
    Ignition to abandon ship was about one minute.

    A5528FD3-50E5-4E8A-91BF-F9C35E19A99D.jpeg
     

    PacificBlue

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    That’s a real life nightmare, glad there was help nearby, that black smoke is thick and toxic and could easily render you unconscious in a short amount of time, luckily there was very little wind.
     
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