If as speculated this fire began with lithium batteries being recharged, then fire extinguishers are of limited use. The traditional fire triangle is based on fuel, oxygen, and a heat (energy) source. Deprive the fire of any one of these three and it goes out.What a bad joke this has turned into. Page after page of smoke detector garbage and still no discussion or information about where hand held fire extinguishers are on a boat? I guess they are illegal on a boat or everyone on the boat would be unable to operate them while listening to the smoke detectors? With fire blocking your exit there would have been a half a chance if below deck there was a fire extinguisher capable of being discharged to create a moment of possible escape. WHY is this part of the equation not part of the solution??????????????
I am about to go rex
You can't do anything about the fuel. Most fire extinguishers work by removing oxygen (water, CO2, halon, foam). A few remove heat (powder, water).
Lithium battery fires are tricky because they don't rely on oxygen. The fire you see is actually other stuff like the plastic casing burning. A CO2 or halon extinguisher will put out that fire, but won't do squat against the lithium cells igniting from thermal runaway.
To stop a lithium battery fire, you need to (1) put out any fire on the casing material and surroundings - that fire can damage more cells causing them to self-ignite. (2) Remove the heat from the damaged cells which are self-igniting. That heat will damage adjacent cells, causing them to enter thermal runaway and begin igniting as well. An oxygen-blocking agent like foam will actually make a lithium battery fire worse for this reason. It acts as an insulator, trapping the heat and making it easier to send undamaged cells into thermal runaway.
The powder-type extinguishers are effective (the powder absorbs heat energy, much like water does). And granted they're the most common type of extinguisher. But you only get about 9 seconds worth of powder from a single extinguisher. Depending on the number of batteries and how hot it's already gotten, there may not be enough powder to stop the thermal runaway cycle from spreading to other cells, and the battery fire will re-ignite shortly after the extinguisher has put the flames out.
So if someone was awake and it was a battery fire, it's very possible the fire extinguishers were in fact used, without success.
tl;dr - Lithium battery fires are really, really bad news. And even traditional fire extinguishers have a hard time putting them out. In a closed environment like aboard a plane or inside a boat, you really should treat them like a bomb, because that's pretty much what they are.
Most smoke detector alarms are high-pitched. High-pitched sounds don't travel very far. When my kitchen smoke detector goes off because we're cooking something, it's ear-piercing in the kitchen. One room over around the corner, it's audible but no longer annoying. If I go one room further (like a bathroom) and close the door, it's muffled to the point where it's nearly ignorable. I could easily imagine someone sleeping through that.because no one involved has specifically said that they that did go off. oft times, what is not said is huge.
the crewman who awoke to the fire said that he heard "something". Not "the smoke detectors woke me up".
It was a peacefully quiet night in a cove. If a smoke detector had gone off, it would have been heard throughout the cove and over to the other boat. But those folk said nothing in regards hearing a smoke alarm. Neither did ANY of the crew. Nor was it mentioned in the most recent report.
The crew was sleeping two floors up from the passenger compartment, and from their description of how they reacted to seeing the fire, it sounds like the stairwell led to their level via the outside rather than directly to their sleeping berths. They very well might not have heard an alarm going off in the passenger compartment. (The issue of smoke detectors in the galley and a night watch has already been hashed over. Though I would add that a larger boat really should have interconnected smoke detectors - so all their alarms go off if a single one detects smoke.)
The effect is even more dramatic in open air. A high-pitched sound can attenuate to 1/8 its volume in less than 100 feet depending on the weather conditions. This is on top of the normal attenuation with distance. It's why foghorns are low-pitched - because the low-pitched sounds suffer less attenuation in the air, so you can hear them from much further away.