Fires on boats are really bad. Poor Wildy nearly caught fire once ages ago just as we were about to start a race. Some wiring issue in the engine bay, and there was smoke, which thankfully one of my fabulous crew sniffed out and managed to extinguish before anything drastic happened.
You really want to avoid having a fire on board your boat, or in your house as well for that matter, it is not going to end well – here are some things to consider:
There are a few things that can cause fires on board your boat:
- Galley fires are the main cause of fire on board
- Engine fires
Fires need three things – Oxygen, Fuel and Heat – remove one of these elements to stop the fire.
- Turn the gas off at the stove after cooking
- Never leave the stove unattended whilst it is on
- Ensure that there is nothing behind or above the stove that could be easily ignited – paper towels, curtains, tea towels etc
- Keep the engine bay clean and clear of oil, ensure any soundproofing is fire retardant. Make sure there are no wires running over the engine
- Take care with heaters
- No candles or open flames on board
- Regular check of electrical, gas and fuel systems
- Know where to turn your fuel off – is it easily accessible?
- Does the engine area have a fire fighting hole drilled or install an automatic system
- Install smoke alarms, gas alarms and CO2 alarms
- If you smell anything odd, investigate straight away.
- Have a number of fire extinguishers in easily accessible places and make sure they are in test.
- Do a course so you know how to handle an extinguisher and put out a fire.
- Give them a shake up to ensure the product hasn’t settled
- Understand which extinguishers should be used for which types of fire
- Fire blanket by the galley – practice using it and ensure your hands are covered while using it to smother a fire
- Have regular fire drills with all the crew involved.
- Have an access port to the engine space where you can insert a fire extinguisher nozzle or alternatively a water spray bottle set on spray – this will convert to steam and it expands to blanket a fire so it can’t breathe. This will only work in an enclosed area – such as the engine space.
- Never ignore the smell of smoke – investigate immediately
- Use your judgement – can you fight it or should you evacuate?
- Have one person get life jackets, life raft, grab bag ready in case evacuation is required while the other attempts to fight the fire.
- Call for help – on the VHF for other boaties, dial the fire department if in a marina
- Cut the fuel source – turn off batteries, turn off motor, turn off stove, shut off gas, turn engine fuel off
- Use the fire extinguishers, fire blanket, fire hose if in a marina, buckets etc
- Ensure you always have a safe exit
- Consider tossing any spare fuel canisters, gas bottles etc over the side
- If you are in a marina with other yachts, consider towing the burning boat away from the other yachts – stay upwind from the flames and have a knife to cut the line if required. Or if another boat is on fire – leave the marina to protect your yacht.
- Class A – Solid: wood, paper, fabric Water, Foam, Powder
- Class B – Liquid: diesel, petrol, white spirit Foam, Powder, CO2
- Class C: Gas Powder
- Class D: Metals
- Class E: Electrical Powder, CO2
- Class F: Fats Foam, CO2, Fire Blanket
Seth doing his fire extinguisher training.
Have you got any fire stories to share?