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Almost nothing is as dangerous as an onboard fire, especially if you’re far away from land. For this reason, it’s not only important to avoid the potentiality, but to plan ahead in case of an emergency. Here are some tips for fighting onboard fires. We would like to hear your tips.

    1. First and foremost, check all onboard fire extinguishers for pressure and functionality as suggested on the label. Be familiar with the type of extinguisher you carry — “A” for solid fuels like wood and fabric, “B” for liquid fires such as gas and oil, and “C” for electrical fires. There are other, more specialized types, but these are the most common.

    2. Prepare for what you’ll do if a fire breaks out. Know where your fire extinguisher is on board and practice with it in a controlled environment. Have a fire drill. Make everyone put on life jackets, meet in the cockpit or on the foredeck, and have them prepare to abandon ship.

    3. In a real fire, make an emergency call to the Coast Guard over VHF Channel 16. Then find the fire and try to locate its source. If the source is a piece of electrical equipment or flammable liquid, shut down the power and/or close off fuel lines before attempting to put out the fire.

    4. Grab your fire extinguisher and control the fire. Remember the acronym PASS — pull the pin on the extinguisher, aim it at the base of the flames, squeeze the handle and sweep the chemical from side to side. Cover the area of the fire until it is completely out.

    5. When fighting a fire fueled by electricity or a flammable liquid, do not use water. Water can, in fact, present a dangerous shock hazard or help spread the fire. If you do not have an extinguisher on hand, use a blanket to try to smother the fire.

    6. Once the fire is out, vent and clear the area of smoke. Be wary of flare-ups even after the flames appear to be dead. Assign someone to watch that the fire doesn’t reignite.

    7. If you can’t get the fire under control, don’t wait to leave. Get everyone into the dinghy or life raft, or form a chain by crossing arms, and abandon ship. Firefighters prioritize situations like this: 1) save lives, 2) property and 3) the environment. You should do the same.

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2 Responses to Fighting Onboard Fires

  1. Bob Brink says:

    We had an onboard fire, rather an explosion first. Recent repairs may have caused a fuel leak. As we were pulling into the marina basin, the boat shook from an explosion. I looked out the back window from the helm & all I could see was flames 8-10 feet high and 10 feet wide. The fire was between two 125 gallon fuel tanks that were full. Before we could abandon ship, the automatic fire suppressor system put the fire out. TowBoatUS took us to our slip, I called United Marine & they took care of everything. I cannot say enough about how well they handled this, the repairs, the speed and the compassion. Repairs were not that extensive due to the fire suppression system. If you don’t have one aboard and have an enclosed engine compartment, buy one. It may save your boat and life.

  2. Kevin D.Shinn says:

    All dry chemical extinguisher’s should be removed from holder and turned up side down a few times monthly. If not the powder cakes up and ext will not work.

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