Besides sinking, the greatest regular threat to any vessel is fire. A fire prevention mindset is essential on a boat. Once started a small fire can very quickly become a big one. Do mental practice of these procedures.
(I) FIRE PREVENTION
- Always turn off propane solenoid and let burners on stove die before turning stove knobs off.
- Always check all burners are off before turning one on to light the stove
- Keep propane tanks in cockpit locker that vents overboard
- Cook remains in/near galley whenever stove is on, especially near if it's on low heat
- Gasoline tanks are kept tied on the deck
- Run all gasoline out of the outboard before storing it on the cockpit rail
- Check smoke alarm is functioning OK once a month
- Turn on the CO detector whenever the engine is running
- Oily cloths (or those used with flammable liquids, polishes, paints, etc) should be discarded after use–never kept them in an airtight bag/container. To keep for continued use another day, put them in an open bucket on the deck or in the cockpit.
- Run the blower in the engine room after any propane is exhausted from the stove by mistake.
- Fill the gas tanks on the dock and not on the boat
- Close the hatches and portholes on the windward side of the boat when refueling
- No smoking on board
- Service fire extinguishers annually
- During routine maintenance, inspect the condition of all wiring running through the place where you are working
- Acquaint everyone on board with: (i) location of all 4 ABC fire extinguishers and the fire blanket; (ii) the three categories of fire (A=wood, paper, plastic, cloth, rubber; B=flammable liquids, grease, paint; C=electrical, wiring, fuses, etc.); and (iii) how to fight a fire
(II) FIRE FIGHTING
- If there's an explosion, prepare to abandon ship. If time permits, deploy the liferaft, otherwise grab life vests and jump overboard.
- If underway, helmsman turns and holds boat with head into the wind.
- The first thing to do is to fight the fire; do not waste time transmitting May Day or Pan Pan unless you are abandoning ship.
- For galley fires, immediately turn off the propane switch, then:
- Fire in a pan - put a lid on it
- Fire in the oven - close the door
- Fire on the stove/surrounds - smother with baking soda or the fire blanket which is kept readily available near the galley
- Do not use water on grease fires
- If necessary, use a fire extinguisher (see below)
Fire below decks.
- Shut off the engine and disconnect the batteries
- Close all doors to the engine room
- Carefully lift the small cover under the companionway stairs, and deploy fire extinguishers through it onto the engine
- Transmit May-Day or Pan-Pan if appropriate
- All crew put on PFDs and prepare to launch liferaft
Use a fire extinguisher as follows:
- If it appears to be a type B (fuel) or C fire (electrical) turn off all electrical switches, and disconnect the batteries. Use fire extinguishers (see below) to extinguish the fire and/or smother the fire with the fire blanket.
- If it seems to be a type A fire (ordinary combustibles) use fire extinguishers (see below) and/or throw bowls or buckets of water on it, and/or smother with fire blanket or wet towels. If it's behind a cupboard door or locker hatch, feel the exterior. If too hot to touch, open very slowly and immediately deploy fire extinguishers into the area.
- If you can't tell whether it's type A or type C, assume it's electrical and turn off all switches and disconnect the batteries.
- DO NOT use water on an electrical fire or one involving flammable liquids
- Close all hatches and portholes, but leave escape hatches loose
- The goal is to contain the fire, gradually reduce its area, and then smother it.
- Remove the extinguisher from its bracket, pull the pin out of the extinguisher, and hold the unit upright. Stand about 6' back from the flames.
- Squeeze the lever and aim at base of flames, working around the edges. Back the fire into a corner if you can. Then try to smother it. The extinguisher will only go for about 30 seconds before it is spent. Get other crew to bring remaining fire extinguishers, water buckets if appropriate, and the fire blanket.
- If you can't contain it, get out and abandon ship.
(III) AFTER FLAMES ARE OUT
- Fires that have been extinguished by smothering must be cooled so they don't smolder and relight. They can be cooled with water, baking soda, or wet towels. The area around the fire must be cooled, as well as the location that was burning. Air into the burnt area should be reduced to a minimum concomitant with keeping a watchful eye on it for several hours.
- Next, clean up and repair, rewire, etc.
- Go to school on the fire, and take some lessons learned.
©2004 The Trouser Rollers. All rights reserved.
This page was last modified on:
August 9, 2009