Although they are scary when they do occur, most boat fires are easy to prevent. Following these tips and procedures offered by Sea Tow and our non-profit Sea Tow Foundation can help you to fireproof you boat, or quickly contain a fire in the highly unlikely event one breaks out onboard.
15 Boat Fire Prevention Tips:
- Make sure you have the proper size and type of marine fire extinguishers on board. Depending on the size of your boat, you may need more than one. Check the U.S. Coast Guard Federal Requirements brochure online at www.uscgboating.org/fedreqs/default.html.
- Mount the fire extinguishers in readily accessible locations onboard so that you can get to them quickly in an emergency.
- Inspect your fire extinguishers regularly to make sure they are fully charged and have not expired. If you have a fixed firefighting system, have it inspected and/or serviced according to manufacturer recommendations or at least annually.
- Before fueling your boat, shut off all flames (stoves, ovens, grills, etc.) and close all windows, doors and openings to prevent fumes from entering the boat. Ask your passengers to disembark (they can check out the marina store).
- While fueling, keep the nozzle in contact with the tank to prevent sparks. Do not overfill the tank, so the fuel has room to expand. Wipe up any spills and dispose of the rags.
- Never smoke while fueling!
- After fueling, open all the windows, doors and openings in the boat and run the exhaust blower for four minutes.
- Before starting the engine, perform a “sniff” test of the bilge and engine compartment. If you smell gas, continue to use the blower until all of the fumes are gone.
- To prevent electrical issues that might lead to a fire, frequently inspect the electrical connections. Also, inspect all shore power connection lines before plugging them into your boat. If any wires are frayed or you see sparks, immediately shut off the power source and get the connection or cord repaired or replace it before using it again.
- Be cautious when using heaters in enclosed spaces, especially when unattended.
- If a fire breaks out: Make sure everyone on your boat is wearing a life jacket in case they have to jump overboard.
- If possible, position the boat so that the fire is downwind and have all passengers move upwind, away from the fire.
- Never use water on a gasoline, oil, or grease fire as it may cause the fire to spread. Additionally, water should not be used on electrical fires due to risk of electrical shock.
- When using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire, use the PASS method:
- Pull pin
- Aim at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze handle
- Sweep from side to side.
- Call for help on your VHF radio or cell phone. Prepare to abandon ship, if necessary.
An article on the Dangers of Fire on a Boat also can be found on the Sea Tow Foundation’s website here.