Fires are among the more dangerous, yet most preventable, accidents on board a boat. Fast action combined with a cool head are critical in fighting boat fires, which can spread rapidly. The Sea Tow Foundation offers the following tips to prevent boat fires:
- Ensure you have the proper size and type of marine fire extinguishers on board. Depending on your boat’s size, you may need more than one. For more information, see the U.S. Coast Guard’s Federal Requirements brochure.
- Mount the fire extinguishers where they are readily accessible in an emergency.
- Inspect your fire extinguishers regularly to make sure they are fully charged and have not expired. Inspect or service fixed firefighting systems according to manufacturer recommendations or at least annually.
- Before fueling, have all passengers leave the boat and shut off all flames (stoves, ovens, grills). Close all windows, doors and openings to prevent fumes from entering the boat.
- While fueling, keep the nozzle in contact with the tank to prevent sparks. Don’t overfill the tank to give the fuel room to expand. Wipe spills, and dispose of soiled rags. Don’t smoke.
- After fueling, open all windows, doors and openings; 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 no fumes remain.
- Frequently inspect electrical connections, and inspect shore power connection lines before plugging them into your boat. If you see frayed wires or sparks, immediately shut off the power source and make repairs before using the connection.
- Be cautious when using heaters in enclosed spaces, especially if unattended.
For more information, read the Dangers of Fire on a Boat, available on the Sea Tow Foundation’s website.