Fire! Someone screams and everyone panics. Stop shouting and start acting. What should you do if a fire breaks out in the front of your boat?
From the first sign of fire, you should turn off the engine, fuel supply, and gas cylinders. Move the boat in a direction against the wind to prevent the blaze from spreading. Immediately inform the passengers and prepare to evacuate. Use the fire extinguisher and call for help.
While it is not one thing that we want to happen, fires are inevitable. So be mindful of the situation and seek help. Read on and I will share some important tips with you.
Table of Contents
What Should You Do
1. A Quick Primer About Boat Fires
A report from Statista indicates that in 2019, boating accidents in the United States brought total damages of approximately $55 million. Among others, fire and explosions are some of the leading causes of these accidents.
More so, BoatUS analyzed the main causes of onboard fires. In their reports, some that have been noted include electrical components, engines, and fuel. Excessive heat and smoking also contribute to boat fires.
Most fires happen off the boat, such as in marinas and garages. When these fires are not attended to immediately, they will spread and eventually reach your boat.
Meanwhile, electrical causes of boat fires are often from wiring harnesses, starters, batteries, engines, power cords, and appliances. Fires also result from operator errors in the use of electrical systems.
You can prevent excessive damages, injury, and death by being responsible and alert.
2. Turn Off Power and Gas Supplies
As soon as the fire breaks out, turn off the engine. Leaving it running causes more problems. It can overheat and then worsen the fire. Moreover, the fuel might cause an ignition as it flows to the motor, resulting in an explosion. So it would be safer to cut off the fuel supply.
You should also close all the gas cylinders as if there is a leakage and the fire reaches the gas line, it will create a bigger problem.
3. Position the Boat Against the Wind
As the fire starts to set ablaze, you might end up disoriented. Keep calm and concentrate on your next steps. One of the most important is to reposition the boat in the water, ensuring that it goes against the wind’s direction.
Aside from preventing the fire from spreading on the boat, this step is crucial to minimize the possibility of smoke inhalation. The more smoke the wind blows in the passengers’ direction, the higher is the chance of suffocation.
4. Call for Help
If the fire is big and you do not have the capabilities to extinguish it, it is best to request assistance. Send distress signals through emergency services, or you can use your mobile phone or boat radio to call for help.
The Uniden MHS75 Two-way VHF Marine Radio is a great investment. This marine radio is a handy device that instantly connects you to emergency response teams in case of a fire. It also has a rugged construction to withstand the rigors of the harsh marine environment.
5. Use a Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher is a lifesaver! Nonetheless, not all of them are the same. They are available in different classes, depending on the type of fire that they can put out. Here’s a short video that will walk you through the basics of marine-grade fire extinguishers:
Take note that fire extinguishers exist in different classes. They have designations that indicate the kind of blaze they will put out. Here a quick look at the different classes:
- Class A – for fires that involve solid materials like textiles and wood.
- Class B – for fires originating from liquid sources like oil and petrol.
- Class C – for gas fires.
- Class D – for metal fires.
- Class E – for fires originating from live electrical apparatus.
- Class F – for fires from cooking oils.
Clueless about how to use a fire extinguisher? All that you have to remember is PASS. Pull the pin. Aim low at the base of the fire. Squeeze the fire extinguisher’s handle and sweep gently from one side to another. Keep on doing so until you cover all areas with flames.
With too many options available, one product I can recommend is the First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Fire Extinguisher. It is compact, lightweight, user-friendly, and approved for marine applications by the Coast Guard.
6. Evacuate People on the Boat
If the fire continues to get bigger despite your efforts, I suggest you start an evacuation plan. First, gather all the passengers in a specific location. Then let them wear their life jackets and deploy the life raft. While doing this, make sure that everyone stays calm.
7. Clean Up and Ensure Safety
Even when there are no more flames or smoke, it might not yet be safe to return to the boat. Quickly inspect the entire area or wait until professional assistance is available. Do not open the engine or gas line until you are sure that there is no more fire.
Be cautious when opening doors after a fire. You might end up being blindsided, not knowing what is happening on the other side. Thus, it is advised that you keep a fire extinguisher handy so that you can immediately deal with any fire that is still ablaze on the other side.
8. File Insurance Claims
After all the chaos, compose yourself and think of your next move. If the fire resulted in severe and expensive property damage, consider your insurance policy. Take pictures and gather police reports. Contact your insurer so that you know what the next move should be.
9. Prevention is Better than Cure
It might sound cliché, but the best way to deal with a boat fire is through prevention. As an avid boater, here are some of my recommendations on how you can prevent boat fires:
- Inspect the boat regularly, especially the ignition sources. Look for gas leaks or similar problems and fix them as soon as possible.
- Do not smoke below the deck, near the engine and gas supply, or any other part of the boat with explosive materials.
- Watch out when cooking. Proper ventilation is essential in the kitchen. Turn off the gas valves when you are not using them.
- Install a smoke detector. This unit will provide an immediate warning when a fire starts, allowing you to act immediately.
- Use only high-quality components with electrical safety certifications. Install them properly or work with a pro.
Fires can happen everywhere, even in boats. As soon as the smoke alarm turns on and you see the blaze, compose yourself. As I shared above, here’s what to do when a fire breaks out in the front of your boat:
- Shut down the engine and gas line.
- Position the boat in such a way that it is against the direction of the wind.
- Use your radio or phone to send a distress call.
- Put out the fire using a marine-grade fire extinguisher.
- Gather your passengers and work on an evacuation plan.
Prepare for the worst by investing in handy equipment and accessories. Among others, two of the best are Uniden MHS75 Two-way VHF Marine Radio and First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Fire Extinguisher. Hope you find the answer to the question “What should you do if a fire breaks out in the front of your boat?”. If you enjoyed this guide, please don’t forget to share it to your friend and your family.
I am passionate about water sports and technical fields, so combining both makes me interested in making contents about boat accessories. With my partner, we went on many trips and sports games together, which led us to think about how we can spread our joys and passions to many people.