We all hope that we never get into this situation. Nothing can be as scary to a boater as a fire breaking out while you’re out at sea, especially if you are far from shore. Even more scary are the number of ways fires can break out – electrical problems, a chemical spill, hitting another boat. All are issues which must be considered and addressed should they arise. Read more to find out how to stop (and hopefully prevent) fire’s on your boat.

First, we should share what the basic requirements are for a sea-faring boat according to USCG standards – the full guide can be found here. Infinitely more useful than one blog post, this is a must have for any boater. We recommend reading this and keeping a copy aboard your boat at all times.

According to the USCG fire extinguishers are required on boats when any of the following conditions exist:

  • Closed compartments with fuel tanks
  • Closed living spaces
  • Double bottoms exist that are not sealed to the hull
  • Closed storage compartments in which flammable items are stored
  • There are permanently installed fuel tanks

Moreover, the USCG mandates that a certain number of hand portable fire-extinguishers be aboard the boat according to length.

  • Less than 26′
    • No fixed system = 1 B-I
    • Fixed System = 0
  • 26′ to 4o’
    • No fixed system = 2 B-I or 1 B-II,
    • Fixed System = 1 B-I
  • 40 to 65′
    • No fixed system = 3 B-I or 1 B-II and 1 B-I
    • Fixed System = 2 B-I or 1 B-II

The Classes of Fire Extinguisher Are As Follows:

  1. B-I (Type B, Size I)
    1. 1.75 Gallons
    2. CO2 in Pounds – 4 lbs
    3. Dry Chemical in Pounds – 2 lbs
  2. B-II (Type B, Size II)
    1. 2.5 Gallons
    2. CO2 in Pounds – 15 lbs
    3. Dry Chemical in Pounds – 10 lbs

There – that covers the minimum requirements for your boat.

But, what do you do if you need to put a fire out!?

First, we have to cover the classifications of fires, which have a variety of combinations.

  • Class A Fires – Fires of common combustible solids such as wood, paper, and plastic. Best put out by water.
  • Class B Fires – Fires of flammable liquids such as oil, grease, gas and other substances. First steps in these situations is to shut off the source of the fire, if that does not stop it – DO NOT USE WATER. Use a dry chemical, foam, or carbon dioxide.
  • Combo Class A & B Fires – Water fog and foam may be used in situations where a combo of solids and liquids exist.
  • Class C Fire – Fires involving energized electrical equipment such as conductors or appliances. First, attempt to remove the source of the electricity. Again, DO NOT USE WATER, but use a dry chemical, CO2 or Halon. Some options may ruin the equipment, but does that really matter in this situation…?
  • Class A & C Fire – Situations in which solids and energized equipment are alight. CO2, Halon and dry chemicals are best. Again, try to de-energize the source of the fire first.
  • Class B & C Fire – Gas/liquids and energized equipment. DO NOT USE WATER. Instead, use Halon or a dry chemical.
  • Class D Fire – These fires are unique in that they involve combustible metals such as potassium, sodium, and their alloys. They burn surface metal at a very high temperature.

Now that we know the different types of fires and what the USCG expects on-board your boat, we can talk about basic procedures for fighting fires.

There is a very simple acronym to follow:


F = Find The Fire, its location, and size.

I = Inform The Captain to sound the alarm, make a distress call to the USCG and nearby vessels, and activate emergency fire fighting equipment.

R = Restrict The Fire by shutting off the supply to the fire. Set boundaries around the fire, maneuver the vessel to lessen effects of wind, and ensure all personnel who are not critical exit the affected area.

E = Extinguish The Fire by determining the class of the fire, the equipment needed, and how to attack the fire. Determine where everyone on board is and inform them of the situation.

Finally, if you cannot contain the fire, swallow your pride and prepare to abandon the vessel.

If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to ensure that you properly prepared for this situation and have the necessary equipment on board.

If you have any more questions on how to care for your boat, what to do in case of fire, or need help gathering those materials, please do not hesitate to contact one of the only Certified Yacht Brokers in Virginia at (757) 313-8787.

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