What Should You Do If a Motor Boat Catches Fire

Last Updated on July 31st, 2020

Boat fires are a common occurrence these days. Not long ago, a boat caught fire while dry-docked at a marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Before things went out of order, the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue was able to diffuse the fire. There is speculation that poor maintenance was the reason behind the fire break out.

Such incidents can be prevented by taking the tried and tested fire safety measures beforehand. Owning and operating a motorboat is not easy. If you compromise or slack on proper maintenance and training, you will develop an attitude that can lead to fire breakouts. In this post, I have shared some action steps to take if your motorboat catches fire.

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What Action Steps Should You Take If Fire Broke Out on Your Boat?

When it comes to handling a complex machine like a motorboat, things can be unpredictable sometimes. No motorboat can be made 100 percent fireproof. A boat can either operate in conventional fuel or electricity. Either way, high energy mechanical or electrical systems are going to be present on board. Such systems have the potential to leak or burn without prior warning.

Consequently, you, as a boat owner and operator, must be prepared to deal with occasional fire breakouts. A motorboat can catch fire offshore or onshore. Make sure you have plenty of fire extinguishers on board. Also, have them inspected on a regular basis by a certified professional. If you can afford, you must equip the boat with Fireboy clean agent fire extinguisher systems.

Given below are the action steps you must take if a motorboat catches fire:

Step 1: Move All Passengers Away

If you are offshore during the incident, and also have passengers (or fellow fishermen) on board, make sure to move them away from the flames or the source of the fire. Assuming the engine is still on, quickly turn the burning part of the boat away from the wind.

For instance, if the fire broke out in the cockpit area, point the bow into the wind so the flames will turn away from the boat. This will also keep the fire in check.

Step 2: Turn off the Engine

Next, turn off the engine. Also, turn off other sources of ignition like a generator. You want the fuel to remain concealed in the fuel tank. Turning off the engine also rules out the possibility of an explosion. Some experts recommend turning off the engine right away, but it is always better to position your boat, so the flares are moving away from the frame.

Step 3: Call for Help

You have done the initial bit, now you must call for help. Use the radio to inform other boats or ships in the vicinity. If you find one nearby, ask them for help. This will ensure the safety and protection of the passengers and the captain on board.

If you have cellphone reception, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. The coast guard will assist you in keeping the passengers safe until the rescue ship arrives at the location. Depending on how far you are from the shore, it can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours to reach the scene.

Step 4: Deploy the Marine-Rated Fire Extinguisher

There is a huge difference between a regular fire extinguisher and a marine-rated fire extinguisher. Usually, marine-rated fire extinguishers come in a set. They are labeled according to the type of fire they are capable of putting out.

For instance, a fire extinguisher meant for putting out burning fuel would be ineffective (or sometimes fatal) when used on electrical equipment on fire. Irrespective of the type of fire extinguisher, the PASS technique will help you put out boat fire in no time.

Here’s the PASS technique:

P- Pull the pin located on the top of the cylinder

A- Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire

S- Squeeze the handle of the fire extinguisher

S- Sweep the contents of the cylinder from side to side until the fire diminishes completely

Step 5: Get to Shore Quickly

If the boat hasn’t incurred much damage and you are near shallows, you could think about maneuvering the vessel to the shore. If the fire was a result of a malfunction in electricals of the vessel, there is a chance that the fire could reignite.

There have been many instances where the cause behind the fire was found to be persistent. By getting to shore quickly, you rule out the possibility of passengers having to use the lifeboats or swim to the beach.

Measures You Can Take to Prevent a Fire on Your Boat:

1. Install a smoke detector sensor in every part of the boat

2. Store the spare fuel in a dry and safe place

3. Install Carbon Monoxide (CO) and gas detectors on your boat

4. Keep the cooking area ventilated at all times

5. Keep gas valves turned off at the bottle

6. Have the wiring checked regularly by a certified professional

7. Have a strict no-smoking rule below the deck area

Summary

Whether you are a professional angler or you like to sail occasionally with your loved ones, it is always recommended to take a basic fire fighting course. The course instructors will drill you to prepare you for unexpected situations. Putting out a fire is about having the knowledge and practice of proven methods of fire extinction in water.

You may also like to read our article on when should you change your boat engines oil and danger of anchoring a fishing boat from the stern.

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