When you are out on your boat, whether for a pleasure cruise with friends or by yourself to enjoy the water, you should always think about safety first – and that includes keeping a fire extinguisher on board. The question is, where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat? Let’s talk and discuss in details.
Where Should Fire Extinguishers Be Stored On A Boat For Our Safety?
Fire extinguishers should not be stored where you cannot reach them or where they can be damaged. Fire extinguishers should be mounted in an open area, standing upright, easily accessible, and in a place where they can be inspected regularly. This usually means the kitchen, the hull, the cabin, and the bilge. You want to think about where your high-traffic areas are on the boat. Do not put the extinguisher where it can easily be damaged.
If you are unsure as to where to put an extinguisher – or more than one – ask yourself the following questions to decide correctly:
- Where are flammable liquids stored on the boat?
- Where is the kitchen or galley? Is it cleaned regularly?
- Where do people spend the most time on the boat?
- Where is the gas tank located on the boat?
- How often is the boat cleaned of debris and garbage?
When mounting a fire extinguisher, there should be a three-foot clearance around it to ensure easy access in an emergency situation. It should also be mounted at an angle so that chemicals do not settle at the bottom of the extinguisher container.
Figuring out the best place to put a fire extinguisher should be easy, as well. For example, you might want to consider putting one where you cook, or one near the gas tank – any place that might potentially be a hazard for fire. The extinguishers should be USCG approved with the approval number.
How To Mount Fire Extinguishers Safely On A Boat?
I always use a proper holder for the fire extinguisher on my boat. With the movement of the boat, anything on the boat will move and can be displaced easily. If an object is moving on board it can hurt the passengers or can be lost in the water.
So, we must take care of securing the fire extinguishers using adequate brackets or mounts. These brackets, mounts or belts are normally available with the fire extinguishers which can help us to prevent unexpected incidents on a boat.
What Are Fire Extinguishers Made Of?
Fire extinguishers are made of an extinguishing agent and usually a pressurized gas such as carbon dioxide. The fire suppressant inside can be foam-based, water-based, wet chemical-based, carbon-dioxide based, and chemical powder-based.
Water-based: These are probably the least effective. Water is really only good for putting out paper or wood fires, and small ones at best. They are not that effective on boats when chemicals or a combustible like gasoline may be a factor.
Carbon dioxide: These extinguishers are environmentally safe as carbon dioxide is a clean, odorless gas. It is usually discharged from a fire extinguisher as a “cloud of snow” that suffocates the oxygen in the fire, causing it to go out.
Wet chemical: These consist of potassium salts that are sprayed out in a fine mist that creates a soapy film that suffocates the fire.
Powder: These extinguishers contain a heavy sodium chloride powder that when it makes contact with the heat of a fire, it cakes and forms an exterior crust, which excludes air and results in the fire going out.
Which Fire Extinguisher Is Right For Your Boat?
Extinguishers are “classed” by the type of fire they can extinguish efficiently:
Class A: Designed for combustible solid materials such as wood, paper, or textiles.
Class B: Designed for flammable or combustible liquid such as kerosene, grease, gasoline or oil.
Class C: Designed for use with electrical fires.
Class D: Designed for fires that involve flammable metals. This class of fire is not common like class A and B. Flames must be addressed to avoid rapid spread, intense heat, and excessive damage.
Class K: Designed for cooking fires such as those started by cooking oil, grease, animal and vegetable fats.
There are also tri-classed fire extinguishers available, that are all-purpose extinguishers that usually can take care of fires started by wood, flammable liquids, and electrical fires.
What Are The Requirements For Fire Extinguishers On Boats?
According to Small Vessel Regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard, the number of fire extinguishers required for your boat depends on the size of your boat. Here are two tables to understand which extinguishers fit you.
|Extinguisher Type & Size||Classification Foam||Carbon Dioxide CO2||
|B-I||1.25 gallons minimum||4 pounds minimum||2 LBS minimum|
|B-II||2.50 Gallons sminimum||15 pounds minimum||10 LBS minimum|
|Vessel Length (Feet)||No Installed Fire Extinguisher System||With Installed Fire Extinguisher System|
|Smaller Than 26 ft||One B-I||None|
|26 ft to 40 ft||Two B-I or One B-II||One B-I|
|40 ft to < 65 ft||Three B-I or
One B-II & One B-I
|Two B-I or One B-II|
For boats over 40 feet to 65 feet:
Three B-I marine fire extinguishers
For boats 26-40 feet:
Two B-I marine fire extinguishers
For a boat under 26 feet:
With only an outboard motor, a small boat under 26 feet generally does not need a fire extinguisher. But if these vessels are used for carrying passengers commercially or if the boat construction allows trapping explosive or flammable gases or vapors, then the rule is different. Lastly, it is always recommended to carry at least one fire extinguisher for remaining safe. So the small boats & inflatable boats for fishing and recreation do not need a fire extinguisher.
When the engine compartment is equipped with a built-in extinguishing system, one less B-I extinguisher is required onboard.
The “B” is for combustible liquids, and the “I” has to do with the weight of the extinguisher, I being smaller than II. On boats, the main concern is for the combustible fuels. Use of the right fuel stabilizer for boats will reduce the chance of bad combustion of the engine and will keep the fuel system cleaner.
However, you can also use the checklist below to figure out exactly what you need. Generally, if your boat has even one of the following, you will need an extinguisher on board:
Enclosed area for living and cooking;
Fuel tanks that are permanently installed;
Fuel tanks that are too heavy or cannot be moved;
Engine components that are enclosed;
Seat compartments that could store engine tanks;
Double bottoms that are not used to permanently seal to the hull; and,
Other areas not filled with floatation devices.
Boats Larger Than 65 Feet
For boats larger than 65 feet, federal requirements must be met. This often means installing an actual fire extinguishing system. Fixed fire systems are rated by cubic feet of coverage, so you will have to have your engine room measured. Inside the fixed fire-extinguishing system are fire suppressants, which are usually stored as a liquid, but which are emitted as a gas.
Fixed systems trigger automatically with a temperature sensor, or can be set off manually, if necessary. However, if the fixed system triggers while you are moving, you will need to react quickly. You will need to shut off engines, blowers, generators, and other equipment, or they may need fresh oxygen to restart and to expel fire suppressant.
In addition, boats larger than 65 feet may also require a ventilation system for each compartment in the boat that contains:
A permanently installed gas engine;
Openings between it and a compartment that requires venting;
A permanent fuel tank and an electrical component that is not ignition-protected;
A fuel tank that vents into a compartment; and/or
A non-metallic fuel tank.
This U.S. Coast Guard requirement applies to all boats built on or after August 1, 1980. The boat owner is responsible for making sure openings are free of obstruction, ducts are not blocked or torn, blowers operate properly, and worn components are replaced with Coast Guard-approved equipment.
Maintenance Of Fire Extinguishers stored On A Boat
We are thinking about where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat, but it will be useless if we don’t follow the maintenance of the extinguishers. All fire extinguishers in the United States are under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which creates the National Fire Code.
The National Fire Code (NFPA1) requires fire extinguishers to be inspected every 30 days or less and to be maintained and tested no less than yearly. In addition, it should be replaced, no more than 10 years after it is installed. A fire extinguisher should have a date stamped on the neck or bottom of the extinguisher – it should be embossed or stamped on the steel canister. Fire extinguishers should be checked for the following:
- Hoses, as well as seals, for leaks or damage;
- Tamper indicators to see if they are broken or missing;
- Pressure gauges or other indicators; and,
- There should be no obvious sign of physical damage, rust, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzles.
You want to ensure that your fire extinguisher is in good condition and working well. If it isn’t, plan to replace it right away.
Boating Safety Classes
It might be a good idea to take a boating safety class. In most states, these classes feature in-depth safety including how to obtain a boating license or safety certification. Many times these classes are required for boat insurance and offer a discount to those who successfully complete the course.
Topics of safety classes include
Introduction to boating, which features information about the types of boats available, such as sailboats, paddleboats, houseboats, power boats, and outboards.
Boating law, which outlines federal, state and local laws and protecting the marine environment.
Equipment safety, which features information about life jackets, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, first aid, anchors and other equipment.
Safe boating such as loading a boat, fueling portable and permanent tanks, steering with a tiller and a wheel, knots, using an anchor and general water safety.
Navigation: The U.S. Aids to Navigation system, buoys and beacons, navigation rules, avoiding collisions, and sound signals.
Boating problems: such as accidents and rescues, man-overboard rescue, capsizing, river hazards, emergency radio calls, engine and equipment failures, carbon monoxide problems.
Storing your boat: Types of trailers and hitches, tires, where to store and how to store it (reading the boat for storage).
One Of The Basic Things To Remember When Using A Fire Extinguisher Is PASS
- Pull the security pin
- Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire from a distance that is not dangerous
- Squeeze the lever to expel the extinguishing material (liquid, powder, gas, foam etc.)
- Sweep the nozzle or hose from one side to the other to give the fire full coverage until the fire is extinguished.
One Final Note
Now we know where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat and the basics related to the extinguishers. But, If flames get higher than your waist or there is a dangerous fuel burning, you should contact 9-1-1 and have a professional firefighter with the proper safety equipment handle the fire. You should have a boat evacuation plan, as well.