Fire and fuels

Fuel fires on small vessels spread rapidly and generate intense heat. Few people are able to successfully combat them. The answer to the issue lies in preventing fires, rather than fighting them.

Photo of a boat destroyed by fire.
Onboard fires are usually too fast and intense to fight, once started.

Petrol and other fuel

A number of fires or explosions occur immediately after vessels have been refuelled. By using common sense and taking proper precautions, boating fires can be prevented as follows:

  • Have an approved fire extinguisher, service it regularly and know how to use it
  • Keep the bilge, engine compartment and engine clean and free of combustible materials
  • Check engine compartments are properly ventilated, especially on hot days and when recently refuelled
  • Use a ‘blower’ or ventilation system prior to starting the engine or operating any electrical equipment
  • Be careful when using fuel stoves and lamps. Don’t store your extinguisher close to the stove or engine compartment
  • Check your fuel system regularly for leaks
  • Check the electrical system for faults and keep all components in a clean state
  • Don’t fill your fuel caddies in the boat, always take them ashore when fuelling
  • Clean up fuel spills quickly.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

LPG is non-corrosive and clean-burning. It can cause suffocation if inhaled in sufficient volume.

When buying or selling a boat fitted with LPG burning appliances you should ensure that the gas cylinders have been inspected and that the equipment and hoses are in safe working order.

LPG has the same characteristics as water and will flow downwards and gather in the bilge.

Gas storage bottles should be located in a well-ventilated space. You should:

  • Ensure all LPG installations are performed and serviced by a licensed gas fitter
  • Ensure all appliances are firmly secured and protected from draughts
  • Ensure cylinders and appliances are suitable for marine use.

In the event of fire, remove LPG cylinders from the heat source. If this is not possible, keep the cylinder cool by spraying water onto it. If flames are threatening to engulf a gas cylinder the vessel should be evacuated.

In the event of a gas leak stop all motors, close all cylinder valves, turn off all appliances and ventilate the vessel. Do not operate any electrical switches until the air is clear.

Leakages can lead to suffocation or explosion. To assist in early detection of leaks a strong odour has been added to LPG, but you should consider installing a gas detector.

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