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Old 02-12-2014, 13:57   #1
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Boat Fire Safety

So..... yesterday... after seeing yet another burned out car on the freeway.... it seems I see maybe half a dozen a year (not caused by accidents) Does anyone else wonder how often it occurs at sea?
How does one prepare for that? It seems car engine compartments are more ventilated and cooled than boat spaces....
I mean really... how do you stop a fire in and enclosed space at sea.... especially if it's an electrical fire that just keeps burning the cable....

It seems we don't talk much about this...
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:19   #2
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Re: Boat fire safety

This is one of the reasons to wire your boat correctly. There is a tendency to hot wire stuff before the main switch.
I have a beautiful big halon job right at the companion way, and a couple of small powder ext's around.
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:22   #3
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Re: Boat fire safety

From those that have been there I hear fire on a boat is arguably the most urgent problem you can have. I did have a fire once from "safe" alcohol fuel stove that could have become serious and it sure got my attention, fast! I did have an electrical fire once. New boat the stbd engine was installed on top of the main wiring harness. Fortunately as soon as I shutdown the engine it cut power to the shorted wire and it went out.

For electrical fires on my current boat I have one master ON/OFF switch that shuts down all house systems except the main and two emergency bilge pumps and that circuit is fused right at the battery. Similar setup for the engine battery. Rule one, any fire of undetermined cause kill the main power immediately. This is part of the new crew orientation that also includes location of all seacocks, location and how to use the propane solenoid switch, all high load dangers like anchor windlass, sheet winches etc, man overboard and basic boat handling even for non boating guests (in case I fall overboard and they need to come get me, assuming they want to after all the orientation I force on them ).

Also have multiple extinguishers, large for serious stuff and small portable for quick, easy access.
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:28   #4
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Re: Boat fire safety

Make sure all battery disconnect switches are located outside of the engine room. To de-power the boat, you should never have to enter the engine room.

Next up install a fire fighting port to the engine room. This allows you to hit a fire extinguisher without adding oxygen into the engine room. Most fires in there are smoldering until either they burn a hole that allows oxygen, or someone opens the er door, then it flashes.

Stop your engine if you have a fire, try to plug the engine air intakes into the side of the hull... use rags or anything to slow....

Use fire caulk to seal up an air inlets, seems, voids prior to a fire.

Lloyd

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
So..... yesterday... after seeing yet another burned out car on the freeway.... it seems I see maybe half a dozen a year (not caused by accidents) Does anyone else wonder how often it occurs at sea?
How does one prepare for that? It seems car engine compartments are more ventilated and cooled than boat spaces....
I mean really... how do you stop a fire in and enclosed space at sea.... especially if it's an electrical fire that just keeps burning the cable....

It seems we don't talk much about this...
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:36   #5
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Re: Boat fire safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
I mean really... how do you stop a fire in and enclosed space at sea.... especially if it's an electrical fire that just keeps burning the cable....

It seems we don't talk much about this...
When I was on submarine duty in the Navy I bet we had at least 10 fires during the 3 years. All of them were electrical and all basically put themselves out by tripping the breaker etc. Which is why correct breakers and fuses as close the the battery as possible are needed. And there should be fuses right on the battery terminals themselves.
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:39   #6
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Re: Boat fire safety

Forgot the most important one. Install a fire temp and smoke alarm, with a bell that can be heard from the sleeping areas, as well as the steering station.

My temp alarm is set at 110F in the highest location. My ER never exceeds 104 f. So if it hits 110F I want to know about it asap.. I also have a Davis Wifi weather station, I use the remote temp censors to monitor ER, and bat tank room temps.

Lloyd
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:50   #7
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Re: Boat fire safety

Back in the 70's when we had gas rationing my Father had saddle bag fuel tanks put on his pickup. Would run on one tank until it ran out, then switch over, this was bad on the starter of course so after I installed the second starter I installed an electric fuel pump so when he switched tanks the electric pump would pump fuel without having to turn the motor over.
Fast forward a few years, truck is now old and is a farm truck, men we had working for us removed the airfilter when it clogged as opposed to cleaning it.
Truck parked right beside the house. Backfired upon trying to start, small fire in the carb men not knowing what to do opened the hood to stare at it. I knew we were in trouble when I heard the slow ticking of the fuel pump become a fast rattle, barely got the truck pushed away from the house with the backhoe.
Moral of the story, if you have one of those electric fuel pumps and get an engine fire, make real sure you remove power from the pump, once a fuel line goes, a fuel pump will cause a huge fire in a very short time.
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Old 03-12-2014, 03:07   #8
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Re: Boat fire safety

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
... especially if it's an electrical fire that just keeps burning the cable....
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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
When I was on submarine duty in the Navy I bet we had at least 10 fires during the 3 years. All of them were electrical and all basically put themselves out by tripping the breaker etc. .......
Presumably subs are wired with cable whose insulation won't support combustion. Remove the heat source (the electrical fault current) and the fire subsides.

I suspect very few recreational boats are wired with such cable. The usual insulation for cars and boats is PVC which will burn. Flame retardant insulation is usually Teflon based.

While I used Teflon insulated wiring throughout for my re-build, the Yanmar engine harness is PVC which is somewhat annoying as this is the wiring most likely to cause problems
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Old 03-12-2014, 05:15   #9
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Re: Boat fire safety

Causes of Fires Started Aboard
1) AC and DC wiring/appliance - 55%
2) Engine/Transmission Overheat - 24%
3) Fuel Leak - 8%
4) Miscellaneous - 7%
5) Unknown - 5%
6) Stove - 1%

From BoatUS ➥ Why Boats Catch Fire - Seaworthy - BoatUS
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Old 03-12-2014, 05:37   #10
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Re: Boat fire safety

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Flame retardant insulation is usually Teflon based.
It is now, but until early 90's Kapton wiring was very popular, Kapton was a serious problem, we had many issues with it on aircraft.

Sometimes the old stuff, ain't so bad.
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Old 03-12-2014, 05:39   #11
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Re: Boat fire safety

I've wondered why not use teflon coated "aircraft" wire for my boat, especially if I add a battery bank. I believe it's tinned, anyone know why I shouldn't? Only drawback I can see is it's stiffer than "marine" wire.
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:24   #12
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Re: Boat fire safety

Watching two boats destroyed by fire in our marina, I say do everything you can to make yours as fire-proof as one can.

I think fires from faulty electrics are top of the list. They are very bad as most of the time there is nobody onboard to take immediate action.

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Old 03-12-2014, 08:16   #13
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Re: Boat fire safety

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I've wondered why not use teflon coated "aircraft" wire for my boat, especially if I add a battery bank. I believe it's tinned, anyone know why I shouldn't? Only drawback I can see is it's stiffer than "marine" wire.
Teflon extrudes at such high temperatures that tin plated wire has to be replaced with silver plated stranding. This makes it expensive.
I thought (could be wrong) that Tefzel has been the insulation of choice in aircraft for about 25 years.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:20   #14
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Re: Boat fire safety

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Watching two boats destroyed by fire in our marina, I say do everything you can to make yours as fire-proof as one can.

I think fires from faulty electrics are top of the list. They are very bad as most of the time there is nobody onboard to take immediate action.

b.
55% of all boat fires are electrical in nature. In marinas over heated "twist-lock" shore power systems rank pretty high....
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:45   #15
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Re: Boat fire safety

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55% of all boat fires are electrical in nature. In marinas over heated "twist-lock" shore power systems rank pretty high....
Have installed Smartplugs on the boat end of the power cable so any fire will be starting on the dock side.

Would be very interesting to know what comprises the electrical fires onboard beside the shore power cord so we can focus on the high risk areas.

My guess would be high resistance and heat at corroded connections and chaffed insulation causing a short as the two at the top of the list.
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