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Old 09-07-2018, 19:37   #1
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FIRE! Fight or Flight?

Last week I watched this boat burn down on the lake where I keep my wakeboard boat. Boat was obviously a total loss and the fire was likely already out of control before it was noticed, but it led to a discussion among us of when to try to fight a fire vs. when to abandon ship.

What say you? At what point do you abandon ship (and call the insurance company)?

Columbia Basin Herald - Breaking News, Witnesses recount boat fire, rescue on Moses Lake

P.S. My first time getting drone shots of a boat on fire.
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Old 09-07-2018, 19:49   #2
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

I might stay and try to fight it if caught quick and extinguishers are accessible.

My family will not stay any longer than needed to grab ditch bag, PFDs and dump life raft overboard. Their safety concerning fire at sea isn't negotiable!

Then they can be ready to pick me up when I finally jump, if I do.
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Old 09-07-2018, 19:54   #3
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

I’d do the same. The only time I’d get the liferaft out first. Everyone can be getting in to that while I have a go at firefighting, and I’ll jump if it doesn’t work out. If it does, I’ll go pick them up.
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Old 09-07-2018, 20:09   #4
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

Kind of depends on the fire and where I'm at, but yeah, I've heard more than one story in which, by the time people realize they have to abandon, the liferaft and/or dingy is already burned. Could be a tough choice: Waste minutes trying to put out the fire or pass up the chance to even try to fight it?
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Old 10-07-2018, 06:05   #5
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FIRE! Fight or Flight?

Sometimes fires start with a boom, you may not have a chance with those.
Other times once started they spread so fast that your only chance is to immediately start fighting, if you lose 30 sec, it may be too late.
Then what are you going to fight it with? If a dry chemical fire extinguisher, Iíd think real hard before pulling that trigger, if down below I think a dry chemical fire extinguisher will make it so that you can neither breathe or see.
My preference is Halon if itís fuel based or Halotron. Yes you can still get Halon, itís not illegal in the US anyway, itís treated like some refrigerants, nearly impossible to get rid of, you can use what exists, but there will be no more manufactured, Halon has been for years rather aggressively recovered, since its in demand and not cheap.
My take is that if it had been made illegal, it would cost a lot to be disposed of and people wouldnít pay for it to be, and there would be little to no recovery. Best thing for the environment is what was done.

Fire at Sea concerns me more than any other emergency, I see it as the one that can put me in the water with no warning, possibly injured and with little to no survival gear. I have five Halon and one Halotron, as well as the USCG required dry chemical. You have to have those silly, cheap things, the Halons and other better fire extinguishers are not usually USCG approved, and they donít want to see them.

Finally donít forget water, we have plenty of it and if itís not a fuel based fire, it may be very effective. If you have a wash down etc. maybe consider leaving a hose attached.
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Old 10-07-2018, 07:07   #6
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

Class A or C, put it out, Class B run.
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Old 10-07-2018, 07:24   #7
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

My understanding is that taking on water, or lost rigging, or lack of steering control, are all fairly slow dangers. But with fire everything changes in an instant. If you do choose to fight it, first make sure you have a clear exit strategy. There are not many worse ways to die than to be burned alive surrounded by water.
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Old 10-07-2018, 07:40   #8
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

It would depend on my location, in the pics safety and the shore are close by so why take the risk?

If rescue is aways off, then I'm fighting the fire as long as possible. I'm going with the theory that I'm buying time until help can arrive and keeping whoever is on board out of the water as long as I can. We're also much more visible, people in the water are difficult to see. I'm not staying if it's going to prevent a timely escape.
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Old 10-07-2018, 08:24   #9
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

I don't actually see the point of this thread. It is like asking "how long is a piece of string?". Depends on the string. Whetehr to stay and fight or run depends on the fire, the boat, the equipment available and your training and ability. I commanded a fire fighting unit on board ship, taught fire fighting in the Navy, have fought several serious fires and there is no way to give a flat answer to that question. Learn how to fight fires. Get the gear to do it well. A64's recommendation on Halon is spot on. Amazing stuff. And then if you have a fire pick a course of action and do it.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:00   #10
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

it all depends on source of fire. alcohol stove--pour water on it and finish cooking your stew..... generator on bow bursts into flames.. run towards flames with extinguisher and pull plug as you spray base of fire..... gasoline engine--gtf out YESTERDAY....
judgement call.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:01   #11
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

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Originally Posted by SV Bacchus View Post
I might stay and try to fight it if caught quick and extinguishers are accessible.

My family will not stay any longer than needed to grab ditch bag, PFDs and dump life raft overboard. Their safety concerning fire at sea isn't negotiable!

Then they can be ready to pick me up when I finally jump, if I do.
After reading others posts I realized I wasn't clear in my description. The kid is 13 and as tall as I am so the wife and the kid are getting the life raft and exiting the boat while I quickly assess and start the fire fighting.

No real lost time launching the life raft, they are doing that.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:06   #12
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

There are some good points raised here.

As one with no practical experience, how bad is the discharge from a chemical extinguisher in a typical sailboat cabin? Constant coughing and fog? I've heard the housekeeping clean-up is extensive from chemical extinguishers.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:22   #13
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

I had a galley fire several years ago. I use a non-pressurised alcohol stove. The fire extinguisher was right there and it was out in a few seconds. I learned a few things though:
  • The PFDs were forward of the fire
  • The 10 lb extinguisher only lasted a few seconds
  • I now have one in the galley, one by the main hatch and one beside the motor.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:53   #14
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

As a full-time firefighter I will tell you there is only ONE situation you should attempt to put out a fire, and that is a cooking fire, confined to the oven, stove top, cooking pot, etc. which you can put out before it spreads to any other area.

If ANYTHING else is burning, GTFO. Every single thing on a non-steel boat is flammable, and 99% of it is some form of synthetic (oil derivative) that produces massive amounts of highly toxic smoke (as if regular wood fired smoke isnt bad enough). You are inside a confined space, feet away from diesel, gasoline, propane or other volatile fuel and your companionway is going to act like a chimney. NO THANK YOU.
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Old 10-07-2018, 09:57   #15
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Re: FIRE! Fight or Flight?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardhead View Post
There are some good points raised here.

As one with no practical experience, how bad is the discharge from a chemical extinguisher in a typical sailboat cabin? Constant coughing and fog? I've heard the housekeeping clean-up is extensive from chemical extinguishers.
By "chemical" are you referring to the common "dry chemical" extinguishers? If so, theres no danger from it. Its non-toxic, and you could actually eat it with out harm (except for maybe your taste buds). Breathing it could cause some irritation but its going to be better than breathing smoke or flame.
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