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Old 30-12-2016, 07:51   #1
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Fire Fighting

If you ever want to wake a crew that is sleeping in, say "I smell smoke" in a loud voice. I did this once off-shore and was nearly run over. I did smell smoke.

It turned out to be a cabin fan, and in spite of actual smoke and tiny flames, it was surprisingly hard to localize; it was not very visible and the fan was distributing the smell. It was easily extinguished by turning it off and spraying it with a small spray bottle of water we keep on hand for personal cooling and the grill. At the next harbor we replaced all of the fans, since within the next few days another fan exhibited switch problems.

Fire extinguishers are all well and good (I've used them several times in industry), but they are a mess and don't last long. I've stopped many a panicked employee from discharging an extinguisher when it was not the best way.

1. Why do instructional boating sites show a fire blanket being used on a grease fire? The EU now labels fire blankets as NOT suitable for grease fires because the grease soaks through and lights the blanket on fire. You put the lid on.

2. Why is the use of water never even discussed? I worked in refineries for 35 years and I certainly understand about oil and water, but unless there is a a rather significant amount of oil spread is not a problem. Electricity isn't likely to be a problem on a 12v boat system. What water does do very well is cool the surfaces and expand (steam) and eventually exclude oxygen. More to the point, we have it. A couple of full buckets can do a lot. I might even be tempted to use one extinguisher as a start, cool the fire with water, and save the second to chase pockets.

3. Is there a better way to use water than a bucket? Wet blankets (and wet your clothes) work. But inside a bulkhead a hose with a fine spray is the thing. But what?

Obviously prevention is first. After the above incident I scoured the boat for hazards and found a number of scary PO shortcuts. Most of the fires I've seen over years were the results of vibration causing chafe causing a spark; obviously the engine deserves close and regular scrutiny.

It's all well and good to say "issue an SOS and get off the boat," but that's not so easy when you can't see land. You really do need to fight the fire for more than a few seconds. Presumably if you are on the boat you caught it pretty early; obviously there will be times when it is too damn late and you need to just bolt.

Thoughts?
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Old 30-12-2016, 08:34   #2
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Re: Fire Fighting

On the top of my Winter list is to add a fire fighters hose (ala marine version) to Cbreeze. I am going to tap the salt water washdown line with a ball valve and 12 ft length of nylon reinforced hose and spray nozzle. My saltwater washdown pump is easily accessed in a bilge compartment and a good storage spot on the mast step for the hose.

The washdown pump get exercised regularly and when we are in brackish water I will run a test on the FF hose system. Carry 3 fire extinguishers, but recent boat fire issues reported on the web makes it a no brainer for me.

Salt water sprayed all over everything is not appealing, just when you consider the alternative.
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Old 30-12-2016, 08:55   #3
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Re: Fire Fighting

"Electricity isn't likely to be a problem on a 12v boat system. " Actually it can be, a big 12v cable can start a fire that is nearly impossible to stop unless you can disconnect the cable. Man do they melt fast....
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Old 30-12-2016, 09:02   #4
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Re: Fire Fighting

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
"Electricity isn't likely to be a problem on a 12v boat system. " Actually it can be, a big 12v cable can start a fire that is nearly impossible to stop unless you can disconnect the cable. Man do they melt fast....
Oh yeah, I've watched water starter and battery cables start fires on big trucks. Big sparks, lots of heat. They often chafe on the frame and are often routed next to fuel lines.

What I meant was you aren't likely to get electrocuted, like you are with 460V in a refinery.
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Old 30-12-2016, 13:53   #5
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Re: Fire Fighting

I watched a live demo a few months ago by local Firefighters. They had a protected metal area that they put a frying pan in and lit the cooking oil. They then using a long pole threw water on the simulated kitchen fire. The explosion of flames was really impressive. They instantly jumped up at least 8 feet and were really violent. I'd go with a fire blanket over water in a galley fire.
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Old 30-12-2016, 14:33   #6
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Re: Fire Fighting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
I watched a live demo a few months ago by local Firefighters. They had a protected metal area that they put a frying pan in and lit the cooking oil. They then using a long pole threw water on the simulated kitchen fire. The explosion of flames was really impressive. They instantly jumped up at least 8 feet and were really violent. I'd go with a fire blanket over water in a galley fire.
Those demos can make a huge difference in public awareness of how dangerous a typical kitchen (or boat galley) grease based fire could be.

Seeing is believing! So is experience.

I have been on a boat that had a galley fire. Luckily it was extinguised quickly, but it was very scary and spread instantly. "Never again." So, be prepared.

Here are a few Youtube videos I encourage others to watch. Each shows something different so watch them both/all.

One is simply showing how large the flare up is when a small amount of water (about a pint) is poured on a pan of grease that is on fire.
https://youtu.be/mgPGnfaEh0Q

This next video is very good to watch as it shows how using a pan cover is most effective. It also shows the use of a small cannister of fire suppressant (I have two of these over my own stove at home) can work automatically. I think these are a very good idea. It also mentions a few other tips, including that it is a mistake to move the flaming pan.

Watch this one to the end.
https://youtu.be/pEVl8R9Q9EM

Here is the product I have in my kitchen (StoveTop Firestop):
StoveTop Firestop.
2 cans for $48 at Home Depot (or find in other stores)
Stove Top Fire Stop Automatic C Fire Extinguisher (2-Pack)-675-3D - The Home Depot

This product is recommended by fire marshals and has been used in several demonstrations by fire departments. It is almost "fool proof" because it works automatically once installed. It simply hangs over a stove (using a magnet in most homes).

Video demonstrating the use of a fire blanket and the Stove Top Firestop on a kitchen grease fire. The fire blanket is also effective (as shown in this video).
https://youtu.be/EwkvMFTdo9Y

My Opinion?
I think the StoveTop Firestop is effective and easy to use because it is automatic once the fire reaches the fuse on the can. I think this is important, because a person may be afraid of approaching a grease fire in a kitchen. It only takes seconds for a grease fire to get out of control, so every second counts. Because this device is automatic, it is more dependable than a scared person who may run from the fire. It also does not require a person to approach a fire close enough to put any kind of lid on it (while possibly getting burned).

I think the easy and low cost and prudent things to do are:

1. Install the Stovetop Firestop canister above the stove
2. Have a fireblanket near the stove but not too close
3. Have a proper pan cover for extinguishing a fire (as shown in video)
4. Have a fire extinguisher (or more than one) in the galley area
5. Train ALL crew members to NOT use water on a grease fire.
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Old 31-12-2016, 09:48   #7
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Re: Fire Fighting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
I watched a live demo a few months ago by local Firefighters. They had a protected metal area that they put a frying pan in and lit the cooking oil. They then using a long pole threw water on the simulated kitchen fire. The explosion of flames was really impressive. They instantly jumped up at least 8 feet and were really violent. I'd go with a fire blanket over water in a galley fire.
Obviously. I've had a number over the years in the kitchen, and simply placing the cover on the pan is generally the solution. Not to be mean, but you would need to be dumber than a rock to throw water on hot grease, though the demos are filmed because people panic and do dumb stuff. Certainly we have all seen what adding even moist food does. I only meant to point out that fire blankets have their limitations. Fire departments do encourage the use of blankets, in part, because they are pretty fool proof (you can't make things worse and they will slow the progression).

I also wonder how a galley grease fire could quickly become serious, since basic common sense says you will be right there when when frying or cooking with an open flame. You should be able to respond with a clear head within no more than a few (2-4) seconds using lids, a blanket, and a nearby (but not over stove) extinguisher. This is obvious. It is fires that start from an electrical short that are insidious.

This is NOT what I meant when I mentioned water. I can see that my writing was not clear. The discussion of water was supposed to relate to all of the other fire scenarios.
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Old 31-12-2016, 11:39   #8
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Re: Fire Fighting

What got me thinking about water was the inability to get boat fires completely under control because of not enough/ malfunctioning/ poor functioning fire extinguishers.

A large Island Packed sank in the Gulf of California because they just couldn't quite get on top of an engine fire. The recent issue with the rally yacht in St Lucia also apparently because of extinguisher issues.

Obviously salt water is last defense item, just trying to come up with something more functional than "frightened sailor with a bucket approach". Particularly when one of the potential sources of a fire is directly in the path of the bucket brigade.

Like to think I have the electrical side covered. This is supposed to be the top item on the list.
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Old 31-12-2016, 11:52   #9
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Re: Fire Fighting

Grease fires is partially why we cook almost exclusively with olive oil. A small bottle of peanut or canola if we're looking to fry fish n chips.

It's almost impossible to set olive oil on fire because the smoking point is so low it'll essentially evaporate before that happens.

Unless you're in an industrial kitchen, there's no excuse for a grease fire. Pay attention or get out of the galley.
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Old 31-12-2016, 13:03   #10
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Re: Fire Fighting

electrical is the main thing to watch for. And reasonably easy to solve: Proper fusing for all wiring, including battery wiring.

From Boat US:




So in the case of the fire that started ON the boat, electrical causes were over 50%.

For grease fires, the lid is the solution. Storytime....

Long ago, I had a bunch of roommates that shared a house. We're sitting around drinking beer and watching some sportsing. One guy was making french fries on the (gas) stovetop. Being young, dumb, and poor, the mk 1 eyeball was thermometer of choice. Well, of course the oil got too hot and burst into flame. Flames were up to the ceiling. Dude cooking freaked out bigtime: screaming, looking for an extinguisher, etc... Luckily knew not to use water.

Another roommate (that grew up on a farm) got up, calmly walked over, put the lid on the pot, turned off the burner, and said "Don't take the lid off until that cools down."
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Old 31-12-2016, 15:51   #11
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Re: Fire Fighting

If you smoke or any guests or crew smoke, your risk of a class A fire is increased, and if you have a clothes dryer, which the average cruiser does not, there is another common class A fire source. Water is your best friend, for these fires. A fire (or bilge) pump is only as good as its power source, though. If the fire itself prevents use of the pump, a fire hose is useless, and you can't dewater, anyway. On a big enough boat, a separate emergency bank is a really good idea, for moving water and for comms.

Every circuit, even your electric engine starter, should be protected with a fuse. A big breaker is bulky and expensive but I have 300amp fuses on my boat about the size of a USB thumb drive and not so expensive that I can't keep spares. With proper fuses and breakers, an electrical fire is rare and not such a significant hazard.

Fuel hoses should be replaced before and not after there is a problem, even on diesel boats but especially if you have a gasoline engine such as an Atomic 4. Hope nobody thinks I am picking on the poor old Atomic, but seriously, gasoline with its low flash point is a much greater fire hazard and a bit of healthy paranoia should have you replacing fuel lines every couple of years even if they look great.

Cast iron skillets usually don't come with a lid but you can usually find a lid that will fit well enough and you really need to have a designated lid before you set your dinner afire, not scramble around for a suitable lid when the flames are already charring the overhead. A grease fire gets out of control on a small boat very quickly.

Rags soaked with various substances can and often do spontaneously combust. Linseed oil in particular is infamous for that. Try to not use stuff like that at sea, and shore side, store temporarily in a reasonably well closed container and dispose of promptly.

I know a guy who cruised a lot who liked to burn paper etc trash in a burn basket he would hang off a piece of rebar lashed to the boom. Unfortunately a sudden wind shift and a jibe sent flames from the burn basket to his main, which then set his jib ablaze and made a mess of all his halyards too. Not to mention the various meltable bits at his masthead. Didn't set his hull afire but left a bit of a mess on deck. The moral of that story is if you don't need to have a fire, don't deliberately make one. Candles, oil lamps, etc really should be replaced with LED flashlights and lanterns, and a good supply of batteries for same. Fire at sea really sucks. Don't ask me how I know.
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Old 02-01-2017, 07:36   #12
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Re: Fire Fighting

Quote:
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... Cast iron skillets usually don't come with a lid but you can usually find a lid that will fit well enough and you really need to have a designated lid before you set your dinner afire, not scramble around for a suitable lid when the flames are already charring the overhead. ....
I learned to get a lid out before I start frying long, long ago. It seems rather... obvious, because they do catch once in a while. A non-problem.
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Old 10-01-2017, 13:56   #13
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Re: Fire Fighting

For those who haven't seen this series, here's the visual consequence of various firefighting techniques. Spoiler alert, dispose of the dry chemical units, get Halotron gas units, get afire blanket. And get a foam extinguisher for when you are REALLY freaked.
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Old 10-01-2017, 15:02   #14
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Re: Fire Fighting

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrowleyMonster View Post
If you smoke or any guests or crew smoke, your risk of a class A fire is increased, and if you have a clothes dryer, which the average cruiser does not, there is another common class A fire source. Water is your best friend, for these fires. A fire (or bilge) pump is only as good as its power source, though. If the fire itself prevents use of the pump, a fire hose is useless, and you can't dewater, anyway. On a big enough boat, a separate emergency bank is a really good idea, for moving water and for comms.

Every circuit, even your electric engine starter, should be protected with a fuse. A big breaker is bulky and expensive but I have 300amp fuses on my boat about the size of a USB thumb drive and not so expensive that I can't keep spares. With proper fuses and breakers, an electrical fire is rare and not such a significant hazard.

Fuel hoses should be replaced before and not after there is a problem, even on diesel boats but especially if you have a gasoline engine such as an Atomic 4. Hope nobody thinks I am picking on the poor old Atomic, but seriously, gasoline with its low flash point is a much greater fire hazard and a bit of healthy paranoia should have you replacing fuel lines every couple of years even if they look great.

Cast iron skillets usually don't come with a lid but you can usually find a lid that will fit well enough and you really need to have a designated lid before you set your dinner afire, not scramble around for a suitable lid when the flames are already charring the overhead. A grease fire gets out of control on a small boat very quickly.

Rags soaked with various substances can and often do spontaneously combust. Linseed oil in particular is infamous for that. Try to not use stuff like that at sea, and shore side, store temporarily in a reasonably well closed container and dispose of promptly.

I know a guy who cruised a lot who liked to burn paper etc trash in a burn basket he would hang off a piece of rebar lashed to the boom. Unfortunately a sudden wind shift and a jibe sent flames from the burn basket to his main, which then set his jib ablaze and made a mess of all his halyards too. Not to mention the various meltable bits at his masthead. Didn't set his hull afire but left a bit of a mess on deck. The moral of that story is if you don't need to have a fire, don't deliberately make one. Candles, oil lamps, etc really should be replaced with LED flashlights and lanterns, and a good supply of batteries for same. Fire at sea really sucks. Don't ask me how I know.
Lots of good tips above. As to the oil soaked rags thing. For a few decades now I've been in the habit of immediately immersing oil soaked rags or paper towels in water as soon as a job is finished. Even if it's just paper towels used to clean up the kitchen stove top at home. To me it's just a preventative like manually turning off the propane at the tank on a boat when the cooking's finished.

As to some of the other fires mentioned, especially engine room fires, & those near tanks that supply the engine with fuel. Such issues surely do make me miss Halon. Though it's still possible to fit fire extinguishers that discharge into engine compartments with the pull of a pin. Even if they're only of the dry chemical type. As it is/was a fairly cheap insurance policy to have... And yep, I know that you can get reclaimed Halon, as well as Halon replacement type systems. Which, this thread has piqued my interest in such. Primarily because Halon works pretty well, including when it has a heat activated fuse in an engine (or other) space.

And putting out burning liquids with seawater, that's always "interesting". Which, hopefully, few of us will ever need to do in anger.
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Old 10-01-2017, 15:15   #15
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Re: Fire Fighting

Made up a long collapsible fire hose on an electric bilge pump that is lashed by lifelines on deck, mid deck at mid hose so it can be used for 3 purposes:
Deck wash for anchor mud, etc. just by throwing the pump overboard and turning on the switch and rinse what is needed.
Also, can be used to pump out the bilges and cabin in case of flooding by throwing the pump there below and turning it on. already discharges onto deck.
And in case of big fire (Not grease fires), throw pump overboard, bring hose back with you and point at base of flames, turn it on.
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