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Old 10-04-2014, 11:12   #1
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Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Last night there was a VHF radio call saying a boat was on fire in the anchorage.
I happened to get there first and could see flames well alight in the aft cabin of a centre cockpit boat.

I thought at that stage the fire would be unstoppable and was worried about fuel, gas etc.

No one was on board.

I got on with my new ABC rated 2 kg/4Lb extinguisher the same size as the one on the right in the pic below.

I kicked the hatch open slightly - didn't want to let too much oxygen in - and pulled the trigger of the extinguisher and squirted ONE good squirt and then the extinguisher was empty. About a 10 second squirt, I think. The flame was out but obviously only temporally.

By then a dinghy with a small bucket arrived and passing water up managed to control the fire till a dinghy with a water pump arrived and we put it out absolutely.

I was a bit amazed the extinguisher only lasted 10 seconds! Or seemed like only 10 seconds.

Fire cause unknown.

If it had been an electrical or oil fire we would have been in deep trouble not wanting to use water.

So today I bought the big 10kg/20lb extinguisher in the left of the pic at a hardware store (cheaper than the chandlery).

As it was my first fire actually on a boat (great to practise on someone elses boat! ) it was all a bit of a scary learning experience.

Am I right to think extinguishers are just a temporary measure?
How long should an extinguisher last?
What to do then?
Use Water on an oil or electrical fire after the extinguishers have been used?
What else??


Mark

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Old 10-04-2014, 11:28   #2
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Hi Mark

Generally most hand held extinguishers will operate for about ten seconds, so yours was fairly typical. This does not give you a whole lot of time, so you should use the extinguisher as efficiently as possible and probably have spares close to hand as well. Normally, one should aim at the base of the fire since that is where oxygen is being pulled from, and not directly at the flames themselves and use a sweeping motion to insure you are cutting of the fire's oxygen supply as thoroughly as you can.

Most extinguishers have general instructions on their use and one should know these before any emergency arises. Different types may require different techniques and safety zones (how far away one should be from the fire when using the extinguisher), as well as what kind of fires the extinguisher can be used with.
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Old 10-04-2014, 11:33   #3
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Uh, isn't this the third anchorage you have been in when a boat catches fire? Please keep us informed of your movements…

Mark
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Old 10-04-2014, 11:35   #4
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

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Originally Posted by Astrid View Post
Hi Mark

Generally most hand held extinguishers will operate for about ten seconds, so yours was fairly typical. This does not give you a whole lot of time, so you should use the extinguisher as efficiently as possible and probably have spares close to hand as well. Normally, one should aim at the base of the fire since that is where oxygen is being pulled from, and not directly at the flames themselves and use a sweeping motion to insure you are cutting of the fire's oxygen supply as thoroughly as you can.

Most extinguishers have general instructions on their use and one should know these before any emergency arises. Different types may require different techniques and safety zones (how far away one should be from the fire when using the extinguisher), as well as what kind of fires the extinguisher can be used with.


Having had a gasoline fire on board my boat, I'll tell you that all the thoughts about aiming at a specific spot go out your head when looking at flames.
I was fortunate that it happened at a gas dock and the attendant had received training, but he still emptied both of his 20lb extinguishers and had a third one in his hand before someone yelled....IT"S OUT !!!!!!

Nerves take over real fast.....So yes get the big one.

I now have 4 on my 36' Carver
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Old 10-04-2014, 11:55   #5
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

I've had several opportunities to unload real extinguishers on real fires - fortunately only in training.

I can't say this enough: PRACTICE with a real extinguisher once or twice at some point in your life. Let your kids, nieces, nephews and their friends practice too.

It is often very easy to put out fires with the small extinguishers we carry ... the second or third try.

I also carry one like the left-hand one in the picture above, and carry a bunch like the right-hand one, mounted within easy reach all over the boat.

No reason not to buy them at the hardware or big-box home store. Just understand what you're buying (BC or ABC) and in the US, look for the CG approval number. If you've ever been to an industrial safety course, you know all about the different classes of extinguisher. If not, no doubt there's a good introduction on line somewhere.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:06   #6
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

They will fire one off in a good captains class to show you how useless those small ones are.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:13   #7
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Small extinguishers for small fires, that's all you can expect. It sounds like it worked out well in your case. A person needs to quickly assess the fire parameters and control ventilation like you seem to have done. The key is to act quickly while the fire is manageable and it seems like you got there and acted in the nick of time.
The first step in fuel or electrical fire is to secure the fuel flow or power then ventilation. Another aspect is containment. Prevent fire progression by cooling adjacent spaces (bulkheads and overheads) with water Small vessels usually don't have installed fire suppression systems but there was one for that space once ventilation is secured that would be activated and let it work. Don't open the space introducing oxygen until the space has cooled to around 100 deg F.

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Old 10-04-2014, 12:17   #8
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Just the basics here:

Never turn your back to the fire.
Extinguishers operable distance - 8 to 10'.
P.A.S.S. - Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle, Sweep the base of the flames.
Most importantly - Know when to quit and evacuate.

The last is even more of an issue on a boat due to the toxicity of the smoke from the burning fiberglass.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:44   #9
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Hey Mark,

First, well done for getting the fire out. That's what counts.

As Astrid said, all handheld extinguishers last for a short time only. The bigger ones do not last longer, they do blow out a larger volume of agent.

The dry chemical types that are commonly seen are very dependent on user technique. As several people have said, you aim at the base of the flames and sweep back and forth. With these extinguishers you need to do it right the first time, as they have a very short duration and they have a very lilmited long term effect on the fire - ie they put it out immediately or they don't.

There are extinguishing agents that have a long term effect on fire. Halon is one - it will continue to inhibit/prevent fire as long as it is in the area. An extremely effective tool for fighting fuel fires in the US Navy is (or at least was, it's been awhile since I was active duty) Light Water. It is a liquid which is mixed with water, only a few percent of the light water is used in the mix. It has an astonishing ability to stop fuel fires by creating a thin film which covers the burning fuel and seperates it from the air. Light Water stays in the fire zone and continues to prevent fire for quite a while. As an example of how effective it is, as a demonstration we used to take a bucket of gasoline, pour a tiny amount of the light water into the bucket and then try to light the gas. You could get it to ignite by vigorously stirring the gas, this would break the surface film and it would ignite. But it would go back out as soon as you stopped stirring. If you can work out a way to spray/dump it on a fire it is extremely effective.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:54   #10
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptTom View Post
Just understand what you're buying (BC or ABC) and in the US, look for the CG approval number. If you've ever been to an industrial safety course, you know all about the different classes of extinguisher. If not, no doubt there's a good introduction on line somewhere.
When performing safety training in the past, we were told the following way to remember fire extinguisher classifications:

A = any fire that creates Ash
B = any fire that would cause a Boom
C = any fire from a Charge
D = there wasn't anything clever here, just fires due to metals

Not sure if this is helpful, but I still remember this 20 years later.
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Old 10-04-2014, 13:07   #11
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

10 seconds sounds about right to me, but if you weren't directly aiming it at the source or base of the fire, then it wouldn't do much. It probably helped in your situation by helping to reduce the oxygen to the fire, but temporarily at best.
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Old 10-04-2014, 13:24   #12
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Good job responding and getting the fire out. And, yeah, nice to practice on someone else's boat!

One thing I know for sure is that, of the people I know who have had to use a fire extinguisher for real, not a single one of them ever complained that it was too big. And most would have liked to have had two or three more. That tells me that, if you have the room for more/larger fire extinguishers... GET THEM!

Definitely not the place where you want to save money by getting the very minimum required by law.
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Old 10-04-2014, 13:49   #13
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
Last night there was a VHF radio call saying a boat was on fire in the anchorage.
I happened to get there first and could see flames well alight in the aft cabin of a centre cockpit boat.

I thought at that stage the fire would be unstoppable and was worried about fuel, gas etc.

No one was on board.

I got on with my new ABC rated 2 kg/4Lb extinguisher the same size as the one on the right in the pic below.

I kicked the hatch open slightly - didn't want to let too much oxygen in - and pulled the trigger of the extinguisher and squirted ONE good squirt and then the extinguisher was empty. About a 10 second squirt, I think. The flame was out but obviously only temporally.

By then a dinghy with a small bucket arrived and passing water up managed to control the fire till a dinghy with a water pump arrived and we put it out absolutely.

I was a bit amazed the extinguisher only lasted 10 seconds! Or seemed like only 10 seconds.

Fire cause unknown.

If it had been an electrical or oil fire we would have been in deep trouble not wanting to use water.

So today I bought the big 10kg/20lb extinguisher in the left of the pic at a hardware store (cheaper than the chandlery).

As it was my first fire actually on a boat (great to practise on someone elses boat! ) it was all a bit of a scary learning experience.

Am I right to think extinguishers are just a temporary measure?
How long should an extinguisher last?
What to do then?
Use Water on an oil or electrical fire after the extinguishers have been used?
What else??


Mark

The 4 lb variety (right) should last 13 - 15 seconds. In a fire the difference between 10 and 13 seconds is nothing. The 40 lb (left) only lasts 30 seconds. Use short bursts and have a second or third one handy. If you can't get the fire out with one, you might want to evacuate and let the professionals handle the fire.
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Old 10-04-2014, 13:58   #14
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleTrouble View Post
When performing safety training in the past, we were told the following way to remember fire extinguisher classifications:

A = any fire that creates Ash
B = any fire that would cause a Boom
C = any fire from a Charge
D = there wasn't anything clever here, just fires due to metals

Not sure if this is helpful, but I still remember this 20 years later.

DT,

That's the best mnemonic I've ever seen to memorize the ABC. Thanks.

RS
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Old 10-04-2014, 14:02   #15
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Re: Fire!! Fire:0, Mark:1, Extinguisher:??????

Quote:
Originally Posted by Khagan1227 View Post
If you can't get the fire out with one, you might want to evacuate and let the professionals handle the fire.
Calls on VHF 16 went unanswered. Either by Coast Guard or any of the superyachts. Only the cruisers monitoring VHF 10 responded.

When cruising away from the USA, UK, Australia etc, cruisers are on their own.
Absolutely on their own.

Also last night at 4 am there was a robbery on a boat about a mile from the fire. The police arrived at 3pm. PM!!! Again, cruisers responded scaring the crooks away before anything was taken.



Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Uh, isn't this the third anchorage you have been in when a boat catches fire? Please keep us informed of your movements…

Mark
I was NOWHERE near the last one! At least 100 meters!

And that boat was worth $6 million and only 3 years old.


Ok, I will warn when I move

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