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Old 13-03-2012, 12:11   #1
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Diesel Engine Fires

I am researching fire suppression systems for my boat and come across a lot of systems for engine rooms. It occurred to me that I have never heard of a diesel engine fire on a boat but surely they must happen to warrant all the attention by the fire suppression companies? Or is this just marketing? A quick Google seach of "diesel engine fires" doesn't turm up much. Anybody ever experienced one? How did it start?
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Old 13-03-2012, 12:22   #2
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Re: diesel engine fires

Most boats with an engine room have all sorts of systems installed in there. This is where the fire usually starts, in an electrical component in the engine room. Halon systems are a no-brainer to me. Wouldn't leave the dock without one. With fire retardant engine rooms and Halon it's remarkably safe. Just remember to turn off the battery mains when the Halon goes off!
I've never personally experienced a fire on my boat, but I've seen several including one at sea, and one that involved the whole dock before it was over. I've repaired many burn boats and it sucks, you don't want to go there. Shell out for Halon.
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Old 13-03-2012, 12:37   #3
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Re: diesel engine fires

Halon-- need to know>>> Halon 1301 Fire Extinguishing Systems
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Old 13-03-2012, 12:42   #4
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Re: diesel engine fires

Didn't know they were phasing it out as an ozone depleter. Western Fire Safety handles mine and didn't even mention it at the last refill. Thanks for that!
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Old 13-03-2012, 12:43   #5
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Re: diesel engine fires

Can you still buy new Halon systems?? Thought that new systems were banned because of it's threat to the Ozone layer or is it some other form of suppresant??

AFAIK the only suppresant systems now on the market are almost as bad as the fire they are trying to control. Is there a system that won't create the extreme mess that these systems leave??

Diesel fuel is extremely hard to ignite. Typically, it takes an open flame to get diesel to burn and it doesn't vaporize like gasoline so explosions are almost unheard of. Not to say that an engine room automatic fire extinquishing sytem isn't a good idea but not because of the diesel fuel.

The problem with fire on an FRP boat is not the original source of the fire but the FRP itself catching on fire. Once the resin starts to burn, the boat will usually burn to the water line despite any attempt to put the fire out.
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Old 13-03-2012, 12:55   #6
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Re: diesel engine fires

Quote:
Originally Posted by minaret View Post
Didn't know they were phasing it out as an ozone depleter. Western Fire Safety handles mine and didn't even mention it at the last refill. Thanks for that!
You can get systems recharged at a price, but you can not buy new any more. IMHO CO2 systems work pretty good but you do need to double up on the amount. There are other alternatives too but also at a price. CO2 is the cheapest for confined spaces.
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Old 13-03-2012, 12:59   #7
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Re: diesel engine fires

Quote:
Originally Posted by minaret View Post
Most boats with an engine room have all sorts of systems installed in there. This is where the fire usually starts, in an electrical component in the engine room.
This is what I suspected. I am having a hard time picturing how a fire would start in my engine room that has nothing but a dinky diesel, battery, starter and alternator. The halon or similar automatic systems are indeed an no-brainer as they are relatively cheap, compact and work whether I am paying attention or not. I still wonder, though, how often the diesel engine or it's components are the actual cause of fire in an engine room?
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Old 13-03-2012, 13:08   #8
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Re: diesel engine fires

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Originally Posted by mikereed100 View Post
I still wonder, though, how often the diesel engine or it's components are the actual cause of fire in an engine room?
I would say almost never. It's the electrical systems that short out and start fires. Kitchen/galley fires are more common though.
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Old 13-03-2012, 13:14   #9
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Re: diesel engine fires

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikereed100 View Post
This is what I suspected. I am having a hard time picturing how a fire would start in my engine room that has nothing but a dinky diesel, battery, starter and alternator. The halon or similar automatic systems are indeed an no-brainer as they are relatively cheap, compact and work whether I am paying attention or not. I still wonder, though, how often the diesel engine or it's components are the actual cause of fire in an engine room?

The batteries, starter, and alternator are all potential fire sources. I sure am glad I got my Halon system with my boat! Wonder how long the halon supply will last? There must be loads of the stuff if they didn't even mention it to me. All they said was "no problem, nice system!".
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Old 13-03-2012, 14:33   #10
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Re: diesel engine fires

I just did a google search for "diesel boat fire." I got 37 million hits. On the very first page, 5 hits out of 12 linked to news stories about diesel engine fires aboard boats. If you went through all of the hits I'm sure you'd see several thousand distinct stories about diesel fires aboard boats.

Yeah, they happen. More often than they should.
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Old 13-03-2012, 15:12   #11
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Re: diesel engine fires

A typical burn boat job. The one parked next to this one was the source and was much worse. Took almost a year to rebuild it. Totally gutted by fire.
An entertaining anecdote- the bad fire on North Lake Union about 4 years ago was at a close friends place of work after hours. He was the only employee there at the time. Half a dozen 50'-60' powerboats were aflame at the height of the blaze. My friend ran down the dock and started to cast loose boats which were not yet on fire, creating a nice firebreak. Several of these large powerboats were set adrift in Lake Union by him in the name of stopping the fire. When the firemen arrived they wanted to give him a medal for his efforts. The next day, however, he was almost fired. Apparently the owners of some of the boats he saved would rather have had the insurance claim and were pissed off! Needless to say he now works elsewhere.
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Old 13-03-2012, 15:19   #12
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Re: diesel engine fires

Looks like there is a replacement for Halon:
HFC-227ea, Dupont™ FM200
http://www2.dupont.com/FE/en_US/asse...M-200_PUSH.pdf

Used in systems such as these:
Fireboy-Xintex pre-engineered total flooding fire extinguishing systems

No mess as with dry chemical and less volume than the C02 extiguishers. Apparently non-toxic as well. A system big enough for my engine rooms is around $350. A similar unit would cover the "Wall of Power" where my house bank and distribution panel lives. Cheap insurance to my mind.
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Old 13-03-2012, 15:25   #13
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Re: diesel engine fires

I still believe that CO2 has always been better then the Halon Systems, and dosent do as much damage to running diesels. and it's a lot easier to get and a bunch cheaper. had small fire in a engine room on 58ft ketch I was delivering and the hand setoff co2 system killed it almost instantly!! Im sold and have had a co2 system on all my boats since. Just my 2 cents
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Old 13-03-2012, 15:30   #14
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Re: diesel engine fires

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikereed100 View Post
Looks like there is a replacement for Halon:
HFC-227ea, Dupont™ FM200
http://www2.dupont.com/FE/en_US/asse...M-200_PUSH.pdf

Used in systems such as these:
Fireboy-Xintex pre-engineered total flooding fire extinguishing systems

No mess as with dry chemical and less volume than the C02 extiguishers. Apparently non-toxic as well. A system big enough for my engine rooms is around $350. A similar unit would cover the "Wall of Power" where my house bank and distribution panel lives. Cheap insurance to my mind.

The Fireboy is what I have. I agree, very cheap insurance.
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Old 13-03-2012, 15:35   #15
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Re: diesel engine fires

Agree on electrical as biggest fire risk. The best money you can spend for fire protection is on more fuses including:

Battery positive terminal

Starter cable

Alternator cable ( protecting from a cable short since the alternator is self limiting)

Then look for small gauge wires without fuses - things like the alternator sense wire - and install a fuse.

Sailboat engine starters don't draw that much current - I use a 250 amp ANL fuse and haven't had nuisance blows.

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