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Old 27-08-2018, 09:54   #1
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A-B-C Fire Exxtinguishers

I recently purchased a 40 ft sailboat with existing fire extinguishers having a variety of end dates, most past due.

I thought about getting CO2 extinguishers for B-C (Liquid-Electrical) fire suppression (leaves no mess), but these would be totally inadequate for a Type A fire (wood, paper, etc). So, it appears I should have some of both. But then in the fire panic, would I really want to read the label and then find the other one? (Never mind the expense.)

And then West Marine put Kidde B-C Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers on sale for $15 each. I bought four. Probably I should have bought A-B-C extinguishers, but they were $40 each, not on sale.

Both types dispense a dry chemical:

A-B-C dispenses Mono-ammonium Phosphate
B-C dispenses Sodium Bicarbonate

It seems to me that the dry chemical Sodium Bicarbonate extinguishers should work on Type A fires, but I can't find any authoritative discussion on this particular issue: B-C Dry Chemical on a Type A fire.

Any thoughts?

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Old 27-08-2018, 10:12   #2
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Re: A-B-C Fire Exxtinguishers

These are life safety items. They have the ratings for a reason.

But you're on a boat, you can use water for the type A fire, or wait till it gets to the waterline, and tada, your fire will go out.

You bought a 40' boat, I'd spring for a type A extinguisher. (or an ABC if your worried about grabbing the wrong one.)

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Old 27-08-2018, 10:19   #3
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Re: A-B-C Fire Exxtinguishers

also found this googling...

Sodium Bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate fire extinguishers simply use baking-soda powder as their extinguishing agent. These units are rated BC for grease, oil, and electrical fires. (Numerical prefixes, if present, depend on the model.) Sodium bicarbonate extinguishers create no odor, and clean up problems are minimal. As stated earlier, baking soda doesn’t work against Type A fires, that is wood, paper, fabric, or plastic fires.

linky: Fire Safety: Fire and Extinguisher Types -
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Old 27-08-2018, 21:21   #4
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Re: A-B-C Fire Exxtinguishers

Consider the size of these cheap extinguishers. They are only good for a few seconds of spraying. Get at least one large unit.
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Old 28-08-2018, 13:12   #5

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Re: A-B-C Fire Exxtinguishers

Find a concrete patch or a dumpster, make a couple of fires and use the oldest extinguisher to get a feel for how they really work.

Your first surprise will be that they make a huge cloud of dust that gets in your lungs and eyes and all over the place. When used down below, the boat will be full of that for weeks, no matter how you clean. You'll want to hold your breath and squint your eyes while using it. And typically, one "under the desk waste paper can" is about all the fire they can put out.

The bicarbonate ones are also sold as "garage" extinguishers, because the yellow powder is badly corrosive to electrics and appliances. So you may want the legally required marine extinguishers on board, but after that? WalMart or Home Depot sell perfectly good alternatives at way less than marine prices. The "USCG Marine Certification" mainly means there's a different bracket for the extinguisher, and those still suck. So, no need to feel guilt about not getting more of them.

I used a CO2 bottle when some camping things were self-combusting in my closet one evening. Apparently the hurricane matches wanted to turn the tent fly into a group poncho for the seven dwarves. I didn't ask what was burning, just cracked the door open enough to stick the horn in and blew CO2 at it. And while that would be a Class A fire that Co2 can't put did very nicely, and saved a wicked cleanup.

You may also want a "kitchen" extinguisher for the galley. These are bicarbonate, something fairly new from Kidde, using a different head to dispense the powder at lower speeds over a wider area, so it doesn't spread burning grease, and won't cause corrosion problems. The same $17-20 that all the "liter" sized bottles run, discount.
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Old 29-08-2018, 15:10   #6
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Re: A-B-C Fire Exxtinguishers

I have CO2, water, and dry chemical extinguishers in my house and garage (and lab at work).

I've used CO2 and water on actual fires. Dry chemical for practice.

Dry chemical are very effective but make a mess. They will work to some degree on class A fires, but not as well as good old water.

CO2 are expensive and have very short range. You have to get within a couple of feet of the fire. Again they will work on class A to some degree even though they are not rated for that use. They are non-toxic and leave no residue and are my first choice for the kitchen, for welding, and for the lab -- anywhere a small fire may need to be put out and where the consequences of releasing a corrosive dust cloud are substantial.

2.5 gallon water extinguishers can be had, used, for next to nothing, and work great -- better than anything else -- on grass fires, trash fires, campfires, etc. If filled with distilled water they can be used on electrical fires.

On my boat I have an ABC extinguisher that is one size larger than what the Coast Guard requires. If there's a fire, that will put it out. It will make a mess. I don't have room for 3 different kinds of extinguisher.

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