OUPV / Six Pack Captains License Course

SAFETY - Fire Fighting


Fire Fighting

It is important to know what type of fire is burning and what rules to follow in fighting it.  Prompt action is important in fighting a fire, and all crew members should know where fire equipment is located.  The three components of fire are heat, fuel, and oxygen.  The term inflammable means that a substance is flammable.  Non-flammable means that the substance won’t burn.  When using a fire extinguisher, aim the nozzle at the source, heal or base of the fire, sweeping the nozzle from side to side following the flames up (except foam).  Foam extinguishing agents should be applied by banking the discharge off a vertical surface.  If your boat is on fire, put the fire down wind.  If you need to approach a burning vessel to render assistance, always approach from the windward side.  When fueling, always ground the fuel nozzle to prevent static spark.  Fire extinguishers that have been engaged need to be recharged, even if they are not empty.  If there is a fire in machinery space, secure fuel then make sure the passengers are safe.  If you smell a fresh fiberglass smell when no fiberglass work is being done, the vessel may have a fire. You are the fire department at sea!!!

Fire spreads to adjacent areas by one or more of the following ways.  Conduction is heat moving from one solid object to another.  Convection is heat transferred through vents. Radiation is heat transferred through open space. Spontaneous combustion is when a fire starts without aid from outside sources.  Oily rags can ignite spontaneously, so they should not be left lying around.  The best way to cool a hot bulkhead is to use a water fog.  An all-purpose (dry chemical) fire extinguisher is good for class A, class B and class C fires.  It is important that all crew members know how to use the extinguishers on the boat.  Fixed fire-fighting systems on boats automatically shut off the engines.  The hatch should not be opened by the crew after it is deployed.

Four classes (types) of fires:

Class A – Fire with ordinary combustible material, such as wood or paper, which produces an ash when burned.  They are best extinguished by the quenching and cooling effects of quantities of water or fog.  Water cools and smothers a fire.

Class B
 – Fires in flammable liquids such as grease, gasoline, fuel oil, lubricating oil, diesel, and tar.  The blanketing or smothering effect of the extinguishing agent is of prime importance.  Water should not be used on a Class B fire as it splatters the flame.

Class C
 – Fires in electrical equipment should be extinguished by using nonconductive extinguishing agent.  Since water does conduct electricity, it should not be used on an electrical fire.  Since the source is electrical, the first priority in controlling the fire should be removal of the electrical source if it can be safely accomplished.  A CO2 fire extinguisher works well on this type as it doesn’t damage electrical equipment.

Class D
– Fires in combustible metals, such as magnesium, sodium, titanium, and lithium.  These cannot be extinguished with water or all-purpose (dry chemical) fire extinguishers. Absorbing powders are used.

Fire extinguisher information can be found in CFR Subchapter T

Fire prevention is the most important consideration for your vessel.  During vessel and equipment checks all systems must be inspected, including fuel systems, oil systems, and wiring.  Check for abrasions, cracked wiring, or pinholes in oil and fuel lines.  Any problems found must be corrected immediately.  Stow cleaning materials off the boat and make sure to keep oil and grease out of the bilges.  Use proper containers for flammable liquids.  Be alert for suspicious odors or fumes.  For example, the smell of fiberglass when no glasswork has been recently done, generally indicates there is a problem.  Be sure to vent all spaces thoroughly before starting the engines.  Clean up any spilled fuel or oil immediately and properly dispose of it on shore.

Portable fire extinguishers are labeled as to what type of fire they are expected to extinguish, and a Roman numeral indicates the physical size of the unit.  It is important that vessel operators know how long the extinguishing agent is expected to last.  The key to success is to begin the extinguishing process immediately.  Extinguishers with a gross weight of more than 55 pounds are considered semi-portable and must be fitted with a suitable length hose and nozzle that can reach all parts of the space they are protecting.

Fixed fire-fighting systems are required on some vessels.  Regulations require that all accommodation spaces, weather decks, machinery spaces, stores and working spaces, and any part of the cargo deck accessible to the crew at sea must be able to be reached and protected by two streams of water.  One of these streams must come from a single 50 foot length of fire hose.

Practical Exercise:
  Check the fire extinguishers on your vessel or the vessel that you work on.  Make sure that you know what type they are and how they are utilized.  Perform a fire drill and log it into the vessel’s log book.

Marine Firefighting pt1

Marine Firefighting pt2