USCG Masters Captains License 25/50/100 Ton Upgrade

SAFETY - Fire Safety

Safety - Module 3

Fire Safety

Emergency Procedures for Fires

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.

Fire Safety

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. 

Fire Safety

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 (foam) 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 Safety

Fire extinguisher information can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (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 cracked wiring, abrasions, 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. 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.

According to 46 CFR 185.524 the master of a vessel shall conduct sufficient fire drills to make sure that each crew member is familiar with his or her duties in case of a fire.  Each fire drill must include:

  1. Summoning passengers on a vessel on an overnight voyage to muster stations.
  2. Summoning the crew to report to assigned stations and to prepare for and demonstrate assigned duties.
  3. Instructions in the use and location of fire alarms, extinguishers, and any other firefighting equipment on board.

All fire drills must be conducted as if there were an actual emergency.  Firefighting drills and training must be logged for review by the USCG upon request.  The log entry must include the date of the drill or training and a description of the drill or training.

46 CFR 181 includes the rules and regulations regarding fire protection equipment.  46. CFR 181.300 contains the requirements for fire pumps.  A fire pump must be permanently connected to the fire main and may be connected to the bilge system.  A fire pump, for example, required for a 75 gross ton mechanically propelled vessel,

58 feet in length, carrying 52 passengers shall be capable of discharging an effective stream from a hose connected to the highest outlet.  A fire hose with a nozzle must be attached to each fire hydrant at all times.  For fire hydrants located on open decks or cargo decks where no protection is provided, hoses may be temporarily removed during heavy weather or cargo handling operations.  Hoses so removed must be stored in nearby accessible locations (46 CFR 181.320).

46 CFR 181.400 contains the requirements for fixed firefighting systems.  On vessels that are required to have fixed carbon dioxide fire extinguishing system, the controls to operate the system shall be installed in an accessible location outside the space protected.

46 CFR 181.500 contains all of the regulations regarding portable fire extinguisher requirements. Portable fire extinguishers must be located so that they are clearly visible and readily accessible from the space being protected.  The location and installation must be to the satisfaction of the OCMI.   One B-I extinguisher is required in the wheel house of a small passenger vessel.  If your vessel is required to have a B-II fire extinguisher, you may use a 15 pound carbon dioxide extinguisher.  Foam fire extinguishers should be discharged and refilled at each inspection and re-inspection.  A gasoline fueled vessel not having a fixed CO2 system would be permitted to carry a 2 ½ gallon foam extinguisher in the propulsion machinery spaces.

Every gasoline engines installed in a motorboat after April 25, 1940, except outboard motors, is required to be equipped with an acceptable means of backfire flame control (46 CFR 25.35)

If your vessel is required to have a fire axe on board, it should be located in or next to the pilot house 46 CFR 161.600.  A vessel not required to have a power-driven fire pump must have at least three 9.5 liter buckets attached to a lanyard, stenciled with the words “Fire Bucket”, to use in case of an emergency 46 CFR 181.610. 

Fire Safety
Fire Safety

Practical Exercise:  Read the CFR 181 regarding fire protection equipment.  Check the fire equipment on your vessel or the vessel that you work on.  Make sure that you know how all of the equipment is used.  Perform a fire drill and log it into the vessel’s log book. 

Fire Log Book