Fires on board: what are the causes and how to prevent them

By social on Aug 20 in ship fire risk removal.

Fires aboard ships are unfortunately a phenomenon, which is constantly increasing. The spread of fire on board depends on many factors: some boats for example are built using flammable materials such as timber and fiberglass.

For instance, a sailboat of about 12 meters burns completely within ten minutes, releasing a large quantity of toxic gas into the air.

Fire is the worst enemy of boats, however there are a number of precautions to avoid fires on board.

Kitchen, engine compartment and electric circuit are the places with the highest fire risk.

The kitchen is one of the places most at risk, because in addition to the gas that is the most common fuel for hobs, there are also oil residues and other fatty materials that can trigger a fire.

It would be better to avoid frying, or in any case to provide the kitchen with equipment to intervene on any outbreaks before they spread. The fire extinguisher is mandatory, but a fireproof blanket is also required, which must be kept in an easily accessible place. It is also good to always check the gas pipes and keep the cylinders in a place that can be easily ventilated.

Fuel leaks and the accumulation of gas and dirt are another of the most common causes of fire on board. Thus it is good to clean the engine compartment and check for fuel leaks.

In addition, it is also good to check the electrical system, given the high corrosivity of the saline environment. An old and malfunctioning electrical system is more likely to cause a short circuit and therefore a fire on board.

How to deal with a fire on board 

The crew must know location and use of fire extinguishers and any other fire-fighting equipment (such as fireproof blankets) at the time of boarding.

Moreover, on board there should always be a “grab bag”, which is a watertight bag to be grabbed quickly to leave the boat. The bag should contain the crew and boat documents, a satellite phone, a portable VHF, a torch, signal lights and all the survival equipment (blankets and water).

We need to stress that the flame needs oxygen to feed and propagate, so the first thing to do in case of fire on board is to close all possible air intakes from outside (even with the help of wet towels), the valves of interception of fuel and gas, and check that the on-board fire extinguishing system is operating.  Otherwise, it must be activated manually.

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