Keeping one or two fire extinguishers on your boat is crucial for safety. In many states, it is regulated by law to equip at least one extinguisher on a small boat. But, where should portable marine fire extinguishers be mounted?
There are no requirements for storing extinguishers at a certain place. But this doesn’t mean you can place them randomly. They should be inaccessible, open, and easy-to-spot areas near compartments that may pose fire hazards. Consider the regions of flammable liquids and gases, cooking zones, and guest-gathering spots.
In this article, besides answering the question “Where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat?”, we will provide a quick guide on how to purchase and maintain them effectively.
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The Right Fire Extinguishers for Your Boat
Before discussing the most suitable place to store a marine fire extinguisher, make sure you have the right ones. Don’t be naive to think every extinguisher is the same and can be used to tackle all kinds of fire hazards. You need to pay attention to the fire class you’re most likely to encounter and choose the type of extinguishers accordingly.
There are five primary types rated by letters based on the materials that are present in the event of fire:
- Class A: Fires caused by inflammable carbon-based solids, such as paper, fabric, or wood. This is the most common fire outbreak and can be controlled by water if spotted immediately.
- Class B: Combustible liquids or gases, like petroleum, oil, or diesel. Cooking oil is not included in this class.
- Class C: Fires involving electrical equipment and are usually caused by an
- Class D: Burning metals, such as magnesium, aluminum, or lithium.
- Class K: All kinds of kitchen fires, mostly from cooking oil and fats.
The U.S. Coast Guard requires each boat to have at least one class B fire extinguisher. On a vessel, fires from flammable liquids and gases are easy to occur because of the small space, attached fuel tank, and enclosed engine components. B-class fires are hazardous and can spread rapidly, especially when there are massive amounts of combustible substances.
Unfortunately, these types of fires can not be put out with water. The temperature of a gas fire is much higher than water’s boiling point. If you try to mollify it with water, steam will appear, expand, and get out of control in no time. That is why every boat must have fire extinguishers even though it is surrounded by water.
Class B fire extinguishers are made of powder or dry foam chemicals, such as highly pressurized carbon dioxide, aqueous film-forming foam, ammonium phosphate, or halogenated agents.
How Many Do You Need
Depending on your boat’s size, you might want to purchase B-I or B-II extinguishers.
- B-I or B1: These are U.S. Coast Guard-approved type B, size 1 extinguishers. On the Amerex website, you should look for the labels: Dry Chemical, ABC, or Purple K. The volume must be 2 lbs or larger. Other than that, Carbon Dioxide (Co2) extinguishers that are from 5 lbs and Halon ones that are at least 2.5 lbs can be marked as class B-I.
- B-II: These are U.S. Coast Guard-approved type B, size 2 extinguishers. You can expect them to be larger in volume and mainly for big ships. B-II must be 15 lbs or larger Dry Chemical, ABC, or Purple K. over 10 lbs Halon, and over 15.5 lbs Halotron.
If your vessel is under 26 feet long, the minimum requirement is one B-I fire extinguisher. If the boat is from 26 to 40 feet in length, at least two B-1 extinguishers are required. Larger vessels need three B-I or one B-I and one B-II. If a USCG-approved fire extinguisher system is installed within the boat engine compartment, you might need fewer portable extinguishers.
Remember that you are allowed to equip more than the minimum requirements. But unnecessarily bulky extinguishers give you more harm than good. Also, I don’t think they are unnecessary for smaller boats. It is highly important to store an extinguisher if the boat has one of the following features:
- Permanently attached gas tanks or heavy ones that are difficult to detach.
- Enclosed engine compartments.
- Areas for cooking activities and residential purposes.
- Engine tanks stored under the seats.
- Double bottoms that are temporarily attached to the hull.
- Areas that are not filled with flotation devices.
Where to Store Your Fire Extinguishers
There’s no exact place to store the extinguishers; it depends on your vessel’s structure. They should be near places where fires may occur and stored in a way that is quick and easy to grab. So, think of the cabin, hull, bilge, or kitchen. Some people have it next to the fuel tank or cooking area. The tips below should be a big help in determining the best place to store a fire extinguisher on a boat:
- Think about where flammable liquids and gases (fuel tank, cooking oil, cooking gas, etc) are kept on your boat and mount the extinguishers nearby.
- If your boat has a cooking area, make sure there is one extinguisher in the zone.
- The gathering spot is where fires are likely to occur due to the food, trash, and lighters.
Be noted that extinguishers should be kept away from damage. Don’t expose them to high-traffic areas or harsh conditions.
How to Mount and Maintain Fire Extinguishers
When you have a location for the extinguisher, collect the boat fire extinguisher mounts, brackets, and belts to keep it in place. Two common types of mounts are wall hooks and metal brackets. You should ensure the materials are corrosion-resistant. Then, read the mounting instructions carefully to install. For a step-by-step guide, watch this video to learn how to install a fire extinguisher and know where fire extinguishers should be stored on a boat.
For most modern fire extinguishers, it does not matter if you store them horizontally or vertically. But if you have a non-pressurized one, it must be stored upright. Otherwise, the chemicals will sink to the bottom and get compacted when the extinguisher is left without use for a prolonged period. To be sure of the most proper storage, check the manual instructions.
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) National Fire Code requires boaters to check the extinguishers every 30 days. Besides, fire extinguishers must be tested each year and replaced after 10 years regardless of use. The regular check should include:
- Ensuring the seals and hoses are not damaged and ready to use at all times.
- If the extinguishers haven’t been used, the container’s weight must be what is described on the label.
Depending on the types of extinguishers you have, the procedure might vary. Guidelines and information on maintenance can always be found on the product instructions.
Don’t underestimate the danger of fire. It can turn a normal boating experience into a nightmare. So, be prepared and stay calm. As long as you spot the fire in time and mollify it properly, you and the guests are safe. In addition to storing fire extinguishers, you should clean the kitchen regularly, and get rid of all oil spills, debris, and trash to minimize the chances of a fire outbreak.
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