Best Place To Store A Fire Extinguisher On A Boat – Know The Rules

If you landed on this page is certainly because you’re getting your boat ready for the summer and wondering where to mount your fire extinguisher? If so, you are in the right place! Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about where is the best place to store a fire extinguisher on a boat and many other tips that you might find very useful. Read on!

Best Place To Store Fire Extinguishers?

The best place to store fire extinguishers is where you can get them quickly if there is a fire, which makes sense. You won’t have the time to search for them if something happens, because once a fire starts, it spreads out very fast, especially on a boat!

However, the U.S. Coast Guards recommend locating them in readily accessible and visible places, but away from locations where the potential for fire exists. For example, don’t make the mistake of hanging a fire extinguisher over a heat source such as an oven, engine, or fuel tank. If a fire starts, you won’t be able to get it unless you lose your mind and walk through the fire.

The best would be to have several fire extinguishers. You can’t ever have too many. Think about mounting one in each compartment. For instance, why not have on in the galley, the cockpit, near the helm, and another one in the engine room?


What Are The Causes of Boat Fires?

Many things can start a fire, but according to boat insurance companies, most boat fires are related to onboard systems and equipment. Here are some of the leading causes of boat fires:

  • Engine 
  • Galley
  • Wiring & Electrical

Engine

A flammable substance or fuel leaking into an enclosed engine compartment can quickly start a fire. Or, if the engine overheats and the cooling system doesn’t work properly could also create a fire. Some boats have a fixed automatic suppression system in the machinery room, which detects heat and smoke and triggers automatically before a fire even starts. But what if you don’t have one and your boat catches fire? You must be prepared to act fast if a fire breaks out, and this means having easy access to your fire extinguishers.

Galley

Cooking or grilling on the boat is fun, but a pleasant trip can quickly turn into a nightmare if you or someone forget to turn off the oven or barbecue or leave the oil burning on the gas. Thankfully, boat fires aren’t frequent, but they do happen. So watch out!

Electrical

Electrical fires are one of the most common causes of boat fires.

Overloaded appliances, outdated wiring harnesses, faulty voltage regulators on old outboard engines, wrong installation of battery cables. All these issues can start a fire on a boat.



Should You Hang Fire Extinguishers?

It may sound surprising, but according to USCGboating.org, it’s not required to have them mounted – you can keep them in a storage compartment if you want. However, if an emergency arises, you’ll be surprised at how long it can take to search for the fire extinguisher in a storage compartment. Do you have any idea how fast fire spreads? Well, based on statistics, 30 seconds and, in some cases, even less. That’s it! So it’s better to have them mounted.


Plastic Vs. Stainless Steel Bracket?

When boating, the last thing you want is your fire extinguishers falling off and getting lost. So you would agree that they must be well secured. Mounting brackets come either in plastic or metal material. 

Plastic mounting brackets are pretty strong, but if they stand outside all day in the sun, U.V. light can damage them over time. Also, on a rough sea, the boat does a lot of pitching, moving up and down, and a plastic mount may not be sturdy enough to hold the extinguisher. However, if you decide to use a plastic mounting, try to store it out of direct sunshine and mount the extinguisher vertically – this way, in this case, the catch alone won’t support all of its weight and maximize stability.

Stainless Steel mounting brackets are corrosion resistant and very durable. It’s definitely the best option if you want peace of mind when boating. You can be sure they will keep your extinguishers well secured.

However, whatever you choose, make sure the mounting bracket meets the U.S.C.G. standards.


Do All Boats Need Fire Extinguishers?

Well, the simple answer is No. It depends on the type and length of the boat.

For example, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, outboard recreational boats, which are less than 26 feet in length that don’t have a fixed fuel tank on board and don’t carry passengers for hire purposes, aren’t required to hold a fire extinguisher.

But on the other hand, boats under 26 feet in length equipped with an inboard engine must have at least one fire extinguisher. 

However, the question now is, which boats need fire extinguishers on board?

In essence, the U.S. Coast Guard requires all motorboats or sailboats to carry fire extinguishers if one or more of the following conditions below exist.

  • The boat is equipped with an inboard engine.
  • The boat has a fixed fuel tank, fridge, heater, or fuel oven.
  • The boat has a closed compartment in which flammable material is stored.
  • The boat has closed living spaces such as an engine room, galley, bedroom, etc.
  • The boat has closed stowage under seats in which portable tanks are stored.
  • The boat has a double bottom that isn’t sealed to the hull or isn’t entirely filled with flotation material.

But other factors come into play regarding the U.S. Coast Guard requirements, such as the number and type of fire extinguishers, the vessel’s length, and whether a fixed fire extinguisher system is installed in the boat. 

So, to simplify things, I have prepared a little table with all the requirements to carry fire extinguishers on your boat. 

Vessel TypeVessel LengthWithout a fixed fire
extinguisher in the machinery
With a fixed fire extinguisher in the machinery
Sailboat
&
Powerboat
Under 16 feetOne 5-B0
Sailboats
&
Powerboats
Between 16 feet & 26 feetOne 5-B0
Sailboats
&
Powerboats
Between 26 feet to 40 feetTwo 5-B or One 20 – BOne 5-B
Sailboats
&
Powerboats
Between 40 feet
to
65 feet
Three 5-B or One 5-B & One 20-BTwo 5-B or One 20-B

Types of Fires

For a fire to ignite, three elements are required, fuel, oxygen, and heat. If one of these elements is missing, fire won’t occur. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there are three types of fire. A, B, and C. Knowing them is important because if you use a fire extinguisher that doesn’t suit the kind of fire, you can get into serious trouble.

For example, if you use a Class A extinguisher (water) on a Class B fire (Oil, fuel), the fire will spread out and cause severe damage. The thing is that when there is a fire, you don’t have the time to guess A, B, or C? (every fraction of seconds counts)! Fortunately, as an alternative, you can use a multi-purpose A.B.C. type extinguisher to put out all three classes at once. So don’t hesitate to have some of them on your boat.

Class A: This is a type of fire that involve solid combustible materials such as Wood, paper, plastic, rubber, and fabric. 

Class B: This is the type of fire that involves flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel, alcohol, grease, oil paint, and varnishes.

Class C: This Is the type of fire that involve (live) electrical equipment such as wiring and appliances. 


Tips to Prevent Fire On Board

  • Never smoke below deck or while fueling.
  • Check the wiring and electrical connections regularly.
  • Never leave a frying pan, a heater, or a grill unattended.
  • Store propane and butane bottle gas in an enclosed compartment that you can easily throw overbroad
  • Never throw water on an electrical fire; you can get an electrical shock.
  • Never use water on grease, fuel, or oil fire; it will cause the fire to spread.
  • Propane and butane gases are heavier than air; after fueling your boat, the gases can accumulate in the bilges. To vent out the gas, run a blower for several minutes and head downwind to allow air to circulate through the cabins. 
  • Never run a portable generator while the boat is sailing; with the motion, it can leak, or water can splash on it. P.S: keep it in a dry place in your boat and use it only when anchored or docked.
  • Check the cooling system in the engine regularly if you don’t have a fixed automatic suppression system.
  • Install smoke detectors in the cabin, galley, salon, and engine room.
  • Always have a fire blanket within your reach.


What To Do If Your Boat Catches Fire?

  • If a fire occurs offshore, ensure everyone on board wears a P.F.D. in case you must leave the boat.
  • Call the U.S.C.G. using a V.H.F. radio, preferably a handheld one, because if you shut down the electronics, the fixed V.H.F. radio won’t work. 
  • If the boat has compartments, close all doors and windows to slow the spread of fire and fumes.
  • No matter where the fire is located, you must shut down the engine, fuel supply, and all electronics.
  • If your boat has an engine room, it would be best to install an automatic suppression system and if there isn’t enough room, install fire-suppression ports.

How To Use A Fire Extinguisher The Proper Way?

It’s pretty straightforward; to make it easy for you, Just remember the word “P.A.S.S.”

P: Pull the pin at the top of the fire extinguisher
A: Aim low and point the nozzle at the base of the fire
S: Squeeze the handle to release the substance of the extinguisher
S: Sweep the content of the extinguisher from side to side continuing to point at the base of the fire until it goes out.



When To Replace Fire Extinguishers?

According to the new U.S. Coast Guard regulation, disposable (non-rechargeable) fire extinguishers must be replaced 12 years after their date of manufacture. Now, if you have a fixed fire extinguisher system in the engine room, these new rules do not apply as long as you regularly check the system. You can find the date of expiration at the bottom of the extinguisher tag.


How To Maintain A Fire Extinguisher?

Well-maintained fire extinguishers will serve you for years to come and, most importantly, give you peace of mind when boating. Here is a list of 5 things to keep your fire extinguishers in good condition.

1. Check your extinguishers every month. If you see any sign of rust, dental, chemical deposits, or leaks, you should consider throwing them and buying new ones.

2. If your fire extinguisher has a gauge installed, always ensure the needle is on the green side of the dial. If the arrow points to the low red portion of the dial, it needs to be recharged; if it points to the red high side, it means it’s overcharged, which isn’t good either.

3. To prevent the dry chemical settling and packing in the bottom of your extinguishers, you should shake them once a month.

4. For dry chemical fire extinguishers, weigh them to see if they meet the minimum weight specified on the label.

5. Check the nozzle and hose to make sure there are clean and in good condition.


Final Word!

As you can conclude from reading this article, you are allowed to install your fire extinguisher where ever you want. What truly matters is that you store them in a visible place where you can grab them easily and fast. However, for maximum safety, it would be preferable to get them mounted. Remember, every SECOND COUNTS in a boat fire.

I wish you a peaceful and safe boating trip!

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4 thoughts on “Best Place To Store A Fire Extinguisher On A Boat – Know The Rules”

  1. Very informational!   It makes sense, but I never would have thought to not put the extinguishers by the heat source.  It makes sense that in case of a fire that will be the most difficult place to get to it.  This information has also helped me know where to place one in my home. 

    Thank you for this content!

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca,

      Awesome! I am glad you found this helpful article 🙂 Let me know if you have questions. I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.!

      Reply
  2. I really liked your very informative post. 

    Why not add some videos with your reviews (maybe I just overlooked them)? You seem very knowledgeable, and it would be great to see the products demonstrated live and in action – I know it would help me make a better more informed decision on a product or trip.

    Great advice.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      This is an informative post, not a review:) If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to help.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.

      Reply

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