If a Fire Breaks Out

If fire breaks out

  • If you spot a fire on board, immediately raise the alarm amongst the entire crew.
  • The helmsman should turn the boat to minimise wind across deck and slow fire spread.
  • If possible, manoeuvre to keep flame and smoke over the side, rather than in the boat. Opening hatches before the fire is knocked down may increase fire intensity. On the other hand, it may be necessary to open hatches to improve visibility below and provide fresh air for any crew tackling the fire. Be prepared to manoeuvre the boat and open/close hatches as necessary to assist fire-fighters.
  • Gather your fire-fighting resources, and make sure they are put into the hands of trained crew who are appropriately dressed. No synthetic clothing.
  • Tackle the fire, extinguishing it as quickly as possible. Remember to turn the gas off as soon as possible if it's on - assign a member of the crew to do this immediately.
  • Make sure all signs of fire are eliminated. Look in lockers, under cushions, behind lining, in wiring conduits etc if necessary.
  • Evaluate damage:
    • is anyone injured (burns, smoke inhalation)?
    • what's been lost (essential gear, communications, fire-fighting equipment)?
    • can we continue safely, or should we immediately return to port?

If vessel endangered

During the fire, the skipper needs to continue to evaluate if there's a possibility that the vessel is in danger of burning out of control and eventually sinking.

If burning freely, the crew will need to abandon the vessel well before it sinks. Follow an 'abandon-ship' procedure:

  • Raise the alarm via a standard mayday call on the radio.
  • If you have one, prepare the life-raft and survival equipment.
  • Ensure crew don lifejackets, and leave the vessel before they are endangered by the fire, and before the vessel sinks.
  • Get well clear (the gas cylinder may explode violently before the vessel sinks).

Safety Tips

  • Most flammable vapours (eg LPG, petrol) are heavier than air and accumulate in the lower parts of a vessel, including the bilge. If there's a leak, immediately eliminate all ignition sources and ventilate the boat to clear all traces of flammable vapours. Consider installing gas detectors.
  • Install a smoke alarm on vessels where people sleep. Consider an arrangement for temporary installation while the vessel is being used.