Where Should Fire Extinguishers Be Stored On A Boat?

The answer to the question of where fire extinguishers should be stored on a boat has two parts.

1️⃣ They must be easily accessible

2️⃣ The fire extinguisher’s location must be correct for the type of fire risk at that position.

While Federal fire extinguisher requirements strictly control the quantity and type of fire extinguisher installed at each location on a vessel, the motivation to do so should be to protect the boat and provide good sea safety standards to its occupants.

Three locations on a larger boat are vulnerable to different classes of fire: the galley, the engine room /compartment, and the general living areas.

If the boat has an extensive electrical system, there may also be a risk attached to the electrical room.

In this article, I explain the types (classes) of fire, which boat fire extinguisher is most suitable, and the number of fire extinguishers required to be carried.

📌 Where Is The Best Place To Store Fire Extinguishers On A Boat?

Filling a small power boat with each class of fire extinguisher is unnecessary.

On a bigger boat with a galley, engine bay, bridge deck, electrical compartments, and cabins, a suitable category of fire extinguisher must be installed within easy reach of the relevant location.

The following table summarizes the article’s findings and cross-references the most appropriate fire extinguishers for each fire class.

Class Of FireType of fuelWaterFoamDry PowderCarbon Dioxide CO2Wet ChemicalClean agent
Class ASolid materialsYesYesYesNoYesNo
Class BFlammable LiquidsNoYesYesYesNoNo
Class CFlammable GassesNoNoYesYesNoNo
Class DCombustible MetalsNoNoYesNoNoNo
Class EElectrical contactNoNoNoYesYesYes
Class FCooking OilsNoNoNoNoYesNo

From this, it is easy to identify which extinguishers should be placed in the most appropriate positions.

The recommended fire extinguisher varies by boat type, as follows.

Leisure Gas Powered Boats (Bowriders, Wake Boats, Cabin Cruisers, Etc.)

Small vessels’ primary boat fire risk is found near the outboard or inboard motor.

Inboard motors with an enclosed engine compartment are most at risk of catching fire. If the compartment is not well-vented before the engine is started, the gas tank (fuel) fumes present a possible ignition source.

A fire occurring in the engine compartment would be categorized as a class B fire, and as such, the most effective fire extinguishers used to fight it are.

  • Foam
  • Dry Powder
  • Carbon Dioxide CO2

A risk reduction exercise that effectively eliminates the potential of a fire in this location is ensuring that the electric blower fan in the compartment is working.

It is essential to ensure that the vents from the engine compartment are always clear and free of any obstructions.

Always turn the blower fan on for at least five minutes before starting the engine. If the boat has been stored, it is a good idea to open the main access hatch while the blower fan is operating.

The fire extinguisher should never be installed inside the engine compartment; instead, permanently attach it near the engine compartment hatch, where it can be easily accessed and used.

Larger Monohull Or Multihull Live Aboard Vessels

On a larger boat (more than 35 feet) with an inboard engine, a galley, and possibly an electrical compartment (even if it is under a bunk), sufficient quantities of appropriate fire extinguishers must be installed strategically throughout the vessel.

Fire Extinguishers For The Galley

The galley (kitchen) is potentially one of the most at-risk places for a boat fire to start.

The fact that the galley has two possible energy sources (gas and electricity), hot oils, wooden trim, and other flammable liquids (e.g., cleaning materials) makes it a veritable cornucopia of fire hazards.

The galley is vulnerable to the following classes of fire.

  1. Class A – Solid materials
  2. Class B – Flammable Liquids
  3. Class C – Flammable Gasses
  4. Class E – Electrical contact
  5. Class F – Cooking Oils

Because of this, ideally, two different types of fire extinguishers should be installed in an easily accessible location.

The two types of fire extinguishers which should be installed within easy access to the galley are as follows.

  • Dry Chemical Powder (DCP) extinguisher (Classes A, B, and C fires)
  • Wet chemical extinguisher (Classes E and F).

Fire Extinguishers For The Engine Room

The same risks described in the leisure boat inboard motors section apply to the larger liveaboard vessels.

The main difference is that there is a bias towards diesel engines in larger boats, which present a lower fire risk than gasoline units.

However, while the risk is reduced, it is a location on the vessel exposed to higher heat, so fire precautions must be taken.

Standard precautions include:

1️⃣ Never use the engine room as a storage facility for old cans of liquids (oil, gasoline, diesel, and other liquids) used around the boat.

2️⃣ Always ensure that the engine room is kept spotlessly clean; not only does this reduce the risk of fire, but it also means that leaks and other mechanical issues can be identified quickly.

The fire extinguisher types which are appropriately installed just outside the engine room are one of the following.

  • Foam
  • Dry chemical extinguishers
  • Carbon Dioxide CO2

Fire Extinguishers For The Electrical Room

There may be a separate room for the electronic equipment on larger vessels. This will include the following components if the boat has a solar system.

  • Batteries
  • Inverter(s)
  • DB Board
  • Fuses
  • Cabling
  • Navigation gear
  • Autopilot gear
  • Master fuses for the lighting system

If the system has been installed correctly, there is little chance of a fire. However, while it is a remote possibility, it still needs protection.

The most appropriate fire extinguisher type is one of the following.

  • Carbon Dioxide CO2      
  • Wet Chemical   
  • Clean agent

Fire Extinguishers For The General Areas

A general-purpose fire extinguisher should be available on the deck, living areas, and bridge deck.

Dry powder units have the broadest range of fire applications; therefore, these are the recommended units for the nonspecific areas described above.

🔥 What Are The Different Categories Of Fire

Not all fire extinguishers are created equal. In addition, there are different fire extinguisher types for different classes of fires.

Fires are categorized into six classes as follows.

  • Class A – includes paper, cardboard, wood, and other solid material.
  • Class B – includes a fire started by a flammable liquid such as cleaning liquid, solvent, fuel, adhesives, and paints.
  • Class C – Includes fires started by gasses such as L.P.G.
  • Class D – Includes fires spread by combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, and sodium, which also conduct heat very efficiently.
  • Class E – These are fires ignited by electricity.
  • Class F – These are fires fueled by cooking oils and fats.

The fuel causing the fire to burn must be identified before it is attacked. In some instances, the wrong firefighting method will lead to further conflagration and only worsen the situation.

The general methods to fight the different fire classes are as follows.

As everyone learned at school, three elements are needed to start a fire.

1️⃣ Ignition source (heat)

2️⃣ Fuel to keep the fire burning

3️⃣ Oxygen

Class A Fires

Class A fires are fueled by solid, ordinary combustible materials and are most effectively fought by reducing heat and removing oxygen.

Cooling the fire below its ignition temperature removes and extinguishes the ignition source.

The most effective extinguishing agent to fight a class A fire is water, foam (cream label), or wet chemical (yellow label).

Some examples of Class A fires are wood and fabric fires.

Class B Fires

Class B fires involve flammable liquids and have low ignition temperatures.

Because of this, these fires cannot be fought with water, and instead, the most effective method is to remove the oxygen from the mix.

The best method to fight class B fires is as follows.

  • If the flammable liquid leaks from a tank, try to turn the flow off.
  • Use foam (cream label), Carbon Dioxide -CO2 (black label), or Dry Powder (blue label) extinguishers to smother the fire and remove the oxygen.

Class C Fires

Gasses fuel Class C Fires.

These fires present a risk of catastrophic explosions, and the area should be immediately evacuated if there is a risk.

If possible, the source of the gas should be switched off. If you attempt to fight an LPG fire caused by leaking liquid or gas without first shutting off the source of LPG, it will almost inevitably result in a more dangerous event.

The following should be monitored when fighting a class C fire

  • A small fire that hasn’t spread can be extinguished by covering it with a wet cloth (to remove the oxygen).
  • Hand-held carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are suitable for small to medium-sized fires only.
  • Dry powder fire extinguishers are effective in fighting L.P.G. liquid and vapor fires.
  • With a dry powder, it is essential to completely cover the fire to prevent a flashback.
  • If the gas cylinder is in the fire, it is strongly recommended that you abandon the vessel immediately and call 911 once away from the danger zone.

Class D Fires

Although there is a low likelihood that a class D fire will start on a leisure boat, should one start, a professional agency should handle it.

The combustible metals fueling the fire make extinguishing very difficult.

Dry powder (Blue label) extinguishers are typically used on class D fires while simultaneously covering the burning material with sand.

Class E Fires

As with class C fires, the electrical source must be switched off before an electrical fire is fought.

The Category of fire extinguisher used to fight the fire is particularly important, as a water spraying unit could result in the user being electrocuted.

The only fire extinguishers which can be used to fight electrical fires are.

  • Carbon Dioxide (black label)
  • Dry Chemical (yellow label)
  • Clean Agent

If the fire is extinguished, but the power source is still left on, the scene must continue to be classed as an active fire scene until the electrical connection can be cut.

Class F Fires (Sometimes Referred To As Class K Fires)

Fires fueled by cooking oils produce intense heat and require skill to extinguish. The most effective extinguisher for class F fires is a wet chemical extinguisher.

🧯 What Are The Different Types Of Are Extinguishers?

There are six types of fire extinguishers, as listed below.

  1. Fire extinguishers that spray water, water mist, or water spray.
  2. Fire extinguishers that spread foam (cream label)
  3. Fire extinguishers that spread a dry powder (blue label)
  4. Fire extinguishers that spray Carbon Dioxide -CO2 (black label)
  5. Wet chemical fire extinguishers (yellow label)
  6. Clean agent fire extinguishers that spray a halocarbon agent.

The location of the fire extinguisher and the material from which the boat is constructed determines what Category of fire extinguisher is installed.

💦 What Class Of Fire Extinguisher Should Be On A Boat?

On smaller single gas-powered engine boats, the most appropriate fire extinguisher is one able to extinguish a class B fire (flammable liquids).

The types of fire extinguishers suitable for class B fires are as follows.

  • Foam
  • Dry Powder
  • Carbon Dioxide CO2

A foam fire extinguisher will be the most effective agent if the fire is in the open air.

On larger vessels, the appropriate type of fire extinguisher should be installed around the boat.

🧮 What Quantity Of Fire Extinguishers Do I Need On A Boat?

In addition to the other symbols, there is a single letter alongside two numbers on a fire extinguisher, for example, 4A:20B: C.

In the photo, you’ll see these numbers at the top of the bottle (34A: 183B: C)

This means that a fire extinguisher classified as 5A: B5 has a 6 ¼ gallons capacity and can be used to fight a fire covering 5 m2.

Similarly, a 20A: B5 extinguisher has a 6 ¼ gallons capacity and can fight a fire covering 20 m2.

If there is a “C” at the end of the number, this means the contents are suitable for fighting an electrical fire.

These describe the quantity of extinguishing agent the bottle holds and the area it can be expected to cover, as listed below.

Class AQuantityClass B 1Class B 2Class B 3Class B 4Class B 5Class B 10Class B 20
11 ¼ gallons1 m22 m23 m24 m25 m210 m220 m2
22 ½ gallons1 m22 m23 m24 m25 m210 m220 m2
33 ¾ gallons1 m22 m23 m24 m25 m210 m220 m2
44 gallons1 m22 m23 m24 m25 m210 m220 m2
56 ¼ gallons1 m22 m23 m24 m25 m210 m220 m2

The regulations regarding the number of appropriately rated fire extinguishers to be installed on boats of varying lengths are listed below.

Hull LengthClass 5BAlternative Number Of Class 20B
Less than 26 ftOneNil
26 ft to less than 40 ftTwoOne
40 ft. to less than 65 ft.ThreeOne Plus a single 5B.
Greater than 65 ft.As defined by federal regulations.
Inboard engines with engine compartments that have a fixed (built-in) extinguishing system.One less 5B extinguisher.One less 5B extinguisher.

🚤 Does A Fire Extinguisher Have To Be Mounted On A Boat?

While it is recommended that the fire extinguishers are securely mounted in an easily accessed location, there is no legal requirement that they must be mounted.

The only requirement is that the portable fire extinguishers are easily accessible.

📝 Read next: How to mount a fire extinguisher on a boat

🔑 Key Takeaways

So, where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat? In short, you should consider the following when storing marine fire extinguishers:

1️⃣ They must be easily accessible

The fire extinguisher’s location must be correct for the type of fire risk at that position.

Ensuring that your boat has the correct number and appropriate type of fire extinguishers is less about being legal and instead reflects good seamanship and care for your passengers and boat.

It is important to accurately understand the fire risks present on the boat and then to match these with an appropriate fire extinguisher.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.