Yacht fire - what to do and how to minimize damage
Denis Korablev
  • 27.10.2021
  • 442

Yacht fire - what to do and how to minimize damage

A fire on a sailing ship is extremely dangerous, as the fire spreads instantly and can destroy the yacht in just 5 minutes. At sea, the crew members do not have to rely on someone's help, she simply will not have time to come. A yacht is a kind of "floating bomb" made of combustible materials (wood and plastic) and, in addition, has gas and fuel tanks on board! A fire on a yacht is a extremely dangerous situation, and so that recreation on the water does not turn into a tragedy, we must act prudently, harmoniously and most importantly: strictly observe safety precautions!

What could trigger a fire?

According to statistics, a fire on a ship is an extremely rare phenomenon. The specialists of the largest insurance company Pantaentius note that they have to consider no more than 80 such cases every year. If we take into account that about 60 thousand yacht owners take out insurance, then this is not much, although compensation payments for insurance in the event of a fire take more than four million euros, while insurance indemnity for all other cases (combined) does not exceed 50 thousand.

The Coast Guard of the American coast maintains its own statistics and, in accordance with its data, the share of fires in small boats accounts for 5% of all accidents occurring on a yacht. At the same time, every year a third of sunken ships die due to ignition on board.

According to experts 2yachts, the main causes of fire include: inattention of passengers, failure to comply with basic rules (for example, smoking in the wrong places ) or negligence of the crew members to their duties, including careless handling of gas. The next common cause is technical failure and lack of preventive fire prevention measures. Let's take a closer look at what specific actions (or inaction) can lead to a fire.

What should you focus on?

First, on the electrical wiring; due to this malfunction, 50% of all fires occur, not only at sea, but also on land. Often, the cause is loose contacts that have not been eliminated in time, causing the wires to heat up. Failure to insulate the wiring in wet conditions will result in a short circuit.

Secondly, on the engine compartment; a quarter of all fire hazardous situations are formed here. This is caused by the accumulation of combustible materials in a confined space at high temperatures. The main reason is overheating of the engine, caused by a violation of its seawater cooling. A running motor heats up a lot, parts made of plastic melt, the insulation of wires is broken - all this can provoke a fire. Similar effects can be caused by insufficient cooling of the exhaust pipe.

Fuel leaks are due to faulty fuel lines or negligence while refueling. Outbreaks from outboard engine diesel fuel leaks account for only 10%, and 90% of fire situations start with gasoline leakage when the dinghy engine is carelessly refueled.

Thirdly, storage of gas cylinders; which in a confined space pose an increased danger. A liter of liquefied propane combines with air to form 0.25 cubic meters of an explosive “cocktail”. Propane (butane) in a liquefied state is heavier than air and is capable of accumulating in an unventilated room, and the proportion of gas in the air of 5% or more already creates an explosive situation that can occur from an accidental spark.


  1. Carefully (before the start of the flight) check the integrity of the wiring, strip the contacts, replace the wires if you notice even the slightest damage.
  2. Install the temperature sensor in the exhaust pipe. Clean the pipes, often clogging them causes the engine to heat up. If you suspect a coolant leak, make sure that there are no defects on the hose or pipe (if found, replace it immediately).
  3. Refuel the dinghy engine only ashore, as gasoline is extremely flammable. Refuel the outboard motor on deck only when absolutely necessary and in a safe manner.
  4. Store gas cylinders on the cockpit in a dedicated locker for this purpose. Constantly check whether burners, gas stoves, fittings, hoses are in good working order.
  5. Install the simplest gas and smoke sensitive indicators; they will promptly signal the accumulation of gas in the room and the occurrence of smoke. It is possible to install a state-of-the-art electric start alarm that will prevent the engine from starting when a certain concentration of vapors is detected.

Command actions in case of fire:

  1. Immediately announce emergency alert: alert crew members, broadcast triple PAN signal.
  2. One person is preparing for the evacuation.
  3. The rest begin to localize the ignition, while at the same time the vessel should be de-energized, the oil and fuel pipelines should be shut off, gas cylinders and other flammable objects should be taken to a safe distance from the source of the fire.
  4. If the captain has decided to carry out an evacuation, then a distress signal “MAY DAY” is broadcast, the liferaft is launched into the water and the lifeboat is activated.

Even with a seemingly insignificant fire, action must be taken promptly, since the threat of rapid spread of fire in a confined space is too great and you can lose control over the situation at any time.

Use of fire fighting equipment

With the help of a fire blanket (bedspread with a special impregnation) you can eliminate small fires in the galley or in the cabin (for example, bed linen caught fire). It covers the fire site, stopping the access of oxygen to the fire. When storing the felt, it takes up little space.

The automatic fire extinguishing system is useful in cases where the ignition source is difficult to reach, and sometimes impossible, for example, a fire occurred in an internal confined area. Stationary systems prevent the development of a fire due to the use of carbon dioxide or halon. The gases are safe, but when in contact with the heated air, freon emits toxic substances, so after the fire extinguishing system is working, all rooms must be well ventilated.

Do not try to install such a system yourself, entrust this matter to specialists. During installation, they must provide for all possible situations and, if necessary, gas must flow freely into the galley, cabins, engine compartment, etc. Please note that there must be a duplicate function so that the automatic fire system can be manually activated.

Less costly option: Place automatic fire extinguishers in areas most likely to catch fire that will fire when the temperature rises above a predetermined level.

Extinguishing media that meet the requirements of the Register of Shipping of the Russian Federation:

  • there must be a 5A class fire extinguisher at the main wheelhouse (the maximum distance to the device is one meter);
  • Class 8A fire extinguishers are located no further than two meters from the device;
  • there should be 2 fire extinguishers or a firefighting mat near the stove in the galley.

How are fires classified?

The fires are categorized according to what substances are burning.


  • A - combustion of flammable solids (for example, plastic, wood, etc.);
  • B - ignition of liquids (fuels and lubricants, fuel);
  • С - flash of combustible gases;
  • D - combustion of metals (lithium, magnesium, etc.);
  • E - ignition of electrical wiring or devices under voltage.

Classification of fire extinguishers

For effective liquidation of each type of fire, certain types of fire extinguishers are used. Carefully study the peculiarities of operation of each type of fire extinguisher (read the instructions), get acquainted with the technical characteristics, so that, if necessary, grab exactly what you need and not confuse anything in an emergency.

According to GOST, certified fire extinguishers are assigned a certain class, which is applied to the body in the form of letters and numbers. For example, class 4A and 8A fire extinguishers carry the following information: both are designed to extinguish solid substances, but the efficiency of the second (8A) will be 2 times higher.

Common types of fire extinguishers:

  • Powder - versatile, have proven in practice that they are able to solve any problems, are used in fires of class A, B, C, E. Principle of operation: the powder mixture is directed to the fire site, the access of oxygen stops and thus the fire is localized. Keep in mind that it is not capable of cooling a hot surface, so re-ignition is possible. It is not worth using for extinguishing plastic, it is ineffective. It is not customary to use in rooms where there is no ventilation, due to the release of sodium bicarbonate, which displaces oxygen from the air.
  • Foam - also universal, used for class A, B, C fires. Principle of operation: foam is directed to the lit surface, stopping the flow of air to the fire. When extinguishing burning liquids, make sure that the foam falls on them from above, otherwise, when a direct foam stream is directed, the liquid will start to spray to the sides, which contributes to an increase in the fire area. It is not recommended to use when extinguishing electrical equipment due to the presence of water in the foam, they are also absolutely useless when extinguishing flammable gases.
  • Carbon dioxide - designed to extinguish live electrical wiring and equipment, used in class B, C, E. fires. Principle of action: carbon dioxide is directed to the ignition area, has a local effect until the sparks disappear completely; after use - evaporates. After using this fire extinguisher, it is not required to clean the premises as after working with foam or powder counterparts.
  • Halon - the most popular among yachtsmen, they are used for class A, B, C, E. devices. Very effective in extinguishing flammable engine oils, fuels, plastic, electrical wiring. The cost of these fire extinguishers significantly exceeds the price of carbon dioxide and powder assistants.
  • Liquid chemical - shows high efficiency in eliminating fires of oils, fuels, fiberglass, are used in class A, B, C fires. stops oxygen access to the ignition site.
  • Class D fire extinguisher - very rarely used on sailboats, designed to localize potassium, magnesium, lithium fires. Class D fires are characterized by an abundance of heat that traditional fire extinguishers cannot cope with. Principle of operation: the composition with graphite powder is directed to the red-hot metal, the powder melts, the access of oxygen stops, and a thin crust is created, during which the metal cools.

The skipper is obliged to inform the crew and show the location of the means used for fire extinguishing; instruct and organize a drill to practice actions in the event of a fire hazard. If a charter yacht, then taking it into account, pay attention to whether the shelf life of fire extinguishers has expired. For devices of different types, the service life is different, for example, for foam - no more than two years, and for powder - five. After the expiration of the storage period, the fire extinguisher must be completely replaced or refilled (the chemical reagents contained inside are replaced). The date of replacement is always stamped on the body, be sure to pay attention to this fact when purchasing a fire extinguisher.

The main security secret is PREVENTION, the best way to prevent a fire hazardous situation on board. Responsible attitude of all team members to the maintenance of the yacht, regular inspection of unsafe areas and timely elimination of minor problems will help to avoid a big trouble.