What is the Requirement of Fire Extinguisher on a Boat?

Anything using electricity runs the risk of catching fire. Boats are no different. In fact, they sometimes carry gases and flammable liquids. These can easily cause a boat fire.

Obviously, preventive steps can be taken to reduce the chances of a fire. However, they can’t be completely eliminated. So, what do we do then? That is when the fire extinguishers come into action.

Fire extinguishers are used in boats just like they are used in the buildings to put out small fires. But messing with the fire isn’t a cup of tea. It requires some certain tactics to follow. So today, we will talk about what is the requirement of fire extinguisher on a boat precisely. Let’s get started!

Causes of Boat Fires  

Among all the boat losses, fire is ranked at number five. A boat suffers a huge loss after it’s combusted.


It is necessary to know what causes the problem to solve it. There are many reasons for a fire to get loose on a boat. The most common ones are:

Off-Boat Sources

In this case, a boat catches fire from an external source. It can be caused if another boat in the marina catches fire. That fire starts spreading, and soon it spreads all over the place resulting in other boats to catch fire.

DC Electrical

The boat consists of various types of electrical components. Among them, one is the DC electrical system. The 12-volt system is associated with the batteries and placed in the engine room. It can create serious heat due to wiring issues and can cause a fire inside the engine room, which has many flammable materials.

AC Electrical

Just like the DC system, there is an AC electrical system in a boat. This usually powers up the air conditioners, heaters, ovens, refrigerators, and etc. The plugs and outlets used to generate all of these, always run the risk of causing a spark and go up in flames.

Engine Problems

The engine is like the heart of a boat. In fact, it is the heart of all vehicles. The engine runs most of the risk of catching fire. Overheating is the most common cause for an engine to evoke combustion.

There are also some other issues like sloppiness of batteries, stove, flammable objects out in the open, damp fuel, inexpert electricians, etc.

How to Prevent a Boat Fire?


Prevention is always better to avoid losses. There are ways that a fire can be prevented. It’s not something natural, after all. To prevent a boat from catching fire, the following measures can be taken:

  • Keeping the fire igniting materials in check, such as oxygen, fuel, and heat. If these get mixed up, they can cause a serious fire.
  • Proper ventilation systems are required to have a better airflow, which can reduce the heat produced in a room.
  • Regular maintenance of the fuel system, engines, batteries, and wiring systems are a must.
  • Trained marine electricians are required to ensure the safety of the boat.
  • Storing flammable objects in a safe and secure environment is compulsory.

How to Reduce the Loss

It is possible for the preventive measures to fail, and the fire gets loose somehow. What do you do then? Well, we will have to accept the fact of suffering a loss. But you can always minimize the amount of loss incurred. By following the instructions given below, you can save the boat from a huge loss.

  • The first thing to do in a fire breakout is to raise the alarm to make people aware of the fire.
  • The vessel should be operated with a downward wind effect so the fire doesn’t spread all over.
  • Ensure reduction of oxygen flow by closing all the hatches, vents, and ports.
  • If a movable object is on fire, try moving it away immediately to a safe place.
  • Shutting off the fuel lines and gas lines should be the first priority.
  • Use fire extinguishers to fight the fire while it’s possible to stop.
  • Keep checking the extinguished area for re-flashes.
  • Make sure to wear life jackets in case you need to abandon the boat.Unplug all the electrical circuits.

These instructions may help you fight the fire to some extent and reduce the incurred loss.

Why Do You Need Fire Extinguishers on a Boat?

Boat fires are usually caused by fuels and gases or electrical appliances. These kinds of fires can’t be put out with water. Even if they can be put out with water, it will take a lot of time and effort to do that. By that time, the boat can suffer a huge amount of loss. Even the whole boat can go up in flames.

So, to put out a boat fire, it is required to have fire extinguishers on board. They are very easy to use. No experience is required to use a fire extinguisher. And they do their job very well. Does your boat require a fire extinguisher?

Well, it certainly does if it meets the following conditions –

  • In cases of closed compartments and stored portable fuel tanks under seats
  • If there are unsealed double bottoms to the hull or are void of flotation materials
  • Closed living spaces
  • Closed storage compartments containing combustible materials
  • Permanent fuel tanks

So, if your boat falls under any of these criteria, then it must have Marine-rated, and USCG approved extinguishers.

Types of Fire Extinguishers 

There are various kinds of fire extinguishers used for various types of fires. The fire types can be categorized into 5 classes

  • Class A: Fires resulting from the burning of wood, glass fiber, paper, cloth, trash, and plastics are called class A fires.
  • Class B: Fire from oils, gasoline, some paints, lacquers, grease, and other flammable liquids are class B fires.
  • Class C: Fires from electrical equipment like motors, switches, wiring falls under the category of class C.
  • Class D: Fires occurring from combustible materials like magnesium and aluminum are categorized as class D fire. Burning at high temperatures and vigorous reaction with water, air, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals are the common traits of this kind of fire.
  • Class E: This class consists of subsiding fires caused by any of the mentioned element plus high voltage electricity.

Based on the fire type, there are different kinds of extinguishers. They vary on the materials that put out the fires of different classes.

Water Extinguishers

Water extinguishers are usually used for putting out Class A fires. They are labeled with a bright red color. The water extinguishers can’t be used for fire from electrical circuits, flammable gas or liquids, kitchen fires.

Having a cooling effect of the water leads it to burn the fuel much slower and ultimately extinguish the flames. This kind of extinguishers is used in offices, schools, hospitals, and places with organic materials all around.

Foam Extinguishers

Foam extinguishers are used to put out Class B fires, and they also work on class A fires as well. They are labeled with crème color. These extinguishers can’t be used for fires involving flammable metals, kitchen fires, and fires from electrical equipment.

The foam extinguisher also provides a cooling effect causing the fire to go down. And the foaming agent extinguishes the fire by creating a barrier between the flame and the fuel. This is done on the burning liquids. Foam extinguishers are used almost everywhere.

But they are used significantly in the boats where class A and class B fires are a common scenario.

Dry Powder Extinguishers 

Dry powder extinguishers can put out fires of class A, class B, and also class C. The label is blue for this one. Nevertheless, they can’t be used in enclosed areas as the powder can easily be inhaled, and it is also quite hard to clean up afterward.

It can’t be used for fires from cooking oil, electrical equipment over 1000v. By forming a barrier between the oxygen source and the fuel, dry powder extinguishers smother the fire. This kind of extinguishers is used in wide-open areas such as premises with large boiler rooms, garage forecourts, LIP dispensing plants, etc.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers

CO2 extinguishers are used to put out the fire caused by electrical occurrences. And these also work on class B fires. They have a black label on them. These extinguishers can’t be used for kitchen fires, combustible materials, and flammable metals.

The CO2 extinguisher displaces the oxygen needed to burn and causes the fires to suffocate. Places having electrical equipment and running the risk of catching a fire keep CO2 extinguishers like offices, server rooms, power plants, etc. It is the most common kind of fire extinguishers we see on a daily basis.

Related Info:

What is the Best Way to Avoid Overloading Your Boat?

How Should You Pass a Fishing Boat?

How to Winterize Your Boat?

How Anchors Hold a Recreational Boat in Place?

Which One is Preferable? 

As most of the boats catch class A and class B fire most of the time, the foam extinguishers are used as the fire extinguishers for boats. When buying a fire extinguisher, you will need to know how they are classified.

These are labeled with a letter and a Roman numeral. Also, the letters stand for the type of fire we’ve discussed above. Well, the numerals actually stand for 5 categories: I, II, III, IV, V.

I and II are the portable extinguishers, and the rest are semi-portable extinguishers. Portable extinguishers are easy to carry and use. Generally, B-I and B-II are the two types of portable fire extinguishers used on a boat. Their specifications are:

Specifications of B-I and B-II Fire Extinguishers


(type and size)


(minimum gallons)

Carbon Dioxide

(minimum pounds)

Dry Chemical

(minimum pounds)









According to USCG, depending on the fixed fire extinguishing system installed, the number of required portable fire extinguishers are as follows;

US Coast Guard Least Number of Hand-Portable Fire Extinguishers Required

Length of the Vessel

Changeable System

Unchangeable System

Less than 26’

1 B-I


26’ not more than 40’

2 B-I/1 B-II

1 B-I

40’ to 65’

3 B-I /1 B-II & 1 B-I

2 B-I /1 B-II

These are the minimum requirements that must be followed to ensure fire safety on a boat.

Where to Keep It?

Just imagine your boat catching fire. Wouldn’t you immediately start looking for the fire extinguishers? That would be your instinctive reaction. Now in that moment of panic, you will surely want it to be somewhere near at hand.

So, you must keep the fire extinguishers where you can reach them easily because we don’t want you to panic in that situation. You should also be careful that it isn’t somewhere where it can be damaged easily.

Fire extinguishers should be kept in an open space for easy access and regular inspection. But if you are still hesitant, you can ask yourself some questions to make your decision.

  1. Where do you keep the flammable liquids?
  2. Where is the kitchen?
  3. Where do people gather most?
  4. Where is the gas tank?
  5. Is the boat properly cleaned on a regular basis or not?

After deciding the place, you must ensure to mount it properly. You should have a three-foot clearance ensuring easy access while mounting a fire extinguisher. Also, it needs to be mounted at an angle to make sure the chemicals don’t stay at the bottom.

Maintenance of Fire Extinguishers

Okay, we have mounted the extinguisher in a proper place. But it gets totally useless if not maintained properly. According to The National Fire Code, a fire extinguisher should be inspected every month. Additionally, it should be replaced every 10 years. The following steps need to be taken for monthly inspection:

  • Checking the gauge to make sure it is fully charged
  • Making sure to check the broken seals
  • Inspecting the hose for cracks or damages
  • For dry chemical extinguishers, it’s important to make sure the actual weight meets the weight specified on the label

And you are done with the monthly inspection — no more worries for the next month.


Well, I know that understanding the requirements of a fire extinguisher can be a tight job, but when it comes to saving your life and your boat, you can’t look past that.

Anyway, I hope this article will help to clear your confusions on the requirement of fire extinguisher on a boat. Good luck!

Last Updated on March 9, 2021