Boat fire extinguishers are an essential piece of boating safety equipment. While not all boats are required to carry one by law, it is highly recommended that all boaters be prepared to fight fire by equipping their boat with an appropriate fire extinguisher, just in case.
Boat fires can happen unexpectedly. While most boat fires are linked to engine fuel and other flammable liquids, electrical fires can also threaten passengers’ safety on a boat. Here we explain what you need to know about equipping your boat with the right boat fire extinguisher(s).
According to U.S. Coast Guard regulations, all boats with engines that also meet one of the following criteria must have a fire extinguisher on board:
Boats do not just need a fire extinguisher on board, they need a specific type of USCG approved boat fire extinguisher to fight the types of fires that could threaten your vessel. Depending on the size of your boat, you may also need more than one fire extinguisher on board.
Fires are categorized according to their fuel source.
Each type of fire requires a different substance to put it out effectively and safely. Therefore, there are different types of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguisher classification is determined according to the fuel source of the fire: A, B or C.
In addition to being the right class, marine fire extinguishers must be marine-rated. You will also notice that there is a number before the class letter. This number refers to the square footage of the fire the extinguisher can put out. For example, a 5-B fire extinguisher can put out a 5 square foot, Class B fire.
Fire extinguishers can contain different types of agents, usually dry chemicals. Refer to the National Fire Protection Agency to learn more.
The size of your boat, measured by the length of the hull, is what determines the number of fire extinguishers you will need on board.
For boats that are longer than 65 feet, refer to federal regulations.
Your fire extinguisher, like your personal flotation devices, should be readily accessible at all times. If the fire extinguisher comes with a hanger or bracket, use this device to hang it safely and in plain view on your boat.
Your fire extinguisher must be in good working condition. This means:
You should verify that your fire extinguisher is in good working condition once a month, as part of your regular boat maintenance. Any disposable fire extinguisher that is older than 12 years must be removed from service. You can verify the age of your marine fire extinguisher by examining the date stamped on the bottle.
As of April 20, 2022, vessels that have a model year of 2018 and newer only need to carry 5-B or 20-B fire extinguishers. Vessels with a model year between 1853 and 2017 may be equipped with either 5-B or 20-B extinguishers, or B-I or B-II fire extinguishers.
You can find out what your boat model year is by referring to your boat hull identification number (HIN).
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