What? Fire on board! Never in my life! This can only happen to someone else, but not to me!
In reality, fires on board a sailing boat are quite rare, but if they do occur, the outcome can be dramatic.
In most cases, a fire is a more dire disaster than a hole.
So it is better to be prepared for such cases in advance, so that you know what to do if a fire does break out.
A few rules and basic knowledge will help prevent a disaster:
Fragrant smoke in the galley
The delicious aroma emanating from the galley excites the entire crew. The helmsman is already drooling. Everyone is looking forward to a great meal. A cauldron of almost ready-made stewed potatoes is still on the stove ... But suddenly the boat swayed and the spilled hot oil immediately set off a flame in the galley. The flame grows with lightning speed.
"Fire!" shouts the cook. One of the crew members was not taken aback and rushed to the cockpit locker. He took out a bucket, filled it with water and rushed into the galley. A good reflex? Vice versa! With water poured onto the fire, not only the burning oil will not go out, but the fire will spread everywhere! The curtains of the galley flare up. The dishcloth flares up too. The cook grabs a fire extinguisher. In this confusion, he does not have time to look at the instructions and presses the lever without removing the safety catch. Plus he turns the fire extinguisher upside down! Gas escapes instantly, but no foam appears! Only on the next attempt and having already grabbed the second fire extinguisher, the cook manages to extinguish the fire with foam, which continued its destructive force on the galley rug.
Now that the flame has been extinguished, you need to assess the damage done. It seems to be nothing super dramatic: curtains, a rag, a rug, a damaged polish. But the galley and saloon are stained white. This thin film of white powder is capable of corroding even metal!
This fire could have ended much earlier or not at all!
A few basic knowledge about fire and how to extinguish it will help in fighting a fire on board:
- All crew members should familiarize themselves with the instructions for using a fire extinguisher (or better periodically review it)!
Fire, what is it?
Fire Is combustion or even combustion of something. For it to take place, three factors must be present:
- Fuel (on our boats it is diesel, gas, wood, plastic)
- Ignition source (spark, flame, extreme heat)
- A substance that supports combustion (in our case, it is oxygen).
These three elements form the so-called triangle of fire... Abolish one of these elements and the fire will go out. Without fuel, there will be nothing to burn, and there will be no fire. Without a source, flame, fire will not flare up. Without oxygen, the fire goes out.
If a fire starts, it progresses rapidly. After connecting the three elements (triangle of fire), first of all, the temperature rises. And along with its increase, combustion spreads. When the temperature rises to 500 degrees, the whole boat is already on fire.
In order to properly fight fire, you need to know the risk areas. On a sailboat, these areas are:
- Engine. Diesel fuel or oil ignites at temperatures between 250 and 400 degrees. The engine heats up to 300-400 degrees, so it is necessary to carefully monitor that there is not the slightest leak of fuel in the engine compartment. Therefore, in no case should you leave dirty greasy rags here!
- Galley. The gas used in the gas stove (or refrigerator) makes the galley a potentially hazardous area. Therefore, you need to periodically (but better more often) check the condition of the connections, burners, cylinder, pressure reducing valve.
Different types of fire
To fight fire, a yachtsman must "have a trump card in his game": he must know what is on fire. A firefighter who breaks into a house, not knowing the cause of the fire, is obliged to water (read extinguish) the flame abundantly. As a result, everything around is flooded (or foamed). On a boat, you can and should act more gracefully, and the result will be more effective. Because even with different devices it is necessary to act in different ways (be it a gas stove or an electric fryer).
We have already said that the flame arises slowly, and only a little later it quickly gains momentum. Therefore, at the very beginning, it is easiest to deal with it. That is to say, nip it in the bud. It is necessary to act promptly, not allowing the fire to grow and increase the temperature. Oftentimes, during a fire, team members rush for help and waste a lot of valuable time instead of acting quickly on their own.
To fight fire more effectively, it was divided into 4 classes:
- Class A - Combustion of solids. It generates the appearance of hot debris, ash, such as burning wood.
- Class B - Combustion of liquids and melting solids. Liquids include: oil, diesel fuel, gasoline. And to melting solids - plastic, which greatly increases the temperature during combustion.
- Class C - Gas combustion. There is a gas cylinder for the stove on board the sailing boat, and the gas is also used in the refrigerator.
- Class D - Combustion of metals. It is very difficult to extinguish the metal that has flashed, but fortunately on board the yacht, the ignition of metals is quite a rare thing.
Each combustion class has its own extinguishing method. But in any case, in each combustion class it is necessary to exclude one of the elements of the fire triangle.
Fire blanket, must be in the galley
Fire extinguishing techniques
- Isolation - it is necessary to isolate the flame in a safe area. For example, if a spilled sunflower oil is ignited in the galley, you need to carefully remove nearby or nearby objects and substances that may catch fire. Spilled oil will burn and extinguish. If ignited oil is found, for example, in a frying pan, carefully remove it on the deck, where the flame will quickly extinguish away from dangerous objects and substances. Or throw a fire blanket over him. Never extinguish burning oil with water!
- Choking out the fire - stop the oxygen supply and the flame will go out by itself. If the oil in your skillet ignites, cover it with a lid and the flame will go out.
- "Braking" Is a chemical action. Fire extinguisher powder divides the flame. And it goes out faster.
- Cooling - By exposing the flame to water, you cool it. Without heat, there is no fire.
Good reflex during a fire:
On board a sailing boat, in the event of a fire, you need to react quickly, confidently and sensibly.
- Stop feeding the fire before rushing to the fire extinguisher. Based on the current situation, you must stop the engine, stop the fuel supply, close the gas cylinder. These are your first steps.
There are specific types of extinguishers for different types of fire. The instructions for them clarify the functions of each of these fire extinguishers. The main thing is to be able to use airborne fire extinguishers correctly.
- Remember that you have plenty of water. Water works very well on all types of Class A fires. A bucket of water will be very effective for extinguishing a sofa that has caught fire due to the fault of a careless smoker (it wouldn't hurt to freshen it up too!).
If you only have a bucket at hand, pour its contents over the flame, but it would be more effective to put out the fire with water from a "spray" (there are special fire extinguishers with spray guns). The effect is similar to the spray in the shower. So each droplet absorbs the heat of the fire and cools the fire zone. This is a great fire extinguisher!
- Know how to use airborne fire extinguishers. Every year more and more effective and advanced fire extinguishers appear. Use them, remembering to read the instructions for their use. So, if the fire extinguisher says "1kg BC powder" - this means that it is a dry powder extinguisher used to extinguish class B and C fires.
Various types of fire extinguishers:
- Water. Class A fires. They spray water in small droplets (like water jets under pressure in a shower).
- Water + soap mixture. This soapy mixture forms a film on the burning coals, and thus they go out faster. But attention: this mixture is corrosive (it can corrode metal).
- Physical foam... Class A, B, C fires. They are rarely used on board, but quite effective.
- Regular powder. Class B and C fires. These are the most commonly used on board.
- Polyvalent powder. Class A, B, C fires. These have recently started appearing in yacht equipment catalogs.
- Carbon dioxide. Class B, C fires. These extinguishers are ideal for confined, non-residential areas (such as the engine compartment).
Remember that the fire extinguisher must always be used vertically, head up!
Even if it seems very simple, it is imperative that the entire crew try at least one time how fire extinguishers work on board. It is advisable to be able to use them with your eyes closed. It is necessary to bring these skills to automatism. When extinguishing a fire, they begin from afar and slowly approach. Remember that a dry powder extinguisher is used at a distance of 3-4 meters from the fire, and a water or carbon dioxide extinguisher is used at a distance of 1 meter.
Do not forget also that the fire extinguisher is emptied instantly (literally in 5 seconds!). Therefore, it must be used wisely.
When fighting fire, you must also get rid of the smoke that it produces. This is often a toxic gas. Therefore, avoid inhaling it. Plumes of hot smoke rise to the ceiling. At head level, the smoke reaches a temperature of 300 degrees, and at the ceiling - all 900! Remember that fresher and cooler air is at floor level (about 30 degrees).
We hope this article will help you properly fight fires on board!
Now, in the case of ignited oil in the pan, our cook will not get confused and will cover the pan with a lid. So the fire "suffocates". All that remains is to get rid of the smoke. And maybe the team will still be able to enjoy delicious potatoes!
Take care of yourself and your yacht!