Smoke on the water; Coast Guard reminds boaters of onboard fire safety

JUNEAU, Alaska - Petty Officer James Formosa stands ready on the bow of a Coast Guard 47-foot motor life boat to provide cooling water during a boat fire in Thomas Basin, Ketchikan June 27, 2005.. The Coast Guard crew assisted the Ketchikan Fire Department and provided security. USCG photo.

JUNEAU, Alaska – Petty Officer James Formosa stands ready on the bow of a Coast Guard 47-foot motor life boat to provide cooling water during a boat fire in Thomas Basin, Ketchikan June 27, 2005.  The Coast Guard crew assisted the Ketchikan Fire Department and provided security. USCG photo.

 

Boating plays a vital role in Alaska and, in many instances, a vessel serves as both a means of making a living and a floating home away from home. Like any other home in Alaska, the cabin of a boat can often provide a warm refuge during cold weather, but mariners may become complacent to fire hazards onboard.

Of all the potential dangers associated with boating, fire stands out as one of the most deadly. Aside from the possibility of injury or death, fire and smoke can irreparably damage a vessel resulting in loss of livelihood or property. That’s why the Coast Guard recommends mariners keep aware of fire hazards and stay prepared with functioning smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, portable fire extinguishers or onboard fire extinguishing systems.

“Stoves and portable heating units aboard a vessel can pose a fire risk if they aren’t properly maintained, cleaned and kept clear of flammable items,” said Lt. Rven Garcia, an investigator for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “The Coast Guard sets minimum requirements for safetyequipment and it’s just as important to check and maintain firefighting equipment like extinguishers and extinguishing systems. It’s also important to remember to store extinguishers in a location where they are readily accessible, but not in a location that a fire is likely to start.”

Another recommended safety measure is to install a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector or heat detector that will provide a loud audible sound. Having an alarm increases the chance of a crew being alerted to danger. Lastly, good housekeeping will help reduce sources of ignition and the spread of fire.

If a fire does occur aboard a vessel, boaters should remain calm and remember the acronym F.I.R.E.:

FIND the fire, the location, and its size

INFORM the Captain immediately to:

  • Sound the general alarm to muster the crew and notify all hands
  • Make a distress call to Coast Guard and nearby vessels
  • Activate emergency firefighting equipment

RESTRICT the fire

  • Shut off air supply to the fire – close hatches, ports, etc.
  • De-energize electrical systems in affected space
  • Set fire boundaries to confine the fire
  • Shut off fuel supply and ventilation
  • Maneuver vessel to minimize the effect of wind on the fire
  • Ensure that all personnel have been evacuated the space prior to activating extinguishing systems

EXTINGUISH the fire

If it becomes necessary to abandon the vessel, mariners should prepare to enter the water by notifying the Coast Guard and nearby vessels, putting on survival suits and life jackets and taking safety equipment such as flares and sound signaling devices.

“Alaska’s waters are dangerous enough without the additional potential for a fire, and we want everyone to be safe,” said Garcia.

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