Get your card today


Boat Fire Safety: Guidelines for Prevention & Emergencies

November 2, 2022

Fire needs heat, fuel and oxygen to ignite. Unfortunately, both fuel and oxygen are plentiful aboard most boats, making fire an ever-present hazard. It’s important to take safety precautions to mitigate the most common causes of fires on board boats and familiarize yourself with the procedure to follow in the event that a fire occurs.

Common causes of boat fires and prevention tips

  • Smoking: don’t allow smoking in the cabin
  • Fuel-burning appliances: keep gas valves turned off when not in use, and never leave cooking appliances unattended while they’re on
  • Gas buildup in the bilge: open hatches for ventilation in the bilge and cabin area
  • Faulty wiring and leaks: check wiring, gas tubing and fittings regularly for defects
  • Fuel vapour: always vent the engine space before starting the engine

You can also fit gas and smoke detectors on your boat as an extra prevention strategy.

Marine fire extinguishers

Marine fire extinguishers are a vital piece of boating safety equipment to have on board. Canadian boating regulations require specific types and numbers of boat fire extinguishers for different kinds of pleasure craft.

Fire extinguisher maintenance

Here are a few maintenance steps that should be done regularly to make sure that your fire extinguishers remain in good working order:

  • Turn dry chemical fire extinguishers upside down and shake them once a month to prevent the contents from clumping together
  • Inspect your fire extinguishers for dents, corrosion and leaks once a month
  • Replace any cracked or broken hoses
  • Check the pressure gauge to make sure the pressure is still optimal

How to respond in the event of a boat fire

In the event of a boat fire, it’s important to act quickly, sensibly, and prioritize the safety of those on board. Only fight the fire yourself if it is small and contained to one area, you have a way out, you have an extinguisher that is rated for the class of fire in question, and you know how to use it. If these criteria are met, direct your fire extinguisher at the base of the flames and spray in short bursts, using movements that sweep from side to side.

Follow these steps in the event of a fire while underway:

  • If possible, attempt to get the fire under control using a fire extinguisher, fire buckets or a fixed extinguishing system if the vessel is equipped with one
  • Send out a distress call
  • Try to position your boat so that the fire is downwind (the wind will blow fire and smoke away from those on board and prevent the fire from spreading)
  • Make sure everyone on board who is not fighting the fire is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD)
  • If the fire is in the engine space, shut off the engine, disconnect the fuel source and close the ventilation
  • Evacuate if the fire is out of control

Note that burning fiberglass is extremely hot and gives off hazardous fumes. If fiberglass on your boat is burning, evacuate immediately.

Master boat fire safety and more with Drive a Boat Canada!

Preparation is the best way to manage any kind of emergency, and those on the water are no different. A well-informed and practiced boat operator will know what to do in the event of a boat fire and be able to take the necessary steps to mitigate the situation.

Drive a Boat Canada provides an online boating course that can teach you everything you need to know about boating safety and regulations. Get your boating license with us and set out on the water with confidence, knowing that you can handle anything that comes your way!