Betsy Lindsley demonstrates how to use fire ports aboard Osprey.
One of the emergencies skippers hope never to tackle is a fire on board.
Safety of the crew is first on the skipper’s mind, followed by the extinguishing of the fire and prevention of destruction of the vessel. Being in a confined space, escape often restricted to jumping overboard. The loss of documents and personal gear,and possible crew panic add to that fear.
Diesel fuel engines dramatically reduce explosive-vapor dangers compared to much more volatile gasoline engines. Nevertheless, fires occurring in engine rooms/ compartments are first aboard boats ahead of a galley fire. Hot surfaces, ample electrical wiring that could short out, fatigued/cracked fuel hoses and other factors all combine to raise the risk of a fire.
According to BoatUS claims files, about half of all boat fires start in the engine compartment where the fuel and a source of ignition can both be found.
Once a fire is found on board, conventional wisdom calls for the crew to don PFDs, go upwind of the blaze/ smoke, use the VHF to issue a MAYDAY and, if safe to do so, try to extinguish the fire. USCG regulations call for fire extinguishers to be aboard vessels with engines. However, a fire in the engine compartment represents a unique secondary danger. Being in a confined space, the fire will quickly consume much of the room’s oxygen. If the compartment is then opened to extinguish the fire, air/oxygen will immediately rush in and an explosive incident could occur. Firefighters are trained to cope with this unique danger as they search for victims in house fires.
On board our Fairwind MdR inboard engine boats Fire Ports are being installed that will allow a person to fight any engine fire without exposing themselves to the danger of abruptly opening the compartment to air. If a fire is detected, turn off the battery switch, remove the closest hand-held fire extinguisher from its mounting bracket, remove the red clip so the trigger can be activated, insert the nozzle through the Fire Port’s opening and press the handle to discharge the extinguisher. If the fire has not been extinguished, then a second extinguisher should be used. Use your judgement if that first extinguisher has substantially extinguished the fire and if it is safe to crack open the engine compartment to focus that second extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Tardis and Imagine already have manufacturer-installed Fire Port plugs which must be pulled out before inserting the nozzle in the 2” hole.
Practice an emergency drill using this Lloyds-of-London safety feature Fire Port when
you are aboard each of the MdR fleet.