Fire extinguishers: size does matter

25 July 2011

Fire extinguisher When tackling a blaze that has begun on your vessel, the size of your fire extinguisher may be the difference between quelling the crisis or losing your boat and more.

A fire onboard a fuel-laden boat can quickly turn into a catastrophe.

Regulations are in place to ensure every boat has a fire extinguisher, or two, big enough to try and tackle the beginnings of a blaze.

The minimum size of the fire extinguisher that is needed, and must be carried, is relative to the amount of flammable liquid on the boat.

For example, boats with between 115 and 350 litres of flammable liquid onboard must carry an extinguisher of at least 2kg in size.

This means one extinguisher must be at least 2kg. Two x 1kg extinguishers will not meet your needs in an emergency and will not meet the regulations.

You will have no hope of fighting a fire if your extinguisher is too small, the Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure’s Trent Rusby says.

“The minimum size required is based on the quantity of fuel. If the extinguisher is too small you won’t make a dent in the fire,” he says.

“Even if you have a second unit, by the time you prime and activate it the flames will have grown again and you’ll be fighting a losing battle.”

Boats that are longer than eight metres must carry two extinguishers of at least the minimum size.

Fire extinguishers should be placed where they can be reached quickly so you should consider your vessel’s size and the number of compartments.

The best all-purpose fire extinguisher for recreational boats is the hand-held Dry Chemical Powder (DCP) unit, which is red with a white band.

For more information on fire extinguisher requirements go to the Marine safety equipment page.

Skippers and crew should be familiar with where the fire extinguishers are located and how to use them to fight a fire.
For information on how to use a fire extinguisher go to the fire extinguisher page on South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service.