The best way to prevent boat fires is to understand where and how most fires start. This way, you can take preventative measures to keep your boat and your crew safe.
The most common causes of boat fires are DC Electrical, off boat sources, AC electrical & engine issues. There are other causes and unknown causes but we will go over the most common.
DC Electrical – 35% of fires are caused by problems with the 12 volt DC electrical system. This is the electrical system that is associated with the engine or the batteries and is usually located in the engine room. Because there are so many flammable materials in an engine room, once a DC wiring problem creates some heat, things can go up in flames quickly. Preventing these types of fires comes down to good electrical maintenance.
Off Boat Sources – 25% of boat fires start from fires that are not even on the boat. This may be hard to believe but according to BoatUS Marine insurance Claim files, the most common cause is when another boat in the marina or the marina itself has a fire.
AC Electrical – 17% of fires are caused by AC electrical problems. AC is the 120 volt plugs you use to power your air conditioners, refrigerators, water heaters and other luxuries. In the marine environment, plugs and outlets are prone to damage, dirt, corrosion and moisture. Damages to the contacts will eventually leads to heat buildup and fires.
Engine Problem – A majority of engine fires start from cooling system failures. Engines can overheat when not enough water circulates to keep the engine at proper operating temperature. This is usually caused by debris that blocks the water intake, dirt & sediments that enter the cooling system, scale or marine growth that blocks water flow or a broken water pump. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your cooling system can prevent this.
There are a handful of other issues that can cause fires so it is always important to have a fire extinguisher on board. Also, be sure you read the instructions prior so you know how to use it properly. Be safe so you don’t cause damage to your boat or your neighbor’s boat in the marina!