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Old 05-30-2012, 08:32 AM   #1
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Boat Fires

Interesting story about a local boat fire and related jurisdictional issues. Do YOU know who to call if there's a fire? Will your 911 operator tell you to call the Coast Guard?

Memorial Day Boat Fire On Broad Creek | TownDock.net | Oriental NC News, Weather, Photos
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Old 05-30-2012, 10:59 AM   #2
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In Seattle the fire boat would respond. However, it takes them 30+ minutes to arrive. So we figured being a live aboard we were on our own. The crazy thing is the police boat that has a water cannon would take 5 minutes but itís not their job/responsibility according to the two unions, Fire and Police.

In Everett the Land fired Dept does respond quickly. So make sure you know who to call and how long it will take.
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Old 05-30-2012, 05:12 PM   #3
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I once listened to a radio conversation between a young lady and the Coast Guard. The conversation had to be relayed through a third party as the young lady could not reach the CG directly. The lady reported there was smoke coming out of their engine box. The CG wanted to know souls aboard and if they had life jackets. Five aboard, yes we have life jackets. The CG asked for a location which was given and there was more smoke. The CG asked if they would accept commercial assistance. The young lady getting desperate said yes, just please send help now she could see flames. Sea Tow or another commercial tower responded that they could be there in twenty minutes. Shortly there after she called to say that the flames were too high and they were getting off the boat. They were only a hundred yards or so offshore and were able to swim that distance. The shoreline at that point was about half a mile by dirt road to the nearest paved road and civilization so a buddy and I drove over to see if we could help. We met the young lady walking up the dirt road. We told her that we had been listening on the radio. All she could say was "Why wouldn't they come?" This happened in Biscayne Bay, south of Miami, near the mouth of Snapper Creek. It's real easy to be a long way from help when you're in a boat.
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Old 05-30-2012, 07:34 PM   #4
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I think most boaters don't realize that, despite the help available eventually, and the immediacy of VHF or mobile phone connectivity, you really are on your own if you're out in a boat. Any boat, not just cruisers like ours.

I think incidents like the one HopCar describes are going to become more frequent as people become less and less reliant on themselves and more and more dependent on "officials" to protect or save them.

While we did not set out to buy a twin engine boat we are glad we have one as it provides a significant degree of self-reliance and independence from the commercial and government assistance organizations which up here are very often miles or hours or even days away from you particularly the farther north you go.
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Old 05-31-2012, 06:07 AM   #5
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I think incidents like the one HopCar describes are going to become more frequent as people become less and less reliant on themselves and more and more dependent on "officials" to protect or save them.

Perhaps if the boats first purchaser could convince the boats assembler that the boat would NOT be purchased unless it was constructed of Fire Retarding resin , boat fires would be less of a hassle.

A nickle extra for a pound of resin that wont be spent with no demand.

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Old 05-31-2012, 07:42 AM   #6
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I wonder if they have statistics that show where most boat fires start? I would guess the battery. I've seen little trim pumps short out on smaller boats that would eventually lead to fires. We fished a tournament several years ago and the contender down the dock had brand new evanrude motors installed for the tourny and the tilt trim motor turned on about 9pm and eventually burned up and started a fire. We put it out with a garden hose but boat was totaled. The fiberglass caught but it didn't burn as fast as I thought it would. The wind was blowing away from us so it wasn't to hard to put out. I hate fires!
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:38 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swampu View Post
I wonder if they have statistics that show where most boat fires start? I would guess the battery.
Well, certainly electrical systems in general and DC wiring in particular:

BoatUS: Seaworthy
Causes of Fires Started Aboard


Click on the links below for more information:
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:57 AM   #8
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Refugio: Thanks. Interesting stuff. I am surprised how low the AC electrical appliance/heater fires are at 4%. Talking to marine people you would think it's a lot higher. DC shorts account for 30% of all fires on board is another surprise. WOW!!

1) AC and DC wiring/appliance - 55%
DC shorts/wiring - 30%
DC engine voltage regulator - 12%
AC appliance/heater 4% shore power - 4%
AC wiring/panel - 2%
DC battery charger - 2%
AC power surge - 1%
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Old 05-31-2012, 10:05 AM   #9
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Quote:
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I am surprised how low the AC electrical appliance/heater fires are at 4%.
Well, I'm going to make a guess here that less than 25% of all boats even have AC wiring.

If you could filter the numbers to cruisers over 40 feet (with possibly more AC than DC wiring) the numbers would be different.

Still, the BoatUS Seaworthy statistics and articles are interesting and sometimes instructive. Here's another one: "The Most Common Insurance Claims… And What you Can Do to Avoid Them" that has Fire and Explosion at #4: http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/SWTTC.asp
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Old 06-07-2012, 01:02 AM   #10
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A few weeks back, after reading about the recent spat of boat fires, I purchased a half dozen 9V battery-powered smoke detectors at $5 a piece. They are now mounted in the salon and each stateroom, the hall, the ER and the inverter cabinet. It's no substitute for fire prevention, but it might just get us a head start on fighting the fire or abandoning ship. And for $30, it's a no brainer.
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Old 06-07-2012, 01:43 AM   #11
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Al, that sounds like overkill. A couple of detectors in our sized boats should be plenty.
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Old 06-10-2012, 10:38 AM   #12
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A few weeks back, after reading about the recent spat of boat fires, I purchased a half dozen 9V battery-powered smoke detectors at $5 a piece. They are now mounted in the salon and each stateroom, the hall, the ER and the inverter cabinet. It's no substitute for fire prevention, but it might just get us a head start on fighting the fire or abandoning ship. And for $30, it's a no brainer.
Agreed, although for a few extra $ you can get a combined smoke/CO unit, and these are now recommended by the ABYC for all "designated sleeping" areas, the galley AND the heads. I guess they don't want you falling asleep on the throne due to CO....

The ABYC also wants these units to be approved for marine service, which I assume would mean elimination of metals in the unit that could corrode. It also means paying twice what the thing is worth, but that's another story.

This rash of fires has prompted us to begin throwing the main switch on the starter batter when we leave the boat, since it is unfused, unlike the house bank. More psychological comfort than practical, I suspect. Sailing to Hawaii a few years ago, I noticed smoke pouring out from behind the electrical panel on our sailboat. Turned out to be the propane sniffer, which was fused, but shorted out and started to burn the PC board nonetheless. On that boat, because of how small it was and the fact that it happened in daylight, the problem was immediately evident from the smoke and smell. On a larger boat, I don't know what would have happened, but the middle of the Pacific is no place to find out.
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Old 06-10-2012, 11:31 AM   #13
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Why the long response time? A man was sentenced May 29th in San Diego federal court after pleading guilty to two counts of communicating a false distress message to the Coast Guard, claiming there were three people aboard his sinking vessel-including a child-who were jumping into the water. The Coast Guard sent a search team that looked for the boat over an hour. In addition to the one year in federal prison, he was also ordered to pay restitution to the Coast Guard to offest the cost of the rescue mission.
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Old 06-10-2012, 11:47 AM   #14
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Agreed, although for a few extra $ you can get a combined smoke/CO unit, and these are now recommended by the ABYC for all "designated sleeping" areas, the galley AND the heads. I guess they don't want you falling asleep on the throne due to CO....

The ABYC also wants these units to be approved for marine service, which I assume would mean elimination of metals in the unit that could corrode. It also means paying twice what the thing is worth, but that's another story.

This rash of fires has prompted us to begin throwing the main switch on the starter batter when we leave the boat, since it is unfused, unlike the house bank. More psychological comfort than practical, I suspect. Sailing to Hawaii a few years ago, I noticed smoke pouring out from behind the electrical panel on our sailboat. Turned out to be the propane sniffer, which was fused, but shorted out and started to burn the PC board nonetheless. On that boat, because of how small it was and the fact that it happened in daylight, the problem was immediately evident from the smoke and smell. On a larger boat, I don't know what would have happened, but the middle of the Pacific is no place to find out.
-------------------------------------------------
When electrical components fail and create fire/smoke, it always seems to be
the low voltage stuff. The 110 volt components just seems to stop working with little to no smoke and no fire? At work this last week we lost two PC power supplies and three PC monitors without even an odor?? Yet my boat fire/CO detector failed, literally melted down, and darn near started a fire and stunk up the boat? Maybe it's just Murphy's Law!!!
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Old 06-10-2012, 04:12 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Delfin View Post
Agreed, although for a few extra $ you can get a combined smoke/CO unit, and these are now recommended by the ABYC for all "designated sleeping" areas, the galley AND the heads. I guess they don't want you falling asleep on the throne due to CO....

The ABYC also wants these units to be approved for marine service, which I assume would mean elimination of metals in the unit that could corrode. It also means paying twice what the thing is worth, but that's another story.
I agree and when we replace out current hard wired CO detectors, we'll probably go with the smoke/CO combo units. But in the meantime, this provides immediate, inexpensive protection throughout the boat.

One thing that bothers me re: the combo units is that CO sinks and smoke rises. My gut tells me I'd get better protection with separate units; CO mounted low and Smoke mounted high.
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:58 PM   #16
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Biggest thing i remember is my father installing the Hailon systems on both of his sportfishing boats in the engine bays. I thought it was over kill untill he said " if you'r 60 miles off shore and its burning you gonna stand in the yard and wait for the fire dept"? After a short thought i see his point he had something in each room of the boat to put out a fire. Now with the systems we have for co2 and smoke it's almost neglect if your not using some of this new teck stuff on board.
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Old 06-10-2012, 08:25 PM   #17
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One thing that bothers me re: the combo units is that CO sinks and smoke rises. My gut tells me I'd get better protection with separate units; CO mounted low and Smoke mounted high.

CO is slightly lighter than air so it tends to rise. If it is created as a byproduct of combustion then it will be warm and even less dense than the surrounding atmosphere. It rises with the smoke column if there is one.
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Old 06-10-2012, 08:28 PM   #18
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Thanks RickB for the insight .
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Old 06-10-2012, 09:47 PM   #19
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Rick B, Did you change your picture? I've been looking at that engine room for 8months hoping to make mine look like that one day. Cool looking picture now too.
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Old 06-10-2012, 10:46 PM   #20
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Thanks for clarifying that. I mistakenly thought CO was heavier than air.
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