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Old 12-15-2014, 11:14 AM   #1
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Close Call

Went out Saturday for a day trip. SO said it was cold and would I light the heater. I have a Dickinson Atlantic, followed the instructions, let about 2 tablespoons of diesel flow into the pot (the pot is what Dickinson calls the part of the stove where the burning sequence begins), then light it w/ a piece of paper. When the flame rises above the pot, turn the pump on and you're set to go. I did this and all looked good, so continued down the river, occasionally checking the stove. Second to last check and there was diesel on the floor, so turned off the pump thinking the pot had overflowed and would burn itself out with no more fuel coming in. Wrong, the last check showed the stove on fire inside and below the pot. Not good, and the stove was getting hotter by the minute. So, looked for the fire extinguisher that is 2 feet from the stove. I have looked at that thing going on 7 years, I didn't see it. Panic was taking its toll. So I ran up to the forward cabin, got that extinguisher, back to the galley and started squirting it into the fire. It would go out, then flash right back on with a big whomp. Keep squirting, stove keeps whomping back on fire. Fire extinguisher goes empty and still have a fire. Look for the one in the galley that I couldn't find, and there it is, 2 feet from the stove and right where its been since I bought the boat. Start squirting the fire again, and about halfway thru the contents of 2nd extinguisher the fire goes out for good. It finally cooled down enough to stop the diesel from flashing off.
By this this time the entire boat was filled with smoke and white powder, stem to stern. I asked the SO if she wanted to continue the ride, she said turn this thing around and head for the slip as we had many hours of cleaning up the white dust and carbon filaments that were everywhere.
So, what did I learn:
1. Keep it calm and know where things are.
2. Make sure the extinguishers are up to date. I got lucky as I had no clue and had never checked whether they were up to date or not or whether they would work when needed.
3. Get rid of the stove and buy a diesel heater. I never have liked that thing, it's big enough for a 75' tug and crew of 5, plus being about 25 years old. Our winters just aren't that bad.

Whew, close call.
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:07 PM   #2
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Sometimes it's better to be lucky. It's amazing what stress can do. You can pat yourself on the back, you survived. Missing the first fire extinguisher you kept your head and went for the contingent backup.


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Old 12-15-2014, 12:16 PM   #3
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This sounds right to my alley.

Glad it turned out so well.
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:20 PM   #4
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GC now you know why we at the CGAUX do free safety inspections and fire extinguishers are high on our list. We check to see if they are there and are serviceable and appropriate to the boat being examined. Very glad you had a good outcome. By the way on my personal boat I carry twice as many FE units as called for by CG regs. Most people don't realize how short and ineffective the average extinguishers discharge actually is.
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Old 12-15-2014, 01:16 PM   #5
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Good job on keeping your head and getting the fire out, even though it took awhile.

Just curious about something--I'm not familiar with that heater so pardon this question....could you have put something over the burning area (after the flame went out) to smother it and keep it from reigniting?
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Old 12-15-2014, 02:21 PM   #6
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GFC: This shot shows the offending stove. The handle on top lifts up an iron plate; inside is the burn box and below that is the pot and always stays covered. The two handles to the left are for the oven (long handle) and the short handle is where the control valve and fuel in/out/return pipes are. It was behind the valve and below the pot where the fire was out of control. The fire in the burn box and pot was blazing too but it was covered by the iron plate and went out pretty fast w/ the FE. The valve itself is shielded by stainless sheet metal so I sprayed the FE in and around it. I think you can get a better idea how this works on the Dickinson Stove website; download the manual and it has pictures and drawings.
When all works correctly, the flame from the pot rises up to the burn box and heats up the iron top of the stove for heat and cooking.

Eyschulman: I plan to add 4 new FE's to the boat, you're right, they don't last very long with a lot of spraying.
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Old 12-15-2014, 02:41 PM   #7
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During our last voluntary CGAUX inspection they showed us how the material inside the extinguisher will cake at the bottom and if you don't vigurously shake it up every once in a while if you discharge it not all of the retardant will come out.

I thought she was nuts till she showed me the difference on our own fire extinguishers. She shook one for a minute or two rather vigorously and then she had me shake it. You could feel the powder stuff inside (don't know what it is) moving about. On the other one, the "control", you could feel nothing of the sort until we shook that one up also.

Here we are now shaking fire extinguishers every once in a while now during routine maintenance.

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Old 12-15-2014, 02:48 PM   #8
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Man that was close call . Glad it all worked out . I was getting excited just reading the post and wondering how I would have handled it myself . Sounds like you kept your cool and got everything under control pretty quick .
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:22 PM   #9
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wow

Fuel valve in the line before the stove. The Dickinson stove has a loyal following in cooler climes. What a mess to clean up. You must have a fuel shut off in your fuel line before the stove. Were you able to shut it. Have you discovered where the leak occurred? Nothing like fire to cause panic in all of us. Your really lucky you didn't lose your boat and or lives. I think I'll take my fire extinguishers in for service.
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:38 PM   #10
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GC: Yikes! Glad it turned out good.

I got this it from another TF member. It may have been updated but it helps clear up some of the confusion on what's required for our fire extinguishers.


PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCE FAQ
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:43 PM   #11
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Gulf Comanche,
Well Done.
Consider CO2 fire extinguishers, no mess from discharging, also will cool the fire area, not just try to smother it.
This could eliminate the re-ignition from heat.
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:54 PM   #12
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On the other one, the "control", you could feel nothing of the sort until we shook that one up also.

Here we are now shaking fire extinguishers every once in a while now during routine maintenance.

Harry
If one finds that one of their extingushers has "packed up" as a result of sitting in one position too long, and shaking doesn't break the material loose, before taking it off to the extinguisher resucitation company, try holding it upside down and whacking it a few times with a rubber mallet (something every boater should have in their tool collection, by the way). This will often break the material free of the inside of the cylinder, at which point continued shaking should break up the "clump."

Note that the contents of the typical dry-chemical extinguisher will severely corrode electrical and electronic components. For this reason and on the advice of the fire extinguisher company we use, the big extinguishers we carry in the main cabin where our helm and electronics are are non-corrosive foam extinguishers. We have the much less expensive dry-chemical extinguishers in the fore and aft cabins and on the flying bridge where, while they'll make a big mess, there's not as much risk of damaging expensive electrical and electronic components.
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Old 12-15-2014, 04:51 PM   #13
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Thank you for sharing your experience Gulf Comanche. Thanks to the rest of you for the great follow on information too. These are the kind of threads that make this forum a good resource in my mind.

I'm purchasing 2 additional extinguishers for Bliss and installing them ASAP as a result. I'll be sure to try the shaking trick too.
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Old 12-15-2014, 05:06 PM   #14
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Buying a boat? Check the extinguishers. In 2010 my "new" 1981 boat had, you guessed it, 1981 extinguishers.
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Old 12-15-2014, 05:38 PM   #15
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Yes, thanks to all for the posts and info, that's why I read this forum every day. At the end of this experience, cleaned up boat and all, what I really wanted was to get back to the house for a strong dose of good whisky and count my lucky stars. I did not bother to check the dates on the FE's, but sure will this weekend. Would not be surprised if they're 20 years old. New ones coming before next trip out.
And Scary, there is an inline valve shutoff which I closed after shutting off the pump. I'll take a look at the stove and see what damage was done, but I'm pulling it out and replacing it w/ a small diesel heater, probably a Dickinson, they make quality products.
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Old 12-15-2014, 07:25 PM   #16
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During our last voluntary CGAUX inspection they showed us how the material inside the extinguisher will cake at the bottom and if you don't vigurously shake it up every once in a while if you discharge it not all of the retardant will come out.

I thought she was nuts till she showed me the difference on our own fire extinguishers. She shook one for a minute or two rather vigorously and then she had me shake it. You could feel the powder stuff inside (don't know what it is) moving about. On the other one, the "control", you could feel nothing of the sort until we shook that one up also.

Here we are now shaking fire extinguishers every once in a while now during routine maintenance.

Harry
The shake and bake exercise is now old school and applies to FE which are no longer in use. It used to be that the early powder would cake and thus the shaking. Modern chemistry has solved the caking issue. The CG and fire authorities have put out the word this is no longer part of safety evaluation because newer chemicals are not at all prone to caking. I guess the word has not got out to all our safety examiners and I have run into a few who were set in their ways until this was brought up at flotilla meeting. Concerning the short effective spray time of FE people might consider getting larger units than the minimum required by the CG.
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Old 12-15-2014, 07:36 PM   #17
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- There are threads and posts that mean little.
- There are threads and posts that mean something.
- Then there is a really important thread with super informative posts such as this - That Saves Lives - in the long run!

Of all the other good reasons to frequent TF - this is the REAL Reason!

GC thanks so much for sharing your successful yet unfortunate occurrence.

And, thanks to all others for sharing your tidbits of important portable FE details.

I now realize that I have been way too lax in tending to my boat's several FE's. I'm usually just satisfied to see the little gauge showing fully charged. Next time aboard I will carefully inspect, shake, "rubber hammer" bottom tap etc... as well as check dates on each. Additionally, there will be two brand new BIG ones I'll bring aboard.

Good Luck with new heater GC!
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Old 12-15-2014, 07:42 PM   #18
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You did good by not dumping the whole dry chem extinguisher the first time then having nothing for the reflash. Its fun in a weird way to watch newbies at fire school when the reflash comes. They think the instructors are just messing with them.
When the flame extinguishes, stop squirting and wait for the re-flash, then hit it again immediately until it goes out. There is only about 8-10 seconds of discharge time per extinguisher. It only takes 1 or 2 sec to knock out the flame if your aim is good. Meantime everything is cooling down. Repeat until it stays out.
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Old 12-15-2014, 07:45 PM   #19
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For those thinking of updating, changing, testing, etc. their on-board fire extinguishers I suggest that they talk to the folks at a reputable fire extinquisher service and supply company in their area. There are so many assumptions, second hand information, and downright myths surrounding fire extinguishers, I feel it's well worth it to cut out the "middle man" and go directly to the experts.

One thing I have learned is there are "experts" and there are "experts." We sought out a fire extinguisher service and supply company in our area that supports the marine industry as well as commercial and residential needs. So they understand the sometimes unique situations on board vessels and can make recommendations as to what kind of extinguisher is best for a particular application.
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Old 12-15-2014, 08:21 PM   #20
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Well Art, you're welcome. Bet everybody takes a hard look at their FE's before their next trip. And that's a good thing.
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