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Old 05-09-2017, 10:56 AM   #1
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Fire Detection and Suppression

Yesterday I learned of a Bayliner 4788 that was lost to a fire originating in the engine room.

The last "at sea" fire that I remember also originated from the engine room.

So....

The question for the crowd is, What systems, and strategies do you have onboard to detect and suppress a engine room fire.

Do you have a automatic system?
Do you have a permenant mounted manual system?
Do you rely on portable fire extinguishers, and if so how large are they.
Do you have smoke detectors in the engine room?
If you have smoke detectors are they linked to an external siren?
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Old 05-09-2017, 11:04 AM   #2
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I'll start with my boat.

We have an automatic Kidde fire suppression system
I do not have the manual release hooked up to it, but I will this next week.

We do not have the automatic engine shutdown hooked up. Yes I know its a requirement but I am not comfortable with the concept of having all my engine shutdowns running through one single point of failure.

We do have a process in place that if the discharge alarm sounds that we immediately shut down the engines and generator.

We also have several 5 pound fire extinguishers onboard, but we haven't even looked at them except to visually verify the arrow in in the green for several years.

We feel that a huge component of our system is the ability to detect a fire early. Before the suppression system activates which is at 170 degrees.

To do this we have a smoke detector on the ceiling of the engine room, and it is linked to a on board siren.

I'll admit that it's not a perfect system, but at least it's something. There is certainly room for improvement here.
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Old 05-09-2017, 11:07 AM   #3
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We have an automatic system and it also has a manual trigger just outside the ER door. And its linked to a shutdown system that kills the engine, generator, fans, and propane if the fire bottle deploys. Also hand held extinguishers, including a large one in the ER.

The laz is set up the same way, with shut down on the diesel heat, propane, and. Laz fans.
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Old 05-09-2017, 11:12 AM   #4
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I don't have heat, smoke, or CO detectors, and should. They are on my list.

BTW, it's pretty easy to wire a bypass switch at the shutdown box. The shutdown all have an over ride function to restart the engines, but you are right that if the shutdown device itself fails, and they do, you can find yourself disabled. I know a lot of people who wire in simple bypass switches as an add assurance of being able to quickly restart.
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Old 05-09-2017, 11:24 AM   #5
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Along with an ancient Halon system (that still passes inspection) I have a number of Purple K extinguishers throughout the boat. All four of them are spread out so you are never too far from one of them and can use them to help clear a path off the boat. Forward between galley and v-berth, aft cabin, upper helm and back deck.

Would not trust anything but a Purple K extinguisher to put out a oil/diesel fire.
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Old 05-09-2017, 12:41 PM   #6
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Along with an ancient Halon system (that still passes inspection) I have a number of Purple K extinguishers throughout the boat. All four of them are spread out so you are never too far from one of them and can use them to help clear a path off the boat. Forward between galley and v-berth, aft cabin, upper helm and back deck.

Would not trust anything but a Purple K extinguisher to put out a oil/diesel fire.
even better to follow Purple K with AFFF. dry chem doesn't cool, remove O2, or remove the fuel. So, reflash is possible.
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Old 05-09-2017, 12:53 PM   #7
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There was a long thread on this topic some time ago (maybe on the sister forum) that had a lot of good thoughts. A couple I remember:

1. In the engine room, if the engine is running when suppression is activated, the engine will ingest, and exhaust, the suppressant. This may prevent the suppressant from working and make a mess in the engine.
2. There are cases of fires re-flashing after the suppressant is used up. So cooling (water?) is necessary. But the water can't come first, as it will just spread an oil/fuel fire.

So engine shutdown, suppressant, quickly followed by water.

An effective system is non-trivial.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:05 PM   #8
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The thread I referred to, above, was occassioned by the story about a year ago, in which a cruising sailboat (so it probably was on the sister forum) caught fire and sank in the SoC.

They had an engine room fire. Put it out with handhelds. But it reignited after the handhelds were exhausted, and so quickly and violently the couple were lucky to get off the boat without being engulfed. Now they were in the water, no dink, no life jackets, miles from shore.

But they were lucky. Another cruiser saw the flames and rescued them.

A very sobering story.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:19 PM   #9
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1. In the engine room, if the engine is running when suppression is activated, the engine will ingest, and exhaust, the suppressant. This may prevent the suppressant from working and make a mess in the engine.

Right, this is why the shutdown system is so important. I think manually turning things off in response to an alarm risks being too slow to respond, and forgetting something like ventilation fans.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:26 PM   #10
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Both my lobster boat and 90/90 are built of Fire Retardant resin.

The interior furnishings can burn but not the hull , unlike conventional GRP which is hard to extinguish..

A smoke alarm , multiple extinguishers , and exits from every space below is about it.

The 90/90 has a 2 inch fire hose , but it would probably be better for working a fire on a neighbors boat , as the engine has to operate .
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:36 PM   #11
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I do not believe in auto systems tbat can kill my engines.

Flew too much to accept that.

Now I wish I had a total boat agent flood for when I wasnt aboard....I cant control anything then.

But when I am aboard, I am in control....not some idiot system.

I have had my new wifi alarms go off in the last 2 trips to florida. Amazon Kidde or whatever when the engine room sets off the saloon one.

Once when I left the oil fill cap off, and 2 times when the dampner plate was failing and rubbing parts caused just a tiny bit of smoke.

So my detection meets my standards for early enough warning, and I can still make the decision to fight underway or have everything shut down at a bad time.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:38 PM   #12
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Someone here at some point recommended wireless linked smoke detectors, so I have that (one on FB on in cabin one in ER) plus a probably defunct definitely undersized halon automatic system (no shutdown) plus one large Co2 hand held plus a half dozen small dry chem.
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:25 PM   #13
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We have a Fireboy automatic system with the engine shut option. We also have a 190 degree f remote fire detector in the engine room that is tied into our Aqua Alarm system (very loud). There are fire extinguishers outside at both engine room hatches and an old hand held halon in the engine. So far we haven't needed any of them.

I am looking at adding an engine room camera (or 2) so I can see if an alarm goes off, what's going on before a hatch gets opened.
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:32 PM   #14
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I do not believe in auto systems tbat can kill my engines.

Flew too much to accept that.

Now I wish I had a total boat agent flood for when I wasnt aboard....I cant control anything then.

But when I am aboard, I am in control....not some idiot system.
Agree! A auto deploy system is great, an AUTO shutdown can be a liability. Certainly engine fires are much more rare when they are off and cold!

I do think a reality check is in order for those contemplating "attacking" an ER fire on a boat. So, there is a fire. To attack (manually) that fire, you will open a door to a poorly ventilated, relatively small compartment, below decks. As likely as not, your wearing bermuda shorts and flip flops. You will get a blast of heat out the now open door on your bare face. Your HH CO2, chem, whatever is still no where close to where it needs to go. Most folks would bail at this point. Yeah, I like the auto deploy systems. I kept my Halon alive for as long as possible.
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Old 05-09-2017, 05:33 PM   #15
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I was USN and went to firefighting school 3 times in 5 years. The navy takes firefighting seriously. Much doesn't pertain to yachts. We we trained to put out oil fires, usually with only water. But, if your out in the ocean on your own, tackling an engine room fire may be your best survival choice. Auto fire suppression would be a good choice for yacht engine rooms. I have 2 on mine. CO2 and Halon. And a 2nd CO2 that can be manually activated. Also my engine room can be made air tight. Leaving the engines running would quickly eliminate the oxygen. I prefer to control the stopping of the engines for lots of reasons.
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Old 05-09-2017, 05:45 PM   #16
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Has anyone run the calculations to determine how much time you have after auto trigger of a CO2 system to shut down engine.
If engine keeps injecting air into the ER it will negate the ability of CO2 or Halon to put out the fire.

Haven't done the research or calcs but wondering if anyone has.
It will involve or depend on engine, rpm/fuel/air rates, ER volume, vol of CO2....but would be useful to know when you have negated the system are on your own
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Old 05-09-2017, 05:50 PM   #17
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I have an automatic Fireboy halon system. No automatic engine shutdowns or fire system controls in the wheelhouse. 2 CO2 extinguishers and 3 dry chemical for the staterooms galley saloon and wheelhouse.
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Old 05-09-2017, 05:57 PM   #18
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Fireboy and a load of extinguishers.
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Old 05-09-2017, 06:02 PM   #19
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Auto activation 100 percent of the time and no auto engine shutdown I believe has been proven to be a bad idea.

Either both or neither.

Except for at the dock when the engine isnt running, then auto extinguish would be more effective.

For auto extinguish to work...auto engine shutdown and auto ventillation shutdown to compartment is highly recommended.
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Old 05-09-2017, 06:54 PM   #20
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The issue with engine and vent shutdown is to ensure that the extinguishing agent stays in the ER long enough to stop the fire. A running engine sucks a large amount of air from the ER and blows it out the exhaust. And the vent fans do the same, expelling the air out various vents. If that equipment if left on, the extinguishing agent will quickly end up outside the ER rather than inside, and will be useless. There also is the issue of fanning the fire, but my understanding is that shut down is much more about containing the suppressant.

Someone asked about numbers. That's an interesting question, so I did a rough estimate on my ER. The Er is about 15'l x 8'w x 5' ave height. That's 600 cu ft of air space. My vent plus engine air flow into and out of the ER is around 2000 CFM. So the ER air changes over every 18 seconds. So if the fire suppressant is deployed, the engine and fans will remove it all in 18 seconds. So you need to shut down pretty quickly if you want the fire suppressant to do anything.
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