Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard

The A, B, C’s and I, II, III: Fire extinguishers aboard must be in readily accessible, in good and serviceable condition, USCG approved, and not expired. This article covers recreational vessels requirements.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard

The Type ABC portion on for what to use each type is rather easy to remember – A is for wood and paper, B is for fuel and flammable liquids, C is for electrical. I used to confuse B and C, but the word electrical has a “c” in it, so… These days, most fire extinguishers are rated for all three, ABC, so no need to think about which extinguisher to grab for which type of fire.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
This small sailing vessel has no closed storage compartments, closed living spaces, or even an outboard. It would not be required to carry a fire extinguisher.

The Size I, II, III portion refers to the size of the extinguisher; really, the volume of chemical – called “extinguishing agent” – in the cylinder. Type I is the small style, about the size of a bottle of wine. The Type II size is about the size of a magnum of champagne, or, larger than a two-liter of soda. Two I’s equal a II.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
This vessel, Pedro Menendez as seen from Ponce de Leon, is 22 feet long. She must carry one B-I fire extinguisher. She has closed storage compartments; spaces where fuel may be stored.

The Size and Type combined are called “Classes.” Example: B-I or B-II.

Vessels under 26 feet require one B-I. 
Vessels 26 feet to just under 40 feet require two B-I’s, or, one B-II.
Vessels 40 to 65 feet require three B-I’s or one B-I and one B-II.
Vessels over 65 feet? Now your’e getting into pumps and hoses!

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
This vessel, Blew Bayou, is 38 feet long. She must carry two B-I fire extinguishers. 
If she has a fixed fire extinguisher, she can reduce that number by one.
, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
This vessel, Monkey’s Uncle, is 45 feet long. She must carry three B-I fire extinguishers. If she has a fixed fire extinguisher, she can reduce that number by one.

Who has to have fire extinguishers? Vessels that have closed compartments where portable fuel tanks could be stored – whether you do store tanks there or not, double bottoms not fully filled with flotation, any vessel with closed living spaces, closed storage where combustibles or flammables are stores, and if there are permanently installed fuel tanks. Interestingly, “permanently installed” means any fuel tank too heavy for you to pitch overboard. So, even a portable become “permanent” if you can’t toss it.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
Can you see the “chipped out” initiation date? It’s not immediately apparent.

Maintenance of extinguishers includes replacing or refilling ones partially deployed, checking for rust and corrosion, and checking the pressure gauge to ensure it indicates the extinguisher is in the operable status.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
On this extinguisher, 2018 is “chipped out,” as is August. So, the expiration is August of 2019.

If your vessel has a US Coast Guard approved fixed fire extinguisher system in the engine compartment, you can reduce the number of fire extinguishers on each size vessel by one. However, most people who have an engine compartment system still follow the “no fixed system” numbers above. This is a case where more is better.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard
Once you know for what you are looking; it’s more apparent when the expiration will be.

When checking the expiration sticker, loads of information is included. Initially, when checking the date; you may become concerned that your extinguisher is expired. Actually, unlike signal flares which list date of manufacture and date of expiry; fire extinguishers indicate date of sale or service/refill. Then they will indicate for how long they are “in date,” usually one year from the date shown by chipped-out numbers and months, much like on a car battery. Once you determine the date sold/refilled, then find the length of time before expiration.

, Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard

Page 21-23 of the Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats and Safety Tips, which can be found online as a pdf, has all the figures for volume of chemical in the I and II size extinguishers.

What to read next: Hierarchy of Right-of-Way on the Water.


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