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Fire on board is no doubt the worst event possible that could even cause a boat to sink. Therefore, precautions include common-sense measures and obligations required by the law in force in Italy, such as having at least one fire extinguisher on board watercrafts, even those sailing within one mile from the coast.

According to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), there are five recognised classes of fire: A, B, C, D, F. There is also class E, which is not contemplated in CEN classification and yet it is recognised at an international level. Class A fires involves solid materials such as plastics, wood, paper. Class B fires involves flammable and combustible liquids such as fuels, solvents and alcohol.Class C fires involves gases such as hydrogen, methane, butane. Class D fires involves combustible metals (magnesium, zinc, titanium).Class F fires involves cooking oils and fats such as in cooking appliances. Class E fires involves live electrical apparatus such as electric boards, alternators, switches, transformers, etc.

There are different types of fire extinguishers using extinguishing agents specific for the fire classification mentioned above. According to the tables issued by the Italian leading producers of the sector, foam and powder extinguishers are used for Class A fires; CO2, that is, carbon dioxide, is less effective. Foam, powder and CO2 extinguishers are all suitable for Class B fires. Powder and CO2 extinguishers are to be used for Class C fire, while foam extinguishers are not recommended. Any extinguishing agent is suitable for Class E fires while the only effective one for Class F fires is foam. MED type-approved powder extinguisher with pressure gauge ( is no doubt a versatile fire extinguisher very suitable for a boat as it is used to put out fires that originate from solid materials (e.g. wood), gas and even electric appliances.

As for standards and regulations in force in the different countries, please refer to the directives of the competent authorities. As far as Italy is concerned, the official list of mandatory safety equipment (also available on the Coast Guard website) includes a table showing the number of fire extinguishers and relative extinguishing capacity required for watercrafts and pleasure boats. It goes without saying that, space permitting, it is always advisable to have on board extra extinguishers compared to the minimum standard. This because the discharge time of a portable extinguisher can be very short and because, in case of fire on board there will never be too many available fire extinguishers. We are all aware that fire on board may not only be related to the engine but e.g. to galley cookers or the electrical system or to a cigarette butt. The structure and the shape as well as the materials on board a 10m-watercraft, such as cabin and dinette tissues, foam rubber and mattresses, wooden interiors, electrical systems are very different from those of a small dinghy, and yet, according to the Italian law, they are subjected to the same requirements i.e. to have only one fire extinguisher on board. In short, one can never be too careful.

Among the common causes of fire on board cruisers, galley cookers must be always carefully checked. Regularly make sure that cooker hoses are in good conditions and verify the gas bottle correct positioning. A fire extinguisher blanket like this one (Fire blanket ( is a simple, cheap, room-saving fire prevention device that should not be missing in every galley as well as in every other boat area. It is very effective in case e.g. of sudden flash fire from the cookers and it does not damage equipment and surfaces as fire extinguishers usually do. It has to be used only once. It is recommended to store it as near as possible to the cooker to make sure it is ready for use in case of emergency.

Under Italian legislation, a revision of extinguishers on board is not required, while extinguishers are normally required to undergo a periodic certified check. The ship owner has only to keep fire extinguishers in good working state and make sure they are properly loaded. To this purpose the pressure gauge arrow, if any, should be in the green zone.

Fire extinguishers shall be placed in a visible position, easily removable from their supports and protected from impacts. Different models of supports are available on the market as well as extinguisher remote control kit, which of course are to be installed on medium-large sized boats.

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