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Fire Extinguishers

Information from the Code of Federal Regulations Title 46 Part 25

U.S. Coast Guard approved, marine-type fire extinguishers are required on boats where a fire hazard could be expected from the engines or fuel system. Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The letter indicates the type of fire the unit is designed to extinguish. Type B, for example, is designed to extinguish flaming liquids, such as gasoline, oil, and grease. The number indicates the amount of the extinguishing agent contained in the extinguisher; the higher the number, the greater the amount of agent in the extinguisher.

U.S. Coast Guard approved extinguishers required for boats are hand-portable, have either B-I or B-II classification, and must be provided with a mounting bracket. While not required, it is recommended that the extinguishers be mounted in a readily accessible location. Consider locations where the extinguisher can be reached easily; for example, at or near the steering station or in the galley or engine room, but away from locations where a fire may likely start.

One extinguisher can be approved for several different types of fires (A, B, or C). For example, an extinguisher marked “Type A, Size II; Type B; C, Size I” is acceptable as a Type B-I extinguisher.

Look for the section of the label that states “Marine Type USCG, Type A, Size II; Type B; C Size I.” (It will also contain a USCG approval number). Make sure Type B is indicated. Hand-portable extinguishers will be either a Size I or II. Size III and larger are too big for use on most recreational boats.

Fire extinguishers are required on boats when any of the following conditions exist:

  • There are closed compartments and compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored.
  • There are double bottoms not sealed to the hull or that are not completely filled with flotation materials.
  • There are closed living spaces.
  • There are closed stowage compartments, in which combustible or flammable materials are stored.
  • There are permanently installed fuel tanks. (Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of a fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. Also, if the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the U.S. Coast Guard may consider it permanently installed).

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

Inspect extinguishers monthly to make sure that:

  • Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.
  • Pressure gauges or other indicators, if so equipped, read in the operable range as described on the extinguisher.
  • There is no obvious physical damage, rust, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzles.

If the minimum weight is stated on the extinguisher label, weigh extinguishers annually to check.

Fire extinguishers that do not satisfy the above requirements or that have been partially emptied must be replaced or taken to a qualified fire extinguisher servicing company for recharge.

Required Number of Fire Extinguishers

The following chart lists the number of fire extinguishers that are required on recreational vessels. If a U.S. Coast Guard approved fixed fire extinguisher system is installed for the protection of the engine compartment, the required number of extinguishers may be reduced in accordance with the chart.

Vessel Length No Fixed System With Approved Fixed System
Less than 26′ 1 B-I 0
26′ to less than 40′ 2 B-I or 1 B-II 1 B-I
40′ to 65′ 3 B-I or 1 B-II and 1 B-I 2 B-I or 1 B-II

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