A fire in the engine room can very quickly become can be a catastrophic one! If not contained quickly the fire can go from ignition to a major fire in a matter of seconds.

Types and causes of engine room fires

One of the common causes is bags of rags, especially used ones left in the engine room. They will often ignite for no apparent reason and if not dealt with quickly can lead to a major fire quickly.

Think about what’s in your engine room, there’s engine and gearbox oil, often hydraulic oil, fuel, rags, grease, a combination of gases and many other things that are fuel for fires!

The common types of fires normally encountered in engine room fires are:

  1. Oil based
  2. Electrical

Oil based fires are often caused by a build-up of oil &/or grease on items in your engine room or in the bilge and ignited by a simple spark!

  • Too high a temperature in the deep fryer or saucepan
  • Highly flammable vegetable oils
  • Old, more flammable oil in the deep fryer or saucepan
  • Fat deposits in and around the flue and ventilation ducts
  • Fat deposits in and around the cooking area
  • Leaving the galley unattended

The most common causes of electrical fires in your engine room are:

  1. Faulty or damaged wiring
  2. Faulty electrical fittings or fixtures
  3. Faults in power distribution boards
  4. Fuel leaks
  5. Oil leaks
  6. Exhaust leaks
  7. Turbo charger leaks
  8. Misaligned bearings that overheat
  9. Rags
  10. And many other items!

Chaffed, exposed or even old or outdated wiring often causes electrical fires. If the wiring does not have the capacity to handle electrical appliances being used you’re heading for a fire situation.

Simple steps in dealing with engine room fires

Dealing with an engine room fire on your boat will depend on whether you have a fire suppression system fitted or not. below I’ll outline the basic steps for dealing with an engine room fire.

With a Suppression system fitted

  • At the first sign of a fire either by an alarm system or other means raise the alarm – yell “FIRE FIRE FIRE”
  • Assess the situation: Is it safe to enter the engine room. Test the heat by putting the back of your hand on the hatch or door. If it’s very hot do not attempt to open the door or hatch
  • Position the vessel according to prevailing conditions
  • Activate fire pump (if installed)
  • If safe to enter ensure you have a back-up person at the engine room entry then enter to assess the situation
  • Fight the fire using the appropriate fire extinguisher
  • DO NOT try to extinguish the fire with water where electricity is on
  • Use the fire or deck hose for boundary cooling
  • If the fire becomes uncontrollable and you’re unable to extinguish the fire GET OUT, exit the engine room and close the door/hatch
  • Conduct a head count to ensure all persons have exited the engine room
  • Transmit an emergency call relevant to the situation.
  • Shut down all machinery in the engine room
  • Close all fuel and air shut offs and turn of engine rooms fans if applicable
  • Release the fire suppression system
  • Continue to monitor the situation and do not open the engine room door/hatch until you are sure the chance of re-ignition is minimised
  • Prepare to abandon ship
  • If in danger of losing the vessel transmit a MAYDAY message or call the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) on 02 6230 6811
  • Abandon ship if necessary

No Fire Suppression system installed

  • At the first sign of a fire either by an alarm system or other means raise the alarm – yell “FIRE FIRE FIRE”
  • Assess the situation: Is it safe to enter the engine room. Test the heat by putting the back of your hand on the hatch or door. If it’s very hot do not attempt to open the door or hatch
  • Position the vessel according to prevailing conditions
  • Activate fire pump (if installed)
  • If safe to enter ensure you have a back-up person at the engine room entry then enter to assess the situation
  • Fight the fire using the appropriate fire extinguisher
  • DO NOT try to extinguish the fire with water where electricity is on
  • Use the fire or deck hose for boundary cooling
  • If the fire becomes uncontrollable and you’re unable to extinguish the fire GET OUT, exit the engine room and close the door/hatch
  • Conduct a head count to ensure all persons have exited the engine room
  • Transmit an emergency call relevant to the situation.
  • Shut down all machinery in the engine room
  • Close all fuel and air shut offs and turn of engine rooms fans if applicable
  • Continue to monitor the situation and do not open the engine room door/hatch until you are sure the chance of re-ignition is minimised
  • Prepare to abandon ship
  • If in danger of losing the vessel transmit a MAYDAY message or call the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) on 02 6230 6811
  • Abandon ship if necessary

The above steps for dealing with an engine room fire are the basic general steps to put in place. Your procedure for dealing with engine room fires will depend on a number of factors including but not limited to:

  • Do you have a fire suppression system fitted in the engine room?
  • Do you have a fire pump or deck hose installed?
  • Where you locate your fire extinguishers
  • What type of fire extinguishers you have available in the engine room
  • What you store in the engine room
  • How many crew are onboard
  • And any number of other factors specific to your vessel

You don’t want your engine room to end up like this!


Shorlink’s Recommendation

My 3 prevent a fire  in your engine room recommendations are:

  1. Ensure your engine room is kept clean and free (as much as possible) from oil and grease build ups
  2. Undertake regular inspections of the following:
  • fuel systems
  • exhaust systems
  • electrical systems
  • hydraulic systems
  1. Ensure your fire extinguishers and suppression system (where fitted) are well maintained and in service at all times because…you never know when you’ll need them!

Tip

My top tips for preventing engine room fires are:

  • Regularly check the operation of both fuel and air shut offs
  • Don’t leave bags of rags (especially used ones) in the engine room
  • The biggest tip of all is to ensure all your crew have appropriate training in fire response based on your vessel and its operations.

By following these simple tips, the chances of a fire in your engine room are reduced significantly.

Log Books – Fire Safety Manual

Fire safety manuals are required for vessels who carry passengers and some cargo vessels.

Our fire safety manuals are vessel specific and developed based on the vessel and its operations. Manuals may include Fire control plan, fire training manual and fire safety operational booklet as required by the NSCV Part C Section 4.

POA based on vessel and operations!