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Identifying Fire Classes
Posted: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 5:51 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

Safety First is a  bi-monthly forum on written by maritime safety experts offering captains and crew safety tips, drill suggestions and strategies for handling real-life onboard safety scenarios.

Not all shipboard fires are the same. Identifying the class of fire or what is burning will determine what extinguishing agent you need to extinguish or at least knock down the fire. There is no universal extinguishing agent for all classes of fires.  

Portable extinguishers are classed in similar fashion for the different types of fires for which they are suited, as follows:

Class A Fire: Combustible solid materials such as wood, paper, clothing, and plastic. Class A material will leave ash as it is consumed by the fire. Remember A for Ash.
Smoke Color: White/grey to black. Wood, paper or other organic materials contain carbon and, when burning, these materials produce black smoke.  
Extinguishing Agent: Water is the best choice.

Class B Fire: Flammable liquid and gases such as oil, diesel, paint, propane, hair spray and other aerosols.  Remember B for Boiling (liquid)
Smoke Color: Heavy, thick black smoke.
Extinguishing Agent: First action is to isolate the source of the burning/leaking liquid or gas. Foam is the best choice to extinguish the fire. Dry Chemical or Carbon Dioxide also are effective.

Class C Fire: Electrical fire, such as computers, generators, toasters or any electrical device that is energized. Remember C for Current.
Smoke Color: White to grey. Some observe that electrical fires produce blue smoke, most likely caused by arcing and sparking or electricity jumping a gap, giving the smoke a blue color. Black smoke may also be produced by burning insulation.
Extinguishing Agent: First action should be to isolate the power source. Once the power is off, the problem is usually solved. Use carbon dioxide to extinguish the fire; dry chemicals also is effective.

Class D Fire: Combustible metals such as Magnesium, Titanium
Smoke Color: Metal-based fires generally do not produce large amounts of smoke, but they do produce very bright or blinding light.
Extinguishing Agent: Dry powder is a metal-fire-extinguishing agent, but may not be effective for all types of metal fires. The best course of action is to jettison whatever is burning, if possible.

Class K Fire: Grease fire in the galley. Maritime regulatory agencies, such as USCG, MCA and many others, have yet to follow the United States National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA) lead in making grease fire a class in itself. Oftentimes, grease fire is categorized as a Class B type fire, but in recent years it was given its own class, Class K. Remember K for kitchen.
Smoke Color: Heavy, black smoke
Extinguishing Agent: Wet chemical, Aqueous Potassium Bicarbonate (APC) is the best choice. Dry chemical and carbon dioxide will knock down the fire, but it will continue to reflash.  Foam and water are the worst choices for grease fire.

It is important to understand that many countries classify fires differently. The European ratings are similar to the United States’ but there are differences. Class A is the same for both, but Class B is flammable liquids and Class C is flammable gases in Europe. Class D is the same for both, but in Europe electrical fires are Class E.
In a shipboard fire emergency, identifying what is burning and applying the correct extinguishing agent are most important. Identifying the class of fire or what country you are in can be determined later!
By Tom Jones, training manager at Resolve Maritime Academy, 1510 S.E. 17 St., Suite 400, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33316, Tel: 877-975-3473, info@,

Captain Andy
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 11:04 AM
Joined: 17/09/2008
Posts: 93

Hang on a minute ..... the advice you give here is great for American Crews with USCG tickets ..... but those with MCa or different licences, there are a few subtle changes to the above fire classifications. I have listed the UK classifications for the 6 different types of fires that are possible! Class A fires involve organic solids such as paper and wood. Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids. Petrol, grease and oil fires are included in this class. Class C fires involve flammable gases Class D fires involve combustible metals. Class E fires involving electrical appliances (no longer used as when the power supply is turned off an electrical fire can fall into any category) Class F fires involve cooking fat and oil. I do hope this moot point enlightens your readers!
Rusty Wrench
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 1:07 PM
Joined: 21/09/2010
Posts: 207

Yes, but, No but....

Wel known fact USCG fires are answered/extinguised with multiple choice answers.

Captain Andy
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 9:39 PM
Joined: 17/09/2008
Posts: 93

......... and then we can discuss the Australian fire and extinguisher classification which is yet again different!!
Capt Edward P
Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 8:46 PM
Joined: 06/01/2011
Posts: 81

Anyone know why all the fires happened this year? I think firstly of the new Sunseeker in Poole, then the other Sunseeker that took out three other yachts as a result, in some French port, cannot remember where - and the one in the bay off La Napoule which was supposedly an exhaust duct fire, yacht later went in Ciotat to get sorted. A lot of fires. Anyone?.......... Yours 'aye Cap'n Ed ( edited - third fire was not a Sunseeker I believe, just for the record thanks )
Captain Andy
Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 9:12 PM
Joined: 17/09/2008
Posts: 93

Don't forget that large 39m Broward off the Scilian coast too!
Captain Andy
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 3:05 PM
Joined: 17/09/2008
Posts: 93

I stand corrected in my last post ..... it was a 130 WESTPORT. Watch the link ......
Minimise Fire Risks
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 6:22 PM
Joined: 30/06/2012
Posts: 35

Re ventilation kitchen extraction systems and the Fire Risks plus other risks I would be happy to chat discuss with anyone I have been involved in this area for over twenty years.
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