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High-Risk Fire Hazard Areas
Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:12 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

Where is a fire most likely to start on board?  There are several areas considered high-risk for fires. First is the Engine Room, second is Galley and third is the laundry facility area. Since these areas are known high-risk areas, there are fire protection systems installed in each to minimize risk.


The Engine Room

Pressurized fuel lines most often are the cause of engine room fires. Fuel line construction materials and constant vibrations, along with the forces that act on the vessel as it travels through the water, over time cause the fuel lines to weaken and eventually crack. Though diesel fuel is relatively safe, when under the high pressure of engine operations that safety is lost.

Fuel line pressure varies by engine type. When the fuel line cracks the fuel is converted from a liquid to vapor form. The vapor form is what creates the greatest risk of fire. The fuel spraying out of the cracked fuel line hits the exhaust manifold or other heated surfaces of the engine and flashes into fire.

Today, most vessels are so technologically advanced that such a leak would be discovered almost instantly. Prompt discovery and quick response from the crew and shutting down the fuel pumps greatly reduces the potential damage from a fire.

A common way to protect the fuel lines and reduce the risk of fire is to shield the fuel lines and fuel line flanges. In the event of a crack, the fuel will spray against the shield and will be diverted away from the exhaust manifold or down to the bilges.

A large leak in the exhaust system is another cause of engine room fire. The exhaust leak allows heated exhaust fumes into the engine room and, depending on the placement of the exhaust piping, the heated exhaust could be blown onto a combustible surface and start a fire. Electrical problems are another likely cause of engine room fires.


The Galley
The galley is the busiest location on the ship aside from the engine room. There are numerous appliances in the galley that generate heat, but the greatest fire hazard among them is the grease fryer (Note: not all yachts have grease fryers). A common cause of grease fire is a malfunctioning thermostat, which regulates the temperature in the grease fryer. The thermostat should be tested periodically to ensure that it is working properly. Grease should be changed often, as dirtier or more contaminated grease is more likely to catch fire.

Another galley hazard is the ventilation system for the grease fryer. During operation, grease particles accumulate in the ventilation ducting. If the ventilation is not cleaned on a regular basis, such as with a Gaylord system (ventilation cleaning system) or done by hand, a fire will move into the ducting and spread quickly to multiple areas. If a mechanical failure is not at fault, most galley fires can be linked to poor housekeeping.


The likely locations of a fire in the laundry are the lint traps and ventilation ducts for the dryers. If the lint-trapping device is not cleaned on a regular schedule or if the dryer is run without the lint screen or device in place, lint will accumulate in the ventilation duct. Over time this accumulation could lead to a fire. A spark or electrical problem is all it would take to spark fire that could spread to the ventilation duct.

Preventing and fighting fire in the high hazard areas


All non-engineers onboard should become familiar with operations of the engine room and should know the appropriate answers to the following questions:  

Are the fuel lines shielded?

How is a loss of fuel to the engine detected?

Is there an alarm for that?

Does this alarm sound in the Engine Room and the Bridge?

What is the emergency shutdown of the engine and fuel pump?


 Never shut down the fuel pump or engine without command approval. If either are shut down when the captain is maneuvering the ship or when in heavy weather, you can create a great problem.


All crew should be familiar with galley operations and should know the appropriate answers to the following questions:

Does your yacht have a grease fryer?
Does it have the Gaylord system?
How does the Gaylord system work?
Can this cleaning system be used during a fire?

The Gaylord system can be used during a fire. Upon activation during a fire, the system closes a ventilation damper and sprays water to prevent the fire from traveling into the ventilation system.

How to activate during a fire?

Where can the power for the galley be isolated?

When was the last time the thermostat was tested or inspected?

How often is the grease changed in the fryer?

 Is there a fire suppression system in place for a grease fire? What is it?

 Typically the suppression system is Wet Chemical or APC (Aqueous Potassium Bicarbonate) system, which has an automatic activation device. This device is a fusible link. The link will melt at approximately 600 degrees — the flash temperature of most cooking greases! The link could be altered over time because the frequent heating and cooling of the link changes the molecular structure of the lead. After this change occurs, the link will not melt at the prescribed temperature, thus more damage could result. The National Fire Protection Association requires the lead link to be changed semi-annually. More information can be found in NFPA Chapter 1701a, Wet Chemical Suppression Systems.



All crew are likely to know how a washer and dryer work, but all should know the answers to the following about the laundry:

Where does the dryer exhaust to?

Is the lint trap device cleaned before and after every use, and who is responsible for that?

 Where are the power isolations for the laundry equipment?

Where is the nearest hose station or extinguisher in relation to where the dryer exhausts outside the ship?

In the event of a fire in the ventilation, the easiest way to fight it would be from the outside.


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@,


Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 12:31 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1024

Most fires Im familiar with were caused by high resistance electrical connections. Patrol and tighten yearly. Never coil a power cable. Electric motors run wild and burst into flames when their control relay ages and welds closed. Spilled Gasoline for tenders in the garage causes much grief when a deckhand presses the remote control to open the garage door and the rear end of the boat explodes. Exothermic chemicals , like epoxy ,in paint lockers are very dangerous. Run away batttery chargers make a mess, insure that the heat sensor works by testing
Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 11:45 PM
Fires, floods and all other incidents of a ship threatening nature have unexpected causes. There are obvious vulnerable points, enginerooms, switchboards, galleys, laundries, hull openings, tenders etc but the scary ones are the ones nobody could have anticipated. Fire in a wardrobe?, gearbox thrown through the ship's side?, waste paper basket?, someone falling pissed off the gangway?, catastrophic steering gear failure, data plug fell out of the GPS, Watchkeepers holding a birthday party on the bridge? Read the MAIB reports. Aware, sober and imaginative vigilance - Always
Posted: Saturday, April 14, 2012 5:56 AM
Really Junior? A high resistance elctrical fault? Ohms law mean much to you?
Posted: Saturday, April 14, 2012 10:04 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 342

"Really Junior? A high resistance elctrical fault? Ohms law mean much to you?"

Please tell us you are NOT posing as an engineer on a yacht, please.

Junior is spot on regarding high resistance connections, particularly on switchboards and shore power connections.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:45 AM
Joined: 03/03/2011
Posts: 100

On a lighter note - why do dockwalk post 'obvious' stuff? I read some months ago on dockwalk about fire classes and extinguishers. If this level of info is useful to readers - should they be working on a boat already ??
Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012 9:39 PM
Joined: 21/08/2008
Posts: 30

Ratpack, obvious to whom? Maybe to the ship's officers but I am guessing there are plenty of interior and lower-level crew who do not know these things. What little related information that was covered in STCW is quickly forgotten by a lot of crew. There are way too many captains who don't bother reinforcing what was covered in STCW or have any interest in elaborating on the rudimentary information provided in those classes with their crew either. It's obvious to you, but go ask your twenty-something stew or chamois-handlers some of these questions and see how many they can answer.
Minimise Fire Risks
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 6:02 PM
Joined: 30/06/2012
Posts: 35

Interesting. Would enjoy the opportunity to discuss the cleaning and degreasing of on board kitchen extraction ventilation systems and the whole subject of minimising the fire risks on board. Its a subject that needs attention and a subject I have spent over twenty years being involved with.
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