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Fire Emergency Preparedness

Fire Suppression Principle

A fire is a chemical reaction called combustion. It starts when a fuel (such as a liquid fuel or flammable gas), oxygen, and heat are mixed in the right proportions and is sparked by something that starts the reaction, such as an electrical spark, mechanical spark, open flame or match. To stop a fire, one of these elements has to be removed from the situation. You can either

  • dump water on the fire to cool the heat from the fire (never do this for grease, liquid fuel, or electrical fires),
  • remove the oxygen by smothering the fire with something like a blanket or nonflammable material, or
  • remove the fuel, which is the most difficult because that only happens once the fuel has been completely burned off by the fire.

Fire extinguishers are pressurized metal cylinders that are filled either with water that removes the heat from the fire, with a dry chemical that smothers the fuel in the fire, or with carbon dioxide that smothers the oxygen and removes the heat. Using the correct extinguisher can save your life; using the wrong fire extinguisher can put you in serious danger of losing your life.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

  1. Pull the pin from the top of the extinguisher.
  2. Stand back about 8 feet from the fire, if possible. If you can't get that far away, stand back as far as you can. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  3. Squeeze the lever with one hand. With the other hand, slowly spray in a back and forth motion.


After the fire is out, watch the spot carefully to be sure the fire doesn't start up again.

If you have already left the dock when the fire starts, position the boat so the fire is downwind, and turn off the engine. Tell everyone to put on their life jacket. Grab the fire extinguisher, and put out the fire.

If you are not sure whether you can put out the fire with the extinguisher, notify the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 or 22. Then get everyone off the boat and as far away as possible, in case of an explosion.

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