Chapter 2: Boating Safety

Fire and Fire Extinguisher Classifications

Personal Flotation Devices are just one of the tools you'll need to be safe out on the water. Fire extinguishers are another required tool which ensures your safety.

To learn about the different types of fire extinguishers, let's examine the three different classes of the fires they're used to extinguish.

Fire Types

Class A Fire: These are fires with solid fuel sources such as trash, wood, or paper. These fires are the easiest to douse, as one can use either a Class A fire extinguisher or water.

Class B Fire: The most common boat fire. These fires have a liquid fuel source like gasoline, oil, or kerosene. Never attempt to use water to douse a Class B fire as it will only spread the blaze. A Class B fire extinguisher is a must for quickly and effectively handling these fires.

Class C Fire: These are electrical fires. These fires are similar to class B in that one cannot use water to put them out and must use a Class C extinguisher.

There are extinguishers which can combat multiple types of fires. The most common of these is the ABC type, used to put out all of the above fire types. Similarly, AB fire extinguishers can put out Class A and Class B fires. It is always best to be prepared for anything, so an ABC extinguisher is easily the most recommended type. However, because Class B fires are the most common fire associated with boating, Class B fire extinguishers are required on most vessels.

Halon Alternative: These extinguishers use halon or halocarbon agents to disrupt a fire's chemical reaction and put it out. These extinguishers can come in both ABC or BC types depending on the particular extinguisher.

Dry Chemical: These extinguishers put out fires by stopping the chemical reaction that produces a fire. Generally, Dry Chemical Extinguishers can put out Type B and C fires.

CO: These extinguishers take away the oxygen that feeds a flame and usually reduce the heat of the fire with their cold discharge. These extinguishers are usually only effective on Class B and C fires.

Always review the labels on Fire Extinguishers to see which class of fire they can put out.