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f ire Prevention 


fire Safelu 

Maritime Administration 

Maritime Training Advisory "Board 

Linked with the National Transportation Apprenticeship and Training Conference 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 


f ire Prevention 


fire Safelu 




This publication was researched, developed, 
and produced by the Robert J. Brady Co. for 
the National Maritime Research Center, under 
Contract No. MA- 2-4362. 






Causes and Prevention of Fire A board Ship 3 

Design Safety Features 3 

Careless Smoking 3 

Spontaneous Ignition 6 

Faulty Electric Circuits and Equipment 7 

Unauthorized Construction 9 

Cargo Stowage 10 

Galley Operations 1 1 

Fuel Oil Transfer and Service Operations 12 

Welding and Burning Operations 13 

Shoreside Workers Aboard for Cargo Movement, Repair and Maintenance 16 

Shipyard Operations 17 

Tanker Loading and Discharging Operations 18 

Collisions 21 

Bibliography 21 

Fire Prevention Programs 23 

Responsibility for the Program 23 

Elements of Effective Programs 25 

Formal and Informal Training 25 

Periodic Inspections 29 

Preventive Maintenance and Repair 33 

Recognition of Effort 36 

Bibliography 37 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 41 

Morro Castle 41 

Normandie 43 

Lakonia 45 

Rio Jachal 46 

Yarmouth Castle 49 

Alva Cape, Texaco Massachusetts, Esso Vermont, and Texaco Latin American 51 

San Jose 54 

San Francisco Maru 57 

African Star 59 

Hanseatic bl 

Bibliography 68 




Fire 71 

Chemistry of Fire 71 

The Fire Triangle 72 

The Fire Tetrahedron 75 

Extinguishment Via the Fire Tetrahedron 

Fire Spread 77 

The Hazardous Products of Combustion 

Bibliography 80 


Classification of Fires 81 

NFPA Classes of Fire 81 

Class A Fires Involving Materials Commonly Found Aboard Ship 



IV Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Class B Fires Involving Materials Commonly Found Aboard Ship 88 

Class C Fires Involving Electrical Equipment Aboard Ship 95 

Class D Fires Involving Metals Found Aboard Ship 97 

Bibliography 99 

6 Fire Detection Systems 101 

Automatic Fire Detection Systems 102 

Heat-Actuated Fire Detectors 102 

Smoke Detection Systems 108 

Flame Detectors 1 10 

Manual Fire Alarm Systems 1 10 

Supervised Patrols and Watchmen's Systems 1 10 

Examples of Detection Systems Used Aboard Ship 112 

Testing Fire Detection Equipment 115 

Gas Detection Systems 115 

Pyrometers 118 

A Comment on Ship Safety 1 18 

Bibliography 1 19 

7 Extinguishing Agents 121 

Classes (and Combinations) of Fires 121 

Water 124 

Foam 130 

Carbon Dioxide 136 

Dry Chemical 138 

Dry Powders 139 

Halogenated Extinguishing Agents 140 

Sand 141 

Sawdust 141 

Steam 141 

Shipboard Use of Extinguishing Agents 142 

Bibliography 142 

8 Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 143 

Portable Fire Extinguishers 143 

Water Extinguishers 144 

Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers 148 

Dry Chemical Extinguishers 149 

Dry Powder Extinguishers 152 

Halon Extinguishers 154 

Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 155 

Carbon Dioxide Hose-Reel System 155 

Dry Chemical Hose System 155 

Halon Hose-Reel System 156 

Portable Foam Systems 156 

Bibliography 159 

9 Fixed Fire-Extinguishing Systems 161 

Design and Installation of Fixed Systems 161 

Fire-Main Systems 162 

Water Sprinkler Systems 170 

Water Spray Systems 173 

Foam Systems 174 

Carbon Dioxide Systems 181 

Marine Halon 1301 System 189 

Dry Chemical Deck Systems 191 

Galley Protection 193 

Inert Gas System for Tank Vessels 196 

Steam Smothering Systems 197 

Bibliography 198 

10 Combating the Fire 199 

Initial Procedures 199 

Firefighting Procedures 200 

Fire Safety 206 

Fighting Shipboard Fires 209 

Container Fires 222 

Summary of Firefighting Techniques 228 

Bibliography 229 


11 Protection of Tugboats, Towboats, and Barges 231 

Safety 231 

Fire Protection Equipment for Tugboats and Towboats 233 

Fighting Tugboat and Towboat Fires 236 

Fire Protection for Barges 238 

Fighting Barge Fires 240 

Bibliography 247 

12 Protection of Offshore Drilling Rigs and Production Platforms 249 

Safety and Fire Prevention 249 

Fire Detection Systems 251 

Firefighting Systems and Equipment 253 

Special Firefighting Problems 257 

Bibliography 259 


13 Organization and Training of Personnel for Emergencies 263 

Organization of Personnel 263 

The Station Bill 264 

Emergency Squad 267 

Crew Firefighting Training 268 

Bibliography 271 

14 Emergency Medical Care 273 

Treatment of Shipboard Injuries 273 

Determining the Extent of Injury or Illness 274 

Evaluating the Accident Victim 277 

Triage 279 

Head, Neck and Spine Injuries 280 

Respiration Problems and Resuscitation 283 

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) 287 

Bleeding 290 

Wounds 294 

Shock 297 

Burns 298 

Fractures and Injuries to the Bones and Joints 303 

Environmental Emergencies 311 

Techniques for Rescue and Short-Distance Transport 315 

Bibliography 325 

15 Breathing Apparatus 327 

The Standard Facepiece 327 

Types of Breathing Apparatus 331 

Self-Generating (Canister) Type OBA 335 

Self-Contained, Demand-Type Breathing Apparatus 340 

Air-Module-Supplied Demand-Type Breathing Apparatus 351 

Fresh-Air Hose Mask 352 

Gas Masks 355 

Bibliography 355 

16 Miscellaneous Fire Safety Equipment 357 

Bulkheads and Decks 357 

Doors 358 

Fire Dampers 360 

Fire Safety Lamp 361 

Oxygen Indicator 363 

Portable Combustible-Gas Indicator 363 

Combination Combustible-Gas and Oxygen Indicator 365 

Fireaxe 365 

Keys 366 

Fireman's Outfit 366 

Proximity Suit 366 

Entry Suit 367 

Conclusion 368 

Bibliography 368 

Glossary 369 

Index 377 


Throughout history mariners have gone to sea in all types of watercraft, and, more often 
than not, with very limited protection against the threat of shipboard fires. In the event of 
fire, persons ashore often have available the immediate assistance of well-trained firefighting 
professionals. Mariners are alone aboard ship, and. when fires occur at sea they must remain 
onboard and cope with these incidents to the best of their own abilities. These efforts, often 
because of lack of knowledge, training, and experience, have produced less than satisfactory 
results and at times have resulted in tragedy. Because of the many technological advances in 
ship design and operation, today's mariner must possess more knowledge than his 
predecessors in many special areas. Fire prevention, control, and extinguishment is one of 
these areas. 

While government agencies have through the years effected changes and promulgated 
regulations that have greatly reduced the ever-present danger of fire aboard vessels, fire 
tragedies have continued to occur. It therefore must be the mariner's responsibility to be as 
well-trained as possible and to understand the causes of fires so as best to prevent them. 
Furthermore, mariners must have a good working knowledge of the approaches that will 
best restrict the spread of fires and eventually extinguish them. 

Maritime institutions haye been doing their part in the training of individuals toward these 
ends. Until now, however, they have been at a disadvantage since no comprehensive marine 
firefighting textbook was available. With the publication of this book, the mariner will now 
have a comprehensive firefighting text for study and ready reference. 

I salute all those who have given their time and effort to produce this manual, and I am 
certain that the men and women aboard our vessels, to whose protection this important work 
is dedicated, also will share in my appreciation. 


Assistant Secretary 

for Maritime Affairs 

Department of Commerce 



The objective of this manual is to fill a long-standing need for comprehensive source material 
in the specialized field of prevention, control, and extinguishment of fires aboard commercial 
vessels — in the safest and most expeditious manner. 

Fire prevention, control, and extinguishment are similar for all types of water craft. 
However, so that no segment of the waterborne industry is neglected or left wanting for 
explicit instructions, special chapters have been included that deal directly with such other 
trades as the offshore oil drilling operations and their vessels and the tow boats on the inland 
waterways. This book, therefore, was written to provide detailed information concerning 
vessels of the deepsea oceans, the offshore drilling industry, and the boats in domestic 
waterborne trade - - whether they are on the Great Lakes, inland waterways or domestic 

This book should serve all present and future shipboard personnel by providing exhaustive 
source and reference material that may be used when dealing with the varied and 
complicated aspects of fire control and fire fighting. Furthermore, the book contains the 
most definitive information on fire, which can be used extensively by maritime training 
institutions throughout the country. As students prepare for service aboard merchant vessels, 
this manual will serve as a comprehensive study text. It will be useful to seamen, wiper or 
deck utility personnel, and Masters and Chief Engineers. 

Because this book fills an important need within the industry, it is expected that it will be 
recommended reading for all personnel, kept in the reference libraries aboard ships, and 
available to all seamen. We further expect the manual to provide shoreside maritime 
executives with information that will assist them in their decisionmaking concerning fire 
fighting material, equipment, and requirements aboard vessels. It will also provide an 
understanding of the fire fighting training required for ship personnel to assure the greatest 
possible protection of crew, cargo and vessel. 

So that this manual would fulfill these needs for a long period of time, the authors have 
researched the latest fire fighting equipment used aboard vessels today with an eye to future 
developments in the field. Countless hours were spent aboard all forms of water craft, in 
addition to time spent working with the manufacturers of fire detecting and fire fighting 
equipment, and fire fighters who have first hand knowledge of the subject. Finally, the 
manual was reviewed extensively by numerous people in the maritime industry who have 
made a career of teaching fire fighting to active shipboard personnel and to those aspiring to 
service within the industry. 

In an ideal situation, it is most important to understand the nature of fires so that every 
effort may be made to prevent them. Failing this, important steps must be put into effect to 
control and thereby limit the spread of fires and finally to extinguish them. This three-fold 
approach is used effectively by the authors. They also point out the physical dangers caused 
by fires and the appropriate medical care that must be provided. 

Much can be learned from the study of past fire tragedies that occurred aboard merchant 
vessels. These fires took a terrible toll in human lives and in material. Of course, these losses 
are irreversible, but the tragedies can be utilized positively - - to change regulations in order 
to prevent similar accidents, and as a learning tool. The authors have skillfully included an 
in-depth study of past shipboard fires, dissecting and analyzing the events, to avoid repeating 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

the mistakes of the past. These case studies provide a breakdown of the conditions that led to 
the problem - - the inaction or untimely action taken, with an analysis of actions that should 
have been taken to limit the spread of the fire and to extinguish it. This manual is expected to 
be the "bible" on fire fighting and fire safety throughout the maritime industry, both ashore 
and afloat. 

Captain Pasquale Nazzaro, 
U.S. Maritime Service Master Mariner 

Project Director 


The preparation of a manual of this magnitude and scope would have been beyond the 
capacities of any one person, particularly since it was necessary that it be produced without 
delays and available quickly for use throughout the industry. Therefore, this project involved 
not only the authors, but numerous individuals who gave unselfishly of their time and special 
expertise gained through years of dedicated maritime service. Their work included 
proofreading the manual and making whatever changes or corrections were necessary to 
assure technical accuracy. They gladly contributed their services because of a strong belief in 
this manual and a desire to bring to the maritime industry a monumental book that would 
help to save the lives of their fellow seafarers. 

The original concept for publication of a firefighting manual was that of the Maritime 
Training Advisory Board (MTAB) a nonprofit organization of maritime people from 
both labor and management, whose interest is the advancement and improvement of training 
among practicing mariners. To all members of the MTAB we extend special appreciation for 
providing the impetus for the writing of this text. 

We acknowledge the National Maritime Research Center, Kings Point, New York, for 
their funding of this project and for their continued assistance and cooperation. 

In addition, very special thanks go to the following members of the MTAB who reviewed 
the manual at various stages in its production. 

Pasquale Nazzaro 

Frank J. Boland 

Edwin M. Hackett 

Christopher E. Krusa 

Arthur Egle (deceased) 

Preston Harrison 

R. T. Sommer 

Captain, USMS 

Assistant Head and Professor 

Department of Nautical Science 

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy 

Kings Point, NY 11024 

Training Director 

N.M.U. Upgrading and Retaining Plan 

346 West 17th St. 

New York, NY 10011 

Training Specialist 

Office of Maritime Labor and Training 
Maritime Administration 
Washington, DC 20230 

Manpower Development Specialist 

Maritime Administration 

Washington, DC 20230 

Maritime Institute of Technical and Graduate Studies 

Linthicum Heights, MD 21090 

Assistant Dept. Head, General Dept. 

Calhoon MEBA Engineering School 

Baltimore, MD 21202 

Captain, U.S. Coast Guard 

MarAd Liaison Officer 

Maritime Administration 

Washington, DC 20230 


xil Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

Howard W. Patteson Manpower Development Officer 

Maritime Administration 
Washington, DC 20230 

William H. Sembler Professor of Marine Transportation 

Maritime College - - SUNY 
Fort Schuyler, NY 10465 

Joseph Wall Supervisor, Administrator Services 

Harry Lundeberg School 
Piney Point, MD 20674 

William F. Fassler Executive Director 

National River Academy of USA 
Helena, Arkansas 

James Prunty Mobil Oil Corporation 

New Orleans, LA 

The Robert J. Brady Co. gratefully acknowledges the help of the following companies and 
organizations who allowed the use of printed matter and photographs from their 
publications or gave technical advice. 

American District Telegraph 
American Waterways Operators, Inc. 
Ansul Company (dry chemical sk-3000) 
Avondale Ship Building Corporation 

Beckman Instruments, Inc. (gas detection system) 
Bethlehem Steel Ship Repair Yard 
City of New York Fire Department 
Curtis Bay Towing Company 

Delta Steamship Lines, Inc. 

Detex (Newman portable watch clock) 

Farrell Lines, Inc. 

Gaylord Industries, Inc. (galley duct washdown system) 
Gulf Oil Corporation, Marine Division 

C. J. Hendry Company (fireman's protective clothing) 
Henschel Corp. (Henschel control unit) 

Lykes Brothers Steamship Co., Inc. 

Marine Chemists' Association 

Merchant Marine Technical Division 

Military Sealift Command 

Mine Safety Appliances (gas detection system/ breathing apparatus) 

Mobil Oil Corporation (offshore oil drilling platforms) 

Moore McCormack Steamship Lines 

National Foam (foam systems and appliances) 
Norris Industries 

Offshore Marine Service Association 
Offshore Operations Committee 

Penniman and Browne, Inc. 

Robertshaw Controls Company 
Rockwood (foam systems and appliances) 

Sea— Land Service, Inc. 
Ships Operational Safety, Inc. 

Walter Kidde and Company (CO2 systems) 
Walz and Krenzer, Inc. (watertight doors) 

Contributing Author* 

Gilbert W. O'Neill 

Battalion Chief 

Marine Division, Fire Department 

New York City 

Thomas J. Rush, Jr. 
Deputy Chief in Charge 
Marine Division, Fire Department 
New York City 

William J. Lanigan 

Deputy Chief of Department 

Fire Department, New York City 

Francis P. McCormick 

Deputy Chief of Dept. (Retired) 

Fire Department, New York City 

Assistant Professor 

New York City Community College 

Edwin J. Byrnes 
Battalion Chief 
Fire Department 
New York City 

Adolph S. Tortonello 

Chief in Charge, Fire Academy 

Fire Department, New York City 

Joseph F. Connor 

Assistant Chief of Dept. (Retired) 

Fire Prevention Consultant 

Fire Department, New York City 

George D. Post 
Vice President 
Fire Training Programs 
Robert J. Brady Co. 

J. David Bergeron 
Educational Technologist 
Robert J. Brady Co. 

Dale E. Green 

Beckman Instruments, Inc. 

Somerset, New Jersey 

Harvey D. Grant 
Claymont, Delaware 

Robert H. Murray, Jr. 

Winchester, New Hampshire 


Walter M. Haessler, P.E. 
Firefighting Specialist 
Ocala, FLA 

John Smith, Senior Instructor 
Delaware State Fire School 


fire Prevent ion 


Aboard ship as well as ashore, fire can be either a friend or an enemy. Har- 
nessed and controlled, fire is so much a part of our everyday lives that we 
take it and its uses for granted. But uncontrolled fire brings disaster — loss of 
lives and millions of dollars in property damage. For example, in 1974 there 
were 198 fire incidents involving foreign and domestic vessels in American 
ports. These incidents resulted in an estimated fifty million dollars in losses. 
Moreover, the figures represent only incidents in which fire and explosion 
were the primary causes of the losses; fires resulting from collisions are not 
included. In some cases, fires that followed collisions have done much more 
damage than the collisions themselves. 

Vessels are subject to all the fire hazards of land installations, and more. 
Passenger vessels may be likened to moving hotels, with spaces for sleeping, 
recreation, cooking and dining; these spaces and their occupants present as 
much of a potential fire problem at sea as they do on land. Tankers are mobile 
storage facilities for petroleum products and other hazardous fluids. Cargo, 
container, lash, and roll on-roll off ships are moving warehouses that often 
carry hazardous materials. Below deck are tons of fuel oil, engine rooms, boiler 
rooms and machinery spaces where many serious fires have originated. 

The problems of fire prevention and firefighting become even more acute 
once a vessel leaves port. Then, rough seas and navigation difficulties may also 
increase the hazards. Assistance is far away, and the crew and vessel must 
provide their own fire protection. This lack of assistance makes shipboard fire 
prevention extremely important, a matter that must be of great concern to 
officers and crew alike. 

This first part of the book on fire prevention contains three chapters. 
Chapter 1 deals with the major causes of fire aboard ship, and presents 
specific ways in which these causes can be eliminated. Chapter 2 deals with 
the organization and implementation of shipboard fire prevention programs. 
Chapter 3 presents the histories of a number of ship fires. All three chapters 
deal with reality, with actual experience and not with contrived situations. 
They show that fire prevention must be a continuing process on every vessel. 
There is no such thing as "It can't happen on this ship." Fires have occurred 
and probably will continue to occur on vessels that never had a fire before. 
It is up to the crew to minimize the possibility of fire and to minimize the 
damage that a fire can do if one occurs. 

Causes & 
Prevention of fire 
Aboard Ship 

The major causes of shipboard fire are discussed 
in this chapter, along with actions that crew mem- 
bers can take to reduce the possibility of fire. 
These causes of fire — these situations and ac- 
tions — are common to all vessels and are the 
responsibility of all crews. 

Some fires may be purely accidental, and oth- 
ers may be caused by circumstances beyond con- 
trol. But many fires have resulted from the acts 
or omissions of crew members. Carelessness and 
irresponsible or ill-advised actions have caused 
disastrous fires. And omissions — not taking the 
proper preventive measures when hazardous situ- 
ations are discovered — have allowed many fires 
to "just happen." 

No matter how a shipboard fire starts, it could 
result in the loss of the ship, and perhaps the loss 
of lives. It is therefore extremely important that 
crew members be constantly alert for situations 
that could cause fire aboard ship. 


Before discussing the causes of shipboard fires, 
we should note that ships flying the U.S. flag are 
designed and built according to very detailed 
regulations. These regulations are, for the most 
part, based on maritime experience — in some 
cases tragic experience that resulted in loss of life 
and property. They provide uniform minimum 
requirements for the construction of vessels. The 
regulations, and the safety standards they repre- 
sent, are continually being upgraded in the light 
of increased experience. Of course, the desire for 
absolute safety must be balanced against the 
cost of attaining it. Fire safety is well represented 
through the following design regulations. 

1. Structural fire protection (hull, super- 
structure, bulkheads and decks) 

2. Restrictions on the use of combustible 

3. Insulation of exhaust systems 

4. Venting of cargo spaces, fuel tanks and 
pump rooms 

5. Means of escape 

6. Minimum stairway sizes 

7. Fire detection and alarm systems 

8. Firemain systems 

9. Fixed fire extinguishing systems 

10. Portable and semiportable extinguisher 

1 1 . Approved machinery, equipment and in- 

Each bulkhead, deck, hatch, ladder, and piece 
of machinery is built and located to serve a spe- 
cific purpose or purposes including, wherever 
possible, fire safety. But good design is only the 
beginning; it must be combined with good con- 
struction and good workmanship to make a safe 
vessel. Then it is up to the crew to keep the ves- 
sel safe. Stated another way, safety begins on the 
drawing board and is completed only when the 
vessel is decommissioned. 


At the top of every list of fire causes — aboard 
ship or on land — is careless smoking and the 
careless disposal of lit cigarettes, cigars, pipe 
tobacco and matches. 

Smoking is a habit. For some people it is so 
strong a habit that they "light up" without even 

Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

realizing they are doing so. For others, nothing 
can quiet the urge to smoke; they will do so with- 
out regard for the circumstances or location. 
And some simply don't care or don't realize that 
smoking can be dangerous. Such people must be 
made aware of the risks of careless smoking. 

Disposing of Butts and Matches 

Glowing ashes and glowing tobacco contain 
enough heat to start a fire in such materials as 
dunnage, paper, cardboard, excelsior, rope and 
bedding. Therefore, matches, and ashes from 
cigarettes, cigars and pipes, butts and glowing 
pipe tobacco must be discarded in noncombusti- 
ble receptacles. These receptacles should be 
placed throughout the vessel, wherever smoking is 
permitted. It is also a good idea to soak a ciga- 
rette or cigar butt with water before discarding it. 
The soaking provides added protection against 

Ashtrays should be emptied only when they 
contain no glowing embers. (A soaking under a 
faucet will ensure this.) Then they should be 
emptied into covered, noncombustible containers. 

Smoking in Bed 

Smoking in bed is dangerous at any time. After 

a busy day, when the smoker is tired, it can mean 
disaster (Fig. 1.1). A smoldering fire can be 
started just by touching the glowing tobacco to 
the bedding. The resulting smoke can cause 
drowsiness and possible asphyxiation before the 
fire is discovered. 

Such fires can be prevented by following one 
simple but important rule: Don't smoke in bed, 
under any circumstances. 

Smoking and Alcohol 

A person who has been drinking alcohol tends 
to become careless. If that person is also smoking, 
he can be extremely dangerous. After one or two 
drinks, a few glowing embers that have dropped 
from a pipe may not seem important. Nor will a 
cigar butt that isn't quite extinguished, or a lit 
cigarette that someone has left on an ashtray. 
But these are actually small shipboard fires. If 
they come in contact with nearby flammable ma- 
terial, the fires will not stay small for very long 
(Fig. 1.2). 

A smoker who is "under the influence" should 
be observed very carefully. Everyone should be 
responsible for seeing that the smoker's actions 
do not jeopardize the safety of the ship and its 

Figure 1.1. Smoking in bed is dangerous and unnecessary. 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 

Figure 1.2. Drinking and smoking are a dangerous combi- 

No Smoking Areas 

Open flames and glowing embers can be very 
dangerous in certain parts of a ship. Smoking 
must be prohibited in these spaces, and they 
should be clearly marked as No Smoking areas. 
Every crew member should know where smoking 
is prohibited and why it is prohibited there. 

Visitors, longshoremen and other shoreside 
workers should be informed or reminded of 
smoking regulations whenever they come aboard. 
These people are not as concerned as crew mem- 
bers about fire safety. When the vessel sails, the 
shoreside people stay behind. If fire is discovered 
after the ship leaves port, only the crew is en- 
dangered, and the crew alone must fight the fire. 
For this reason, crew members must feel a strong 
responsibility to ensure that No Smoking regula- 
tions are followed by everyone on board their 
ship. Most people will comply with the regula- 
tions, and will not smoke in restricted areas. 
Those who persist in smoking after being told of 
the danger should be reported to the proper 

Cargo Holds and Weather Deck. Smoking in 
the holds of cargo vessels, or on the weather deck 
when the hatches are open, is an invitation to 
disaster. Such smoking is strictly forbidden. 

Break-bulk cargo vessels are especially vul- 
nerable to cargo-hold fires during loading (Fig. 
1.3). Such a fire may not be discovered for several 
days — after the vessel is well out to sea. By that 
time, much of the cargo may be involved in the 
fire, and the fire may be difficult to extinguish or 
control. To add to the problem, a number of port 
cities are reluctant to give refuge to a ship on 

Figure 1.3. Smoking and careless disposal of smoking ma- 
terials have caused many serious fires in cargo holds. Smok- 
ing must be prohibited in cargo spaces, and these spaces 
should be monitored during cargo handling. 

fire. This is understandable: These cities do not 
have either the capability or the experience to 
combat ship fires. 

The best way to deal with cargo-hold fires is 
to prevent them. This means 1) smoking must be 
prohibited in cargo holds at all times; 2) cargo 
holds should be posted as No Smoking areas; and 
3) holds should be monitored closely during load- 
ing and unloading operations. 

Engine and Boiler Rooms. Engine rooms and 
boiler rooms contain relatively large amounts of 
petroleum products, such as fuel oil, lubricating 
oil and grease. Even the thickest of these products 
tends to vaporize and mix with the warm air of 
the engine room or boiler room. A lighted match 
or glowing tobacco can ignite this flammable 
air-vapor mixture. Carelessly discarded smoking 
materials can start fires in oily rags or other 
flammable materials. 

Once ignited, an engine room fire is difficult to 
extinguish and very hazardous for the engine 
room crew. If the fire is serious enough, it could 
mean loss of propulsion and control of the ves- 
sel — an extremely dangerous situation. For these 
reasons, engine room and boiler room smoking 
regulations should be followed carefully. 

Storage and Work Spaces. Smoking should be 
prohibited in storage rooms and work rooms, and 
this prohibition should be strictly enforced. These 
spaces — for example, paint and rope lockers and 
carpenter shops — contain large amounts of flam- 
mable materials. A stray ember or a hot match 
could easily ignite such materials. 

Marine Fire Prevention. Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Spontaneous ignition is often overlooked as a 
cause of fire aboard ship. Yet many common 
materials are subject to this dangerous chemical 
phenomenon. They include materials that are 
carried as cargo and materials that are used in 
running the ship. An example of spontaneous 
ignition that could easily occur aboard a vessel 
might be a rag soaked with vegetable oil or paint 
that has been discarded in the corner of a work- 
shop, storage area or engine room. The area is 
warm, and there is no ventilation (Fig. 1.4). The 
oil on the rag begins to oxidize — to react chemi- 
cally with the oxygen in the warm air around it. 
Oxidation is a natural process that produces heat. 
The heat causes the remaining oil to oxidize faster 
and produce still more heat. Since the heat is not 
drawn away by ventilation, it builds up around 
the rag. After some time, the rag gets hot enough 
to burst into flames. It then can ignite any nearby 
flammable substances, perhaps other rags or 
stored materials, so that a major fire is very pos- 
sible. All this can and does occur without any 
outside source of heat. 

Materials Subject to Spontaneous Ignition 

Ship's Materials. As noted in the previous sec- 
tion, oily rags and paint-soaked rags are subject 
to spontaneous ignition. In this case, fire preven- 
tion is simply a matter of good housekeeping 
(Chapter 2). However, some materials that are 
not usually subject to spontaneous ignition will 
ignite on their own under certain conditions. 
Wood is one such material. 

Wood, like every other substance, must be 
heated to a certain temperature before it will 
ignite and burn. And most steam pipes do not 
get hot enough to ignite wood. Yet if a piece of 
wood is in constant contact with a steam pipe or 
a similar "low-temperature" heat source, it will 
ignite spontaneously. What happens is that wood 
is first changed to charcoal by the heat (Fig. 1.5). 
Then the charcoal, which burns at a lower tem- 
perature than wood, is ignited by the steam pipe. 
Even though the change from wood to charcoal 
may take several days to occur, it could easily go 
unnoticed. The first sign of a problem would be 
smoke or flames issuing from the wood. 

To prevent such fires, combustible materials 
should be kept away from any heat source. If 
they cannot be moved, they can be protected with 
heat-insulating materials. 

Cargo. Many materials that are carried as 
cargo are subject to spontaneous ignition. Igni- 
tion occurs through the chemical interaction of 
two or more substances, one of which is often air 
or water. Precautions for stowing many of these 
substances are included in the Hazardous Ma- 

Figure 1.4. Careless disposal or storage of materials can 
lead to spontaneous ignition. 

Figure 1.5. A hot steampipe can change wood to charcoal, 
ignite the charcoal and cause a fire. 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 

terials Regulations of the Department of Trans- 
portation (DOT), which are enforced by the U.S. 
Coast Guard. These regulations may be found in 
Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
(CFR). Additionally, many items that may ignite 
spontaneously are mentioned in the current edi- 
tion of the National Fire Protection Association's 
(NFPA) Fire Protection Handbook. 

Types of Combustible Cargo. Chlorine pro- 
duces a violent reaction when it combines with 
finely divided metals or certain organic materials, 
particularly acetylene, turpentine and gaseous 
ammonia. Title 49 CFR 172.101 cautions: "Stow 
in well-ventilated space. Stow away from organic 

The metals sodium and potassium react with 
water. Hence, 49 CFR 172.101 cautions: "Segre- 
gation same as for flammable solids labeled 
Dangerous When Wet." 

Metal powders such as magnesium, titanium, 
calcium and zirconium oxidize rapidly (and pro- 
duce heat) in the presence of air and moisture. 
Under certain conditions they can produce suffi- 
cient heat to ignite. The NFPA cautions "Mois- 
ture accelerates oxidation of most metal pow- 
ders." In the DOT regulations, metallic aluminum 
powder is listed with the following requirements: 
"Keep dry. Segregation same as for flammable 
solids labeled Dangerous When Wet." 

According to the NFPA, dry metal turnings 
do not tend to ignite spontaneously. However, 
piles of oily metal borings, shavings, turnings and 
cuttings have caused fires by igniting spontane- 
ously. As in the case of oily rags, heat is produced 
by oxidation of the oil within the pile of shavings. 
Eventually enough heat is produced and held in 
the pile to ignite the most finely divided metal. 
Then the coarser shavings and other combustible 
materials, if present within the pile, ignite and 
compound the fire problem. 

Soft coal may heat spontaneously, depending 
on several factors. 

1 . Geographic origin 

2. Moisture content 

3. Fineness of particles and ratio of fine parti- 
cles to lump coal 

4. Chemical makeup, including impurities 

5. Whether or not the coal is newly crushed. 

Both coal and metal shavings are regulated cargo, 
which means they must be handled and trans- 
ported according to regulations in Title 49 CFR. 
In addition, the following present a danger of 
fire through spontaneous heating: alfalfa meal, 
charcoal, codliver oil, colors in oil, cornmeal 

feeds, fish meal, fish oil, fish scrap, linseed oil, 
oiled and varnished fabrics of all kinds, redskin 
peanuts, and tung-nut meals. (Note the number 
of oils.) 

A good rule of thumb in preventing the spon- 
taneous ignition of cargo is to separate fibrous 
materials from oils. Other methods of preventing 
cargo fires are discussed under Cargo Stowage 
in this chapter as well as in Chapter 2. 


For properly insulated and wired equipment, elec- 
tricity is a safe and convenient source of power. 
However, when electrical equipment wears out, 
is misused or is poorly wired, it can convert 
electrical energy to heat. Then the equipment 
becomes a source of ignition and thus a fire 
hazard. For this reason, electrical equipment 
must be installed, maintained, tested and repaired 
in accordance with existing regulations, and only 
by qualified personnel. 

Replacement Parts and Equipment 

Standard residential or industrial electrical equip- 
ment does not last very long at sea. The salt air 
causes corrosion; the ship's vibration breaks 
down the equipment; and the steel hull can cause 
erratic operation or short-circuiting. As a result, 
the equipment or its wiring may overheat or arc, 
causing a fire if flammable materials are located 

Approved electrical equipment is, however, 
specially designed and constructed for shipboard 
use. Given reasonable maintenance, it will with- 
stand the strenuous conditions at sea. Thus, only 
approved replacement parts and equipment 
should be installed aboard ship — and only for 
the use for which they have been approved. The 
chief engineer should be consulted if there are 
any doubts concerning the installation, repair, 
use, or maintenance of this equipment. 

Wiring and Fuses 

The insulation on electrical wiring, particularly 
the type used for appliances, electric hand tools 
and cargo and drop lights, will not last forever. 
With age and use, it can become brittle and 
crack. It may be rubbed through or broken by 
abuse or by the vibration of the vessel. No matter 
how it happens, once the insulation is broken, 
the bare wire is dangerous. A single exposed wire 
can arc to any metal object. If both wires are 
exposed, they can touch and cause a short circuit. 
Either could produce enough heat to ignite the 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

insulation on the wiring or some other nearby 
flammable material. 

Further, if the fuse or circuit breaker in that 
particular circuit is too large, it will not break 
the circuit. Instead, an increased current will 
flow, and the entire circuit will overheat. Even- 
tually the insulation will begin to burn and ignite 
combustible material in its vicinity. 

This type of fire can be prevented by replacing 
wires that have bad insulation and by installing 
only fuses and circuit breakers of the proper size 
for their circuits. 


The "jury-rigging" of electrical outlets to serve 
additional appliances, particularly in crew's quar- 
ters and galleys, is a dangerous practice (Fig. 
1.6). The wiring in every electrical circuit is 
designed to carry a certain maximum load. When 
this wiring is overloaded with too many operating 
appliances, it can overheat and burn its insula- 
tion. The hot wiring can also ignite flammable 
materials in the area. Cabins have been burned 
out by such fires, even though the need for jury- 
rigging can easily be avoided by planned use of 

Exposed Light Bulbs 

An exposed, lighted electric bulb can ignite com- 
bustible material by direct contact. A number 
of shipboard fires have started when a crew mem- 
ber left a lamp lit in unoccupied quarters. As the 
ship rolled, curtains or other flammable material 
came in direct contact with the hot bulb and 
ignited. The result in most cases was destruction 
of the crew member's quarters. 

Figure 1.7. Covers left in place over floodlights can be ig- 
nited by the heat of the lamp. 

On weather decks, high-intensity floodlights 
are usually protected from the elements by can- 
vas or plastic covers. The covers are desirable 
when the lights are not in use. However, if a 
cover is left in place while the light is on, the 
heat of the lamp can ignite the material (Fig. 1.7). 

Improperly protected drop-light or cargo-light 
bulbs could similarly ignite flammable materials, 
by contact or by breaking and arcing (Fig. 1.8). 
They should never be permitted to burn while 
unattended. What appears to be a safe situation 
in a calm sea could quickly become dangerous 
in a rough sea. 

Vaportight Fixtures 

Vaportight fixtures are protected against the ef- 
fects of sea air. The vapor protection is designed 
to keep moisture out, but it also holds heat in. 

Figure 1.6. Overloading is dangerous. Only one appliance should be connected to each outlet in an electric circuit. 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 

figure 1.8. An unprotected drop-light bulb can easily break, 
allowing the live electric circuit to ignite nearby flammable 

This causes the insulation to dry out and crack 
more rapidly than in standard fixtures. Thus, 
vaportight fixtures should be examined frequently 
and replaced as required, to prevent short circuits 
and possible ignition. 

Electric Motors 

Faulty electric motors are prime causes of fire. 
Problems may result when a motor isn't properly 
maintained or when it exceeds its useful life. 

Motors require regular inspection, testing, lu- 
brication and cleaning. Sparks and arcing may 
result if a winding becomes short-circuited or 
grounded, or if the brushes do not operate 
smoothly. If a spark or an arc is strong enough, 
it can ignite nearby combustible material. Lack 
of lubrication may cause the motor bearings to 
overheat, with the same result. (Lubrication is 
discussed further in Chapter 2.) 

Engine Rooms 

Engine rooms are particularly vulnerable to 
electrical hazards. Water dripping from ruptured 
sea-water lines can cause severe short-circuiting 
and arcing in electric motors, switchboards and 
other exposed electrical equipment. This, in turn, 
can ignite insulation and nearby combustible ma- 
terials. Probably even more serious are ruptured 
fuel and lubrication lines above and near electri- 
cal equipment. The engineering staff must con- 
stantly monitor oil lines for leaks. 

Charging Storage Batteries 

When storage batteries are being charged, they 
emit hydrogen, a highly flammable gas. A mixture 
of air and 4.1% to 74.2% hydrogen by volume 
is potentially explosive. Hydrogen is lighter than 
air and consequently will rise as it is produced. 
If ventilation is not provided at the highest point 
in the battery charging room, the hydrogen will 
collect at the overhead. Then, any source of 
ignition will cause an explosion and fire. 

To prevent hydrogen fires batteries should be 
charged in a well-ventilated area. Smoking and 
other sources of ignition should be strictly pro- 
hibited. The area should contain no machinery 
that might produce sparks. 


Space for stowage is always at a premium aboard 
ship. There should be "a place for everything, 
and everything in its place." This in itself is a 
fire prevention measure, provided the stowage 
is safe to start with. But fires have resulted when 
stowed materials came loose and fell or slid across 
a deck in rough weather. Loose equipment can 
rupture fuel lines, damage essential machinery 
and smash electrical equipment, causing short 
circuits. In addition, it is difficult and dangerous 
to try to gain control of heavy equipment that has 
come loose during a heavy sea. 

When unskilled personnel attempt to build 
stowage facilities, the results are usually less than 
satisfactory. In fact, jury-rigged stowage racks 
can be extremely dangerous. Generally, they are 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 1.9. Unauthorized construction is usually poorly de- 
signed and engineered. Materials falling from a jury rigged 
stowage rack can damage equipment or cause a fire. 

too weak to support the material to be stowed, 
or they are poorly designed, so they allow ma- 
terial to fall or slide from the structure (Fig. 1.9). 
The locations of unauthorized construction proj- 
ects are usually chosen without regard for safety. 
For example, one of the worst places to stow 
angle iron is directly above a large item of electri- 
cal machinery, such as a generator; the dangers 
are obvious. Yet records show that serious fire 
was caused by falling materials in just such a 


Even the most dangerous cargo can be trans- 
ported safely if it is properly stowed. On the other 
hand, supposedly "safe" cargo can cause a fire 
if it is stowed carelessly. As noted earlier, shore- 
side personnel leave the ship after loading the 
holds. Only the crew remains to fight a fire that 
is discovered after their ship leaves port. For this 
reason, the master or his representative should al- 
ways monitor the loading — even when stowage 
plans have been prepared in advance by port 
personnel prior to the ship's arrival. 

Regulated Cargo 

Materials carried as cargo aboard vessels can be 
divided into two general classifications — regu- 
lated cargo and nonregulated cargo. Regulated 
cargo is more generally referred to as hazardous 
cargo. Rules governing the classification, descrip- 
tion, packaging, marking, labeling, handling and 
transporting of regulated cargo are given in de- 
tail in the Hazardous Materials Regulations, Sub- 
chapter C, Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations. 

These regulations serve one purpose: to safe- 
guard the carrier and its personnel. Ultimately, 
the master of the vessel is responsible for com- 
pliance with these regulations; however, every 
member of the crew should be aware of their 
purpose and the consequences of noncompliance. 
Among other things, the regulations define very 
clearly where dangerous materials may be stowed, 
on both passenger and cargo vessels. They in- 
clude details concerning segregation from other 
cargo, and the proper humidity, temperature and 

With few exceptions, hazardous cargo requires 
special labels that define the particular hazard. 
The labels are discussed in Chapter 2 and shown 
in Figure 2.8. 

Nonregulated Cargo 

Cargo that is not specifically covered by Depart- 
ment of Transportation regulations is referred to 
as nonregulated cargo. Nonregulated cargo can 
present a fire hazard if it or its packing is com- 
bustible. It may be subject to spontaneous igni- 
tion, and it may be ignited by careless smoking 
or faulty electrical equipment. It could then act 
as a fuse if hazardous cargo is stowed nearby. 

Loading and Unloading 

Loading and unloading operations should be 
closely supervised by the ship's deck officers. 
Leaking cargo should be rejected immediately 
(Fig. 1.10); any liquid that has leaked into the 
hold should be removed or otherwise rendered 
harmless. (Remember, a vegetable oil that leaks 
onto baled cotton, rags or other fibrous material 
could cause spontaneous ignition.) When cargo 
is handled, it should not be allowed to bump 
hatch coamings or other cargo, or to land so 
heavily in the hold that the packaging is dam- 
aged. Such damage could go undetected and 
cause serious problems after the ship leaves port. 
Even in home ports, loading and unloading 
should be carefully observed. In other ports, 
especially foreign, vigilance and close monitoring 
are of great importance. 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 


Figure 1.10. Leaking cargo should not be permitted aboard 
any vessel. 


At sea, a ship can move in many different direc- 
tions. Proper shoring of cargo to keep it from 
shifting in rough seas is, of course, important for 
stability. It is also important from a fire safety 
standpoint. If stowed cargo is allowed to shift, 
hazardous materials that are incompatible can 
mix and ignite spontaneously or release flammable 
fumes. Further, metal bands on baled goods can 
produce sparks as they rub against each other — 
and one spark is enough to ignite some fumes. 
Heavy machinery, if not properly shored, can 
also produce sparks; or it can damage other pack- 
aging and thus release hazardous materials. As a 
precaution, hazardous material should be in- 
spected frequently during the voyage for shifting, 
leakage and possible intermixing with other ma- 

Bulk Cargo 

Combustible bulk cargo such as grain can be 
extremely hazardous if required precautions are 
not followed. Title 46 CFR 97.55 outlines the 
master's responsibilities in connection with this 
type of cargo. 

Before loading, the lighting circuits in the 
cargo compartments that are to be filled must be 

deenergized at the distribution panel or panel 
board. A sign warning against energizing these 
circuits must be posted at the panel. In addition, 
periodic inspections must be made to guard 
against reenergizing. 


The loading of containers is, at present, receiving 
increased attention. Ship's personnel have little 
control over the contents, because they are usu- 
ally stuffed many miles from the point where they 
are finally loaded aboard ship. This lack of con- 
trol makes container safety a matter of great 
concern. The following precautions will reduce 
the chance of fire involving containers and their 

1 . Containers with hazardous contents should 
be stowed aboard the vessel according to 
U.S. Coast Guard regulations. 

2. If a container shows any sign of leakage or 
shifting cargo, it should not be allowed 
aboard the vessel. 

3. If a container must be opened for any 
reason, extreme caution should be used, 
in case a potentially dangerous fire condi- 
tion has developed inside. 


On a small harbor tug or a large passenger liner, 
a ship's galley is a busy place, and it can be a 
dangerous place. The intense activity, the many 
people, the long hours of operation, and the basic 
hazards — open flames, fuel lines, rubbish and 
grease accumulations — all add to the danger of 
fire due to galley operations. For these reasons, 
it is extremely important that the galley never be 
left unattended when it is in use. 

Energy Sources 

For cooking, the most common energy source is 
electricity. Diesel oil is used to a lesser degree, 
and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is used on 
some smaller vessels, such as harbor tugs. Elec- 
tric ranges are subject to the same hazards as 
other electrical equipment. These include short 
circuits, brittle and cracked insulation on wiring, 
overloaded circuits and improper repairs. 

When liquid fuels are used for cooking, ex- 
treme care should be taken to avoid accidental 
damage to fuel lines. All personnel should be 
alert to leaks in fuel lines and fittings. In the event 
of a leak, the proper valves should be closed at 
once; repairs should be made by competent per- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

sonnel. Galley personnel should know the loca- 
tions of fuel-line shutoff valves. These shutoff 
valves must be readily accessible. 


Ranges present a twofold fire danger: The heat 
of the range can cause a galley fire, and its fuel 
can be involved in one. Galley personnel should 
exercise extreme care when they are in the vicin- 
ity of an operating range. Clothing, towels, rags 
and other fabric or paper used in the galley can 
be ignited through carelessness. No material 
should be stowed above a range. At sea, the range 
battens should be used at all times (Fig. 1.11). 

Pilot lights must be operative, and the main 
burners must light when they are turned on. 
Otherwise, fumes will leak into the galley, and 
any source of ignition will cause an explosion 
and fire. If a gas leak is discovered, all burners, 
pilot lights and other sources of ignition must be 
extinguished; then the emergency shutoff valves 
must be closed. 

Deep Fryers 

Deep fryers can also be a source of both heat and 
fuel for a galley fire. They must be used with 
caution and monitored carefully during opera- 
tion. The fryer should be stationary, so that it 
cannot shift with vessel movement. Food that is 
too wet should not be placed in the fryer, and 
the basket should never be filled so full that the 
grease splatters or overflows. Once ignited, the 
grease will burn rapidly. Nothing should be 
stowed above the fryer. Most important, the fryer 
should never be left unattended while it is 


The activities within a galley generate plenty of 
fuel for carelessly caused fires. Thus, good house- 

Figure 1.11. When underway, range battens should be 
used to keep pots from sliding off the cooking surface. 

keeping is of the utmost importance. Used boxes, 
bags and paper, and even leftover food, should 
be placed in covered, noncombustible refuse cans 
where they cannot be ignited by a carelessly dis- 
carded butt or match. 

Grease accumulations in and around the range, 
particularly in the hoods, filters and ductwork, 
can fuel a galley fire. If the ductwork becomes 
involved and there are heavy grease accumula- 
tions, the fire can extend to other areas and decks. 
Therefore, hoods, filters and ductwork should 
periodically be thoroughly cleaned. Fixed auto- 
matic extinguishing systems for ductwork are 
extremely valuable and most efficient in extin- 
guishing grease fires. Some automatic duct clean- 
ing systems are capable of protecting the galley 
ductwork from fire (Chapter 9). 


Fuel oil for the ship's propulsion is stored in double- 
bottom tanks, deep tanks, and tanks in the vicinity 
of the engine room. The capacity of these tanks 
can be as high as 3,800,000 liters (4550 tonnes) 
(1,000,000 gal (5000 tons)), depending on the 
size of the vessel. The types of fuels most com- 
monly used are No. 6 fuel oil, bunker C and 
diesel oil. Bunker C and No. 6 fuel oil are both 
heavy, tarry substances that require preheating 
before they can be transferred or burned. Both 
have flash points of approximately 65.6°C 
(150°F) and ignition temperatures of 368.3- 
407. 2°C (695-765 °F). (See Chapter 4 for the 
exact definitions of flash point and ignition tem- 
perature.) Double-bottom tanks and deep tanks 
are fitted with steampipe grids and coils near the 
suction pipe, to preheat the oil. Diesel oil does 
not require heating to be transferred and burned. 
Its flash point is 43.3°C (110°F), and its ignition 
temperature is 260°C (500°F). 

Transfer of Fuel 

When fuel is taken aboard, it is stored in double- 
bottom or deep tanks. If necessary, the fuel is 
heated, and then it is pumped to the service tanks 
or settling tanks. From there, it moves to a grav- 
ity or day tank, or to a fuel oil service pump, 
from which it is pumped to the fuel oil burners 
or diesel engines. 

During this transfer of fuel under pressure, the 
liquid fuel itself is not a fire hazard if there are 
no mistakes. However, the fuel vapors that may 
be given off are very hazardous. Both the over- 
filling of fuel tanks and leaks in the transfer sys- 
tem can increase the danger of fire. 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 





Electrical Gear 


Figure 1.12. Fuel line leaks can spray vaporized fuel far enough to be ignited by steam lines or electrical equipment. 

Overfilling. If a tank is overfilled, the fuel will 
rise through the overflow pipe, and eventually 
through the vent pipe that terminates topside. 

The engine room crew should monitor the 
transfer process carefully and constantly, to pre- 
vent overfilling. However, if a tank is overfilled, 
strict control of flames, sparks and smoking 
should be put into effect until the danger of fire 
has passed. 

Leaks in the Transfer System. If there is a leak 
in the transfer piping, the pressurized fuel will be 
sprayed out through the break. Spraying tends to 
vaporize the fuel, and the vapors are easily ig- 
nited. Thus, line breaks can be very hazardous if 
there are steam pipes, electric motors, electric 
panel boards and so forth in the area (Fig. 1.12). 
(This is also true of lubricating oil leaks near 
steam pipes). A diesel oil line break resulted in a 
serious engine room fire in a passenger liner in 
New York harbor several years ago. (See SS 
Hanseatic, Chapter 3.) It spread upward from the 
engine room and involved every deck of the 

Before fuel is transferred, the system should be 
checked to ensure that strainers are in place and 
all flanged joints are properly tightened. During 
the pumping, the system should be continuously 
checked for leaks. 

Oil Burner Maintenance 

For proper atomization and operation, oil burner 
tips require regular cleaning and maintenance. 
An improperly operating oil burner tip can cause 
incomplete burning of the fuel and a buildup of 
unburned fuel in the windbox of the boiler. This 
fuel will eventually ignite. If sufficient fuel is 
present, the flames can spread away from the 
boiler and involve other materials and equipment. 
Oil burner tips should therefore be cleaned and 

maintained regularly. They should be installed 
with care, since improper installation can also 
cause fuel buildup and ignition. 

Bilge Area 

Fires occur in bilge areas because of excess accu- 
mulations of oil. Most often, the oil leaks into the 
bilge from an undetected break in a fuel or lube- 
oil line. The oil vaporizes, and the flammable 
vapors build up in and around the bilge area. 
Once these vapors are mixed with air in the right 
proportion, a carelessly discarded cigarette or 
cigar butt, a match or a spark can ignite them 
and cause a fire (Fig. 1.13). Bilge fires can move 
very quickly around machinery and piping, and 
for this reason they are not easily controlled. They 
are more difficult to extinguish than most engine 
and boiler room fires. 

Bilge areas should be watched closely. Excess 
oil almost always indicates a leak, and the oil 
lines should be checked until it is found. Oil/ 
water bilge separators should also be checked 
frequently to prevent overflow, which can also 
be a source of large accumulations of oil in the 


Welding and burning operations are hazardous 
by their very nature. This can best be appreciated 
by noting that the flame from an oxyacetylene 
torch can reach a temperature of 3315.5°C 

Welding temperatures are reached either by 
burning a mixture of gas and oxygen or by using 
electricity. The most common welding gas is 
acetylene; others include hydrogen, LPG and 
natural gas. In electric welding, commonly called 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 1.13. A disastrous combination not uncommon on vessels: Fuel from a leaking line collects in the bilge. Combustible 
fuel vapors from the bilge mix with air as they move toward the arcing motor. Ignition of the fumes by the motor can cause 
an explosion followed by fire. 

arc welding, the required heat is produced by an 
electric arc that is formed at the workpiece. In 
either type of welding, dangerous, high-tempera- 
ture sparks and slag are thrown off. 

Burning is a gas-fueled operation and is more 
hazardous than welding. In gas burning, or gas 
cutting, the temperature of the metal is raised to 
the ignition point, and a jet of oxygen is intro- 
duced. This forms a metal oxide which melts, 
and the oxygen jet removes the molten metal. 

Unsafe Burning and Welding Practices 

The high temperatures, molten metal and sparks 
produced in welding and burning operations can 
be an extremely serious fire hazard. During these 
operations, shipboard fires may be caused by the 

1 . Failure to provide a competent fire watch 
in the immediate work area, below the 
work area and on the opposite side of a 
bulkhead that is being welded or burned. 
The fire watch should have no other duties 
and should inspect and reinspect the area 
for at least one-half hour after the opera- 
tion. This is crucial, as hot metal and slag 
retain heat for a long time. 

2. Failure to move combustible materials (or 
to protect them if they cannot be moved). 
Materials in the work area and the areas 
below deck and on the opposite side of a 
bulkhead should all be protected (Fig. 
1.14). Hot sparks and slag can travel great 
distances, and heat moves quickly through 
metal decks and bulkheads. 

Figure 1.14. Failure to remove combustible materials or to establish a fire watch are major causes of fires during burning and 
welding operations. 

Causes ami Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 


3. Burning near heavy concentration of dust 
or combustible vapors such as those 
emitted by fuel oil, lubricating oil and 
other flammable liquids. 

4. Failure to remove flammable vapors, 
liquids or solids from a container, pipe or 
similar workpiece and to obtain the proper 
clearance (including a certificate) from an 
NFPA-certified marine chemist or an 
officially designated "competent person." 

5. Failure to have the proper type of fire ex- 
tinguisher at the scene, along with a hose- 
line charged with water to the nozzle and 
ready for immediate use. 

6. Failure to secure oxygen and gas cylin- 
ders in an upright position. 

7. Failure to protect the gas and oxygen 
hoses from mechanical damage, or dam- 
age from the the flying sparks, slag and 
hot metal resulting from the operation. 

8. Failure to provide a shutoff valve for gases 
outside a confined space. 

9. Failure to remove hoses from confined 
spaces when the torches have been dis- 

Safety Measures 

Equipment and Personnel. Welding and burn- 
ing equipment should be of an approved type and 
in good repair. Oxygen and gas cylinders are 
equipped with regulators that prevent excess 
pressures and provide for proper mixing of oxy- 
gen and gas. These regulators should, therefore, 
be handled with extreme care. Only standard gas 
hoses (oxygen is green, and acetylene, red) and 
fittings should be used. Repairs should not be 
improvised (as in the use of tape to seal a leak in 
a line), and all gas line connections should be 

Because welding and burning are hazardous 
operations, only well-trained, qualified operators 
should be permitted to handle the equipment. Be- 
fore allowing the work to begin, the master or his 
representative should ensure that the person using 
the equipment — either crewman or shoreside 
worker — has the proper knowledge and experi- 
ence. Welding-permit laws and other local regu- 
lations can be of aid in determining whether an 
operator is qualified. In any case, it is important 
to remember that a safe welding or burning op- 
eration begins with a qualified operator and prop- 
erly maintained equipment. 

Federal Regulations. Welding and burning op- 
erations are well regulated, but regulations do 
not ensure safety unless they are complied with. 
Title 33 CFR 126.15(c), Subchapter L, states 

Oxyacetylene or similar welding or burning or 
other hot work including electric welding or the 
operation of equipment is prohibited on waterfront 
facilities or on vessels moored thereto, during the 
handling, storing, stowing, loading, discharging, or 
transporting of explosives. Such work may not be 
conducted on waterfront facilities or vessels 
moored thereto while either the facility or vessel 
is handling, storing, stowing, loading, discharging, 
or transporting dangerous cargo without the spe- 
cific approval of the Captain of the Port. 

Approval of the U.S. Coast Guard is granted by 
the issuance of a Welding and Hot- Work Permit. 
formCG-4201 (Fig. 1.15). 

Additional safety and fire prevention require- 
ments for welding and burning are included in 
Title 29 of the Safety and Health Regulations for 
Maritime Employment of the Occupational Safety 
and Health Administration (OSHA) of the De- 
partment of Labor, Section 1915.32. These regu- 
lations are primarily for the protection of per- 
sonnel. However, they include many of the re- 
strictions and precautions that are part of the 
U.S. Coast Guard Welding and Hot-Work Per- 

Local Regulations. Many port communities in 
the United States have strict regulations govern- 
ing welding and burning. The requirements of 
some communities are more severe than federal 
regulations. In some cities, workmen must pass 
qualifying examinations before they are licensed 
to operate burning equipment. Therefore, in the 
interest of safety, it is a good idea to check local 
regulations before permitting shoreside workers 
aboard for welding or burning operations. 

The issuance of a permit means only that the 
hot work may be performed, not that it will be 
done safely. For that, the operator and his assist- 
ants must comply with all the safety requirements 
that are part of the permit. Fire prevention pro- 
cedures and common sense must be an integral 
part of every welding or burning operation. No 
welding or burning should be performed by 
shoreside workers or crew members without the 
knowledge and approval of the master or his rep- 
resentative, who should ensure that safety regu- 
lations are followed. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

CG-4201 (Rev, 11-70) 


(Electric Welding, Oxyacelylene Welding, Burning 
and Other Hot-Work) 



This permit, issued in accordance with 33 CFR 126.15(c), authorizes the below described welding, burning or other hot-work 
to be performed on the waterfront facility or on vessels moored thereto while dangerous cargo other than explosives is being 
handled, stored, stowed, loaded, or discharged there, subject to the requirements listed hereafter. 



A qualified operator shall be in charge. 

All persons using any welding or hot-work equipment shall be fully qualified in its use and associated safety procedures. 

All equipment shall be in good condition. 

Oxygen and acetylene cylinders shall be placed in an upright position and properly secured. Hose shall be free of leaks. 

In confined spaces mechanical ventilating equipment shall be supplied to exhaust fumes to the outer atmosphere. 

Each electric welding machine shall be properly grounded to prevent arcing. 

Welding machines driven by liquid fuel shall be equipped with drip pans and shall be fueled off the pier. 

All flooring in the area of operation shall be swept clean. Wooden planking shall be wet down. 

All combustible material shall be removed 30 feet from the work area or protected with an approved covering such as, 
asbestos, baffles, metal guards, or flameproof tarpaulins. 

The welding foreman and the pier superintendent or his authorized representative shall make a joint inspection of the 
area and adjoining areas before any hot-work is started. 

The pier superintendent or his authorized representative shall notify the welder of all fire hazards in the area. 

A competent fire watch shall be maintained and, if the hot-work is on the boundary of a compartment (i.e., bulkhead, 
wall or deck) an additional fire watch shall be stationed in the adjoining compartment. 

The fire watch shall have immediately available at least one UL approved fire extinguisher containing an agent appropri- 
ate to existing conditions. The minimum rating of the extinguisher shall be not less than 4A or 4B as defined by National 
Fire Code 10. A fire hose shall be available, already led out, and with pressure at the nozzle. 

Fire watches shall have no duties except to watch for the presence of fire and to prevent the development of hazardous 
conditions. The fire watch shall be maintained for at least one half hour after completion of the hot-work. 

Flammable vapors, liquids or solids must first be completely removed from any container, pipe or transfer line subject 
to hot-work. Tanks used for storage of volatile substances must be tested and certified gas free prior to starting hot-work. 
Proper safety precautions in relation to purging, inerting, or venting shall be followed f" r hot-work on containers. 

All safe practices, local laws and ordinances shall be observed. See NATIONAL FIRE CODE 5 IB. 
In case of fire or other hazard, all equipment shall be completely secured. 




I acknowledge receipt of this welding and hot-work permit and agree to comply and to require my employees to comply with 
its requirements. I understand that failure to comply with these requirements will result in cancellation of the permit and may 
subject the responsible person to the penalties prescribed by Section 2, Title II of the Act of June 15, 1917 as amended (50 USC 




GPO 947-574 


U.S. Coast Guard Welding and Hot-Work Permit, form CG-4201. 

but it is not excusable. Their indifferent attitude 
and lack of interest in fire prevention measures 
can result in shipboard fires. This must be com- 
pensated for by extremely close supervision and 
extraordinary alertness on the part of the crew. 

Figure 1.15 


Generally, shoreside personnel do not have as 
much concern for, or interest in, the vessel as do 
members of the crew. This is perhaps understand- 
able, because many shoreside workers do not 
fully realize the dangers involved in a fire at sea, 

Cargo Movement 

Because of the frequency with which they come 
aboard, the nature of their duties, their access to 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 


the ship's holds and the materials they handle, 
longshoremen require the closest supervision. The 
hazards involved in cargo handling have already 
been discussed, but they are important enough to 
be repeated here: 

1 . Careless and illegal smoking in the hold or 
on deck during loading and unloading. 

2. Careless discarding of butts and matches. 

3. Careless handling of cargo and the loading 
of damaged cargo. 

4. Improper stowage of cargo so as to cause 
shifting under rough sea conditions. This 
is particularly dangerous if two types of 
cargo are incompatible and can ignite 
spontaneously when mixed. 

Repairs and Maintenance 

Contractors who come aboard to do repair work, 
particularly welding and burning, also require 
close and intensive supervision. The safety meas- 
ures discussed in the previous section should be 
followed, and crew members should be assigned 
to watch for and report any of the unsafe prac- 
tices listed there. 

Any repair contractors or individuals who 
come aboard should be suspect, wherever their 
work is to be done. A member of the crew should 
be assigned to accompany every work party. The 
following are among the general safety precau- 
tions the crew should take. 

1. Monitor the observance of No Smoking 

2. Thoroughly test any machinery or equip- 
ment that has been worked on by a con- 
tractor. Improperly repaired equipment, 
particularly electrical equipment, can be 
a source of later trouble. 

3. Check handheld power tools for the proper 
type of grounding plug and for frayed 

4. Ensure that the work area is free of com- 
bustible rubbish and waste material when 
the job is completed. 

5. If any fixed fire extinguishing system has 
been repaired check that the repairs were 
done properly. 

Shoreside personnel who are working aboard 
should never be left unsupervised. Again we note 
that it is the ship's crew that is endangered by a 
fire at sea. Therefore, it is the ship's crew that 
must assume the responsibility for seeing that 
fire prevention procedures are followed by ship- 
board workers. 


The hazards of shipyard operations are closely 
related to the hazards of repair operations per- 
formed by shoreside workers, but on a much 
larger scale. A vessel is normally placed in a ship- 
yard for major repairs, refitting or conversion — 
operations beyond the capability of the crew. 
Thus, the ship may be swarmed with shoreside 
workers, whose poor housekeeping habits and 
indifferent attitude can contribute to the fire haz- 
ards. In addition, shipyard work usually implies 

• Welding and burning operations are being 
performed throughout the ship. 

• Fire detection and extinguishing systems 
may be temporarily shut down for modifi- 
cation or to allow other repair operations. 

• Very few crew members remain on board to 
monitor the observance of safety precau- 
tions by workers. 

Coast Guard and OSHA Regulations 

All this adds up to a different situation in terms 
of fire prevention, both in the shipyard and at 
sea. However, the picture is not completely bleak. 
United States Coast Guard and OSHA regulations 
provide some protection during shipyard opera- 

The U.S. Coast Guard regulations are aimed at 
ensuring the safety of the ship, as far as is pos- 
sible. They require that the Coast Guard also be 
notified before anyone makes any repairs that 
affect the ship's safety, and drawings must be 
submitted before any alteration work is begun. 
No exception is made for emergency repairs, even 
if they are performed in a foreign shipyard. 

The OSHA regulations are primarily for the 
protection of employees. Fire safety is only one 
part of the overall safety picture, but an impor- 
tant one. The regulations include safety require- 
ments for shipyards and personnel engaged in 
ship repairs. They make excellent reference ma- 
terial for officers. 

Hazardous Practices 

As mentioned earlier, the existence of regulations 
does not ensure that they will be followed. 
Through carelessness, indifference, lack of knowl- 
edge, oversight or deliberate violation of the regu- 
lations, hazardous conditions can be created at 
shipyards. Among the practices that can lead to 
such conditions are: 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

1. Drydocking the vessel or making major 
alterations without prior U.S. Coast Guard 
approval, or not requesting an inspection 
following repairs or alterations. 

2. Installation of unapproved or substandard 
equipment, not designed for use aboard 

3. Improper or poor workmanship on bulk- 
heads and decking, which destroys their 
resistance to fire. 

4. Concealing poor repairs to tanks, bulk- 
heads and so forth by conducting inade- 
quate pressure tests. 

5. Failure to complete repairs on the firemain 
system or CO2 system before the vessel 
leaves the shipyard. 

6. Failure to replace watertight doors follow- 
ing repairs, or making openings in bulk- 
heads, in violation of fire safety standards. 

7. Failure to take the proper precautions to 
free tanks and piping of flammable gas be- 
fore welding or burning. 

8. Dismantling fuel pipes that are under pres- 

9. Improper electrical wiring practices, such 

a. Using wire of a gauge insufficient to 
carry the intended load. 

b. Bypassing overload protection. 

c. Running wires through bilges or other 
areas in the vicinity of water piping. 

If this list makes you feel uncomfortable, then it 
has served at least part of its purpose. The crew's 
only defense against such practices is vigilance — 
while the work is being done, immediately after 
it is completed, and for as long as the ship is in 


Each year billions of gallons of flammable and 
combustible liquid cargo move into our ports and 
on the waters of the United States. They repre- 
sent the most important commodity moved by 
vessel. For example, no other cargo has as much 
financial impact or is so vital to our national 
economy as petroleum products. Yet, these prod- 
ucts are extremely hazardous to transport and 


The movement of combustible or flammable cargo 
from ship to shore, shore to ship, or ship to ship 

is an awesome responsibility. Carelessness, neg- 
lect, inattention to duties, poor equipment or 
violation of the regulations can have dire conse- 
quences. Tanker accidents have led to the destruc- 
tion of vessels and the loss of lives; the resulting 
fires and explosions have been of such severity 
that shoreside installations have also been seri- 
ously affected. The licensed officer or tanker- 
man as the person-in-charge must, therefore, 
know his duties and responsibilities and dis- 
charge them to the letter. 

The rules and regulations governing the opera- 
tion of tank vessels are contained in Title 46 CFR, 
Parts 30-40 inclusive, Subchapter D, Chapter I. 
For convenience, they have been extracted and 
published in Coast Guard manual CG-123, which 
also includes Parts 154-156 of Title 33 CFR 
(Pollution Prevention Regulations). Other excel- 
lent sources of information (required reading for 
tanker officers) are listed in the bibliography at 
the end of this chapter. (In reading this material, 
it is important to note that the terms "flammable" 
and "inflammable" are used interchangeably in 
the U.S. Coast Guard regulations.) 

Title 33 CFR 156.150 requires that the per- 
sons-in-charge jointly and independently inspect 
both the vessel and the shoreside facility before 
any combustible or flammable liquid or other 
hazardous products are transferred. This is a very 
formal inspection during which a form containing 
22 items must be completed and signed by both 

Hazardous Liquids 

Over 500 types of flammable and combustible 
liquids and liquefied gases are carried as cargo 
on inland and ocean-going vessels. The regula- 
tions define these products as follows. 

Combustible Liquid: Any liquid having a flash 
point above 26.7°C (80°F). There are two grades 
within this category: 1) Grade D — any com- 
bustible liquid having a flash point above 26,7°F 
(80°F) and below 65.5°C (150°F), and 2) Grade 
E — any combustible liquid having a flash point 
of 65.6°C (150°F) or above. 

Flammable Liquids: Any liquid that gives off 
flammable vapors at or below a temperature of 
26.7 °C (80°F) as determined by flash point with 
an open-cup tester, used for testing burning oils. 
There are three grades within this category: 1) 
Grade A — any flammable liquid having a Reid 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 


vapor pressure* of 96.5 kilopascals (14 psia) or 
more; 2) Grade B — any flammable liquid hav- 
ing a Reid vapor pressure above 58.6 kilopascals 
(8.5 psia) and below 96.5 kilopascals (14 psia); 
and 3) Grade C — any flammable liquid having a 
Reid vapor pressure of 58.6 kilopascals (8.5 psia) 
or less and a flash point of 26.6°C (80°F) or 

Causes of Tanker Fires 

The following errors or omissions could result in 
fire and explosion during the movement of com- 
bustible and flammable liquids. 

Improper Fendering. Improper or inadequate 
tendering can generate sparks. This is particu- 
larly true during vessel-to-vessel operations. Since 
the vapors given off by petroleum products are 
heavier than air, they tend to drift down to the 
water. There they can be ignited by sparks caused 
by metal-to-metal contact. 

Lack of Coordination During Transfers. Every 
transfer should be well planned, with close co- 
ordination throughout the operation. No transfer 
operation can begin without a person-in-charge 
at each end of the operation. Emergency shut- 
downs and the means of communication between 
persons-in-charge must be tested and found in 
order before the transfer is started. The person- 
in-charge on the vessel must be able to shut down 
the flow or request shutdown through a communi- 
cation system that is used for no other purpose. 
Emergency shutdowns must be provided on the 

Transfer systems are only as effective as the 
people who are charged with the responsibility 
for using them. Even a momentary lapse can per- 
mit an overflow with resultant spill on the vessel, 
at the terminal, in the water or at all three loca- 

Cargo Expansion. Another cause of overflows 
is failure to allow for expansion of the product 
caused by temperature increases. There are tables 
that can be checked for the proper fill levels, 
when a vessel is headed for a warmer climate. 
These tables should be consulted to ensure that 
tanks are not overfilled. 

Pump Room Hazards. Because it is subject to 
vapor accumulation, the pump room is the most 
hazardous area on a tank vessel. To ensure that 
vapors are removed during loading or unloading, 
the vent systems in pump rooms should be op- 
erated continuously. As a safety precaution, be 
sure the vent system is working before entering a 
pump room. No repair work should be permitted 
in the pump room unless absolutely necessary. 
In fact, proper maintenance will help to avoid 
both repairs and vapor accumulation through 
leaks in piping and pump seals. Any piece of 
equipment that might cause a spark should, of 
course, be prohibited, because of the possibility 
of ignition of vapor accumulations. This includes 
spark-producing tools, unapproved electrical 
equipment, and flashlights. Bilge areas should be 
well maintained and kept free of flammable ma- 
terials. Smoking in the pump room would be in- 
viting disaster. 


Ship Connection 

Cargo Hose from Dock 

Spill Containment Tank 

Figure 1.16. An electrical bond between the vessel and the shoreside facility (right) prevents sparks caused by static electricity 
(left). The bonding should be completed before the cargo hose is connected to the shore connector. 

*The Reid vapor pressure is a measure of the vola- 
tility, or tendency to vaporize, of a liquid. A small 
amount of the liquid is placed in a container that has a 

pressure gauge. The container is closed tightly, the liquid 
is heated to 37.8°C (100°F), and the pressure in the 
vapor above the liquid is read on the gauge. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Static Electricity. Static electricity is not an ob- 
vious cause of fire, but it is dangerous. Thus, pre- 
cautions must be taken to prevent the generation 
of static sparks. During transfers, the usual 
method is to provide an electrical bond between 
the vessel and the shoreside facility (Fig. 1.16). 
This can be done in several ways, and the per- 
sons-in-charge are responsible for ensuring that 
it is done properly. 

Certain cargos such as kerosene jet fuels and 
distillate oils can generate static electricity as 
they are moved. Water suspended in these cargos 
increases the possibility of static spark genera- 
tion. To reduce the hazard, the operation should 
be started with a low loading rate. This permits 
the water to settle to the bottom of a tank more 
easily. The use of steel ullage tapes, metal sam- 
pling cans and metal sounding rods should be 
avoided when these static-producing cargos are 
being loaded. Only nonconductive devices should 
be used until the tanks have been topped off for 
at least 30 minutes. This waiting time permits 
suspended water to settle and static electricity 
to dissipate. 

Oil that is splashed or sprayed may become 
electrostatically charged. For this reason, oil 
should never be loaded into a tank through an 
open hose. Oil splashing about the opening could 
generate static electricity. 

Open Flames or Sparks. Ignition of flammable 
vapors by an open flame or a spark is the most 
obvious fire hazard during transfer operations. 
Some sources of sparks and flames are: 

• Smoking and matches 

• Boiler and galley fires 

• Ship's radio equipment 

• Welding and burning 

• Machinery operation 

• Electrical equipment in living quarters 

• Unapproved flashlights or portable electrical 

• Sharp abrasion of ferrous metal. 

The ship's person-in-charge is responsible for 
ensuring the safety of the transfer operation. This 
responsibility extends to areas around the ship, 
as well as to shore installations and other vessels. 
It includes the posting of signs indicating when 
radio equipment and boiler and galley fires may 
operate; the control of, and granting of, permis- 
sion for hot work and other repair work; the se- 
curing of ventilation and air-conditioning intakes; 

and the securing of doors and ports on or facing 
cargo-tank areas. The entire crew is required to 
cooperate with the person-in-charge during trans- 
fer procedures. 

Improper Use of Cargo Hose. Either the vessel 
or the shoreside facility may supply the hose 
used in a transfer. However, both persons-in- 
charge must inspect it to ensure its quality and 
stability. The importance of this inspection is 
obvious. If the hose is in good condition, the fol- 
lowing precautions should be taken to prevent 
its rupturing during the transfer. 

1. Position the hose so it cannot be pinched 
between the vessel and the dock. 

2. Allow sufficient slack for tide conditions 
and lightening of the load. 

3. Do not place the hose near a hot surface. 

4. Support the hose properly, to prevent 

5. Inspect the hose for leaks frequently dur- 
ing the transfer, and be prepared to shut 
down if necessary. 

Vessel-to-Vessel Transfers 

When vessel-to-vessel transfers are under way, 
several additional precautions must be taken. 

1. Adequate fendering must be provided. 

2. Changes in weather, sea and current con- 
ditions must be anticipated. 

3. There must be a clear understanding as to 
which vessel is in charge of the operation. 

4. The effect of drifting vapors on both ves- 
sels must be considered. 

Cargo Heating System 

High-viscosity cargos become so thick at low 
temperatures that heating is required before they 
can be pumped. The liquids are heated by steam 
pipes or coils that run through the bottoms of 
the tanks. The temperature to which they are 
heated is critical. Overheating can be hazardous, 
since dangerous flammable gases can be gen- 
erated and released. 

The tank heating system must be well main- 
tained. A steam leak at the tank bottom can lead 
to the same problem as overheating — chemical 
reactions and the production of dangerous flam- 
mable gases. The cargo could also leak into the 
steam coils, with equally dangerous results. Title 
46 CFR limits the heating of fuel oil in storage 
tanks to a maximum of 48.9°C (120°F). 

Causes and Prevention of Fire Aboard Ship 



Fires caused by collisions, particularly when 
tankers were involved, have resulted in serious 
damage and great losses of property and life. 
Some of these incidents were beyond the capacity 
of the crew to prevent. However, many impor- 
tant lessons have been learned; as a result of 
these lessons, it is expected that the incidence of 
these casualties will be reduced in the future. 

No incident aboard ship emphasizes the im- 
portance of training and organization more than a 
collision followed by fire. The crew is faced with 

multiple problems: control of the vessel, control 
of the fire, and institution of damage control pro- 
cedures after determination of the most imme- 
diate danger to the vessel. Ship's officers must en- 
sure that all crew members know their duties in 
accordance with the station bill and know how 
to perform these duties. 

If the fire cannot be controlled but stability is 
not a problem, it may be possible to take refuge 
aboard the ship, especially if assistance is not too 
far away. Previous drills and training will reduce 
the hazards of abandoning ship, if that procedure 
becomes necessary. 


CG-174, A Manual for the Safe Handling of Inflam- 
mable and Combustible Liquids and Other Haz- 
ardous Products 

CG-329, Fire Fighting Manual for Tank Vessels 

CG-388, Chemical Data Guide for Bulk Shipment 
by Water 

CG-446-1, Chemical Hazards Response Informa- 
tion System (CHRIS), A condensed guide to 
chemical hazards 

fire Prevention 

If most shipboard fires can be prevented, then 
who is responsible for preventing them? The an- 
swer is that fire prevention is the shared duty of 
each and every member of the crew — not just the 
master, or the chief engineer, or any particular 
individual or group of individuals. No fire pre- 
vention effort or program can be successful unless 
it involves everyone aboard ship. 

Fire prevention is not easily defined, perhaps 
because it is primarily a matter of attitude, and 
its benefits are not easy to measure until after 
they are lost. For these reasons fire prevention is 
difficult to sell, and it requires continuing effort 
and strong guidance and leadership. 

Every seaman probably fears the consequences 
of a serious fire at sea, but, unfortunately, aware- 
ness of the possibility of fire does not always lead 
to the attitudes and actions necessary to prevent 
it. Some individuals may be sensitive to the 
hazards of fire and to the means of preventing it. 
Others may be completely irresponsible, perhaps 
because of indifference; only good luck keeps 
these people from becoming victims of their own 
carelessness. Somewhere between these extremes 
is the majority who are in some respects very 
careful — in others, foolishly careless — perhaps 
from lack of knowledge. 

Each member of the crew should analyze his 
own attitude toward safety, and toward fire pre- 
vention in particular. This may only require the 
answers to two simple questions: "Do I know the 
causes of shipboard fires?" "Have I considered 
the damage and loss of life that can result from a 
fire?" A carefully planned and conducted fire 
prevention program can help ensure that both 
questions are answered with a strong, uncondi- 
tional "yes." 



We have noted that every crew member is re- 
sponsible for the prevention of fire aboard ship. 
Similarly, every crew member has a role in the 
ship's fire prevention program. Because attitude 
is so much a part of fire prevention, it is also a 
most important part of the fire prevention pro- 
gram. To a great extent, the attitude of the crew 
will reflect that of the master. 

The Responsibilities of the Master 

The master of a vessel is responsible for develop- 
ing the attitudes and cooperation required for the 
best operation of his ship. This responsibility 
obviously extends to fire safety. During formal 
meetings, informal discussions, casual conversa- 
tions and training sessions, the master should 
convey his concern for fire prevention. There 
should be no doubt that he wants a fire-safe ship, 
and that he expects every member of the crew to 
assist in reaching this goal. 

In most cases, the ship's safety committee will 
develop and implement the formal aspects of 
the fire prevention program. The master should 
participate in the management of this committee. 
He should contribute to its agenda and approve 
its programs. Most important, he must exhibit 
his continued interest, without which no program 
can be effective. 

The Role of Supervisory Personnel 

Department heads should take an active part in 
the work of the safety committee since they are 
responsible for the actions of the personnel under 
their supervision. Initially, they should evaluate 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 2.1. On-the-job training gives supervisory personnel the opportunity to teach safe practices. It ensures that crewmen 
get correct information, and it establishes an avenue of communication. 

each subordinate for fire prevention attitude and 
level of training. This evaluation is especially 
important when there is a high turnover of crew 

Daily on-the-job training and supervision will 
help develop good attitudes and habits in sub- 
ordinates. These are probably the most effective 
means of communicating the details of the fire 
prevention program. Informal instructional ses- 
sions, given during the actual performance of 
routine duties, can be valuable learning experi- 
ences (Fig. 2.1). Unsafe actions may be corrected 
immediately, so that they do not become unsafe 
habits. Where needed, repeated corrections will 
reinforce the learning process. 

Day-to-day training also provides an excellent 
opportunity for teaching (and learning) how reg- 
ulations are developed to minimize fire hazards, 
and why they must be a part of the ship's fire 
prevention program. Often a crewman's duties 
will include the operation of equipment. Com- 
petence in its use and handling should be en- 
couraged and checked, particularly as it relates 
to fire safety. 

Supervisors should try to instill in subordinates 
a sense of pride in earning and maintaining a 

fire-safe record. This can develop unity among 
the crew and help bring a new crewman 
"aboard." At the same time, it tends to motivate 
individual crewmen to think in terms of fire 
safety and to incorporate this thinking in their 

It is important for department heads to keep up 
to date on the causes of recent fires aboard ves- 
sels. Then, if a crewman is observed doing some- 
thing that once resulted in a fire, the supervisor 
can immediately call this fact to his attention. 
This is practical fire prevention at its best. 

Responsibilities of Crewmen 

The details of shipboard operation are the re- 
sponsibility of the crew, and fire prevention duties 
are no exception. Every crewman is responsible 
for eliminating or reporting hazardous conditions 
in his quarters, his work area and wherever else 
he may find them. Crewmen are responsible for 
safely operating the ship's equipment. When a 
crewman is assigned to operate machinery with 
which he is not familiar, he should ask for in- 
struction in its use; his inability to operate the 
equipment could cause an accident resulting in 
fire or injuries. 

Fire Prevention Programs 


Perhaps the most important responsibility of 
crewmen in a fire prevention program is to de- 
velop and maintain the proper attitude. The 
crewmen who are interested and involved in the 
program will make it work. They will learn well 
and operate well, individually and as a crew, to 
prevent fires aboard their ship. The crewmen who 
are indifferent to the program will soon be won- 
dering why so many fires "happen" on their ship. 


To be successful a fire prevention program must 
be carefully planned and structured. The details 
of the program should be tailored to the ship for 
which it is developed. Thus the fire prevention 
program for a tug would be much less formal 
than that for a tank vessel; but each program 
would reflect the master's concern for fire safety, 
be developed by the safety committee, be con- 
ducted by the master and department heads and 
receive the high priority that it merits. 

On any vessel, the fire prevention program 
should include the following elements: 

1 . Formal and informal training 

2. Periodic inspections 

3. Preventive maintenance and repair 

4. Recognition of effort. 

These are discussed in some detail in the re- 
mainder of this chapter. First, however, it is im- 
portant to emphasize that the fire prevention 
program itself should be the subject of continual 
review by the master and the safety committee. 
Both the scope and the conduct of the program 
should be modified as necessary to improve fire 
safety. That is, the safety committee cannot relax 
once they have developed and implemented a fire 
prevention program. They should question their 
program every time an unsafe situation is discov- 
ered, and extend the program to ensure that such 
a situation cannot occur again. To wait until a 
fire breaks out is to await disaster. 


The education of crew members may be difficult 
and, at times, frustrating, but it is a most impor- 
tant factor in any fire prevention program. It must 
be a continuing process that includes both formal 
training sessions and informal discussions. No 
opportunity should be missed and no effort spared 
to develop an awareness of fire safety. The ob- 
jective of this training should be to teach every 
crew member to think fire prevention, before, 

Figure 2.2. Formal training sessions are the foundation of 
a fire prevention program. 

during and after every action. Each crewman 
must ask himself, "Is it safe? Could it cause a 
fire?" This attitude toward fire prevention might 
be called "taking one second for safety." 

Formal Training Sessions 

Formal training sessions should be conducted on 
a regular basis during each voyage (Fig. 2.2). For 
the benefit of new crew members, it is essential 
that these training sessions be started as soon as 
possible. Until the first session can be held, de- 
partment heads should convey the master's atti- 
tude toward fire safety to their subordinates. 

The safety committee should plan and sched- 
ule the formal training sessions. (This book could 
serve as the basis for the fire prevention curricu- 
lum.) In addition, each vessel should build its 
own fire prevention and firefighting library, and 
crew members should be encouraged to use it. 
The library should be kept current to promote 
its use. Some of the publications listed in the 
bibliographies in this book would be excellent 
additions to such a library. 

Training aids, films, slides and the new video 
tape cassettes (when available) should be used to 
add interest to the sessions. While repetition is 
sometimes necessary, it should be avoided when- 
ever possible. People lose interest in (and pay 
little attention to) material that is presented over 
and over again in the same way. The sessions 
should vary as to topics, presentation and ap- 
proach as much as possible. Practice sessions 
(equipment maintenance and inspections, for ex- 
ample) should be scheduled along with the re- 
quired drills. They will help relieve the sameness 
of "sit-down" training sessions. 

Schedules should be posted in advance. Ses- 
sions should be held at different times of day (for 
example, morning and afternoon) so that all 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

watches can be accommodated. Total participa- 
tion is just as important to these training ses- 
sions as it is to the overall fire prevention pro- 

Informal Training 

Informal training can be a very effective teaching 
tool. When crewmen talk things over in a relaxed 
atmosphere, everyone gets a chance to speak and 
to listen. There is a free interchange of informa- 
tion and ideas (Fig. 2.3). This can lead to a better 
understanding of the responsibilities of crew 
members relative to their specific skills, the gen- 
eral safety of the ship and fire prevention in 

Visual reminders, posters, warning signs 
and personal messages to the crew can also be 
effective informal education media. Here again, 
it is important to vary the message and the media. 
The same posters or messages left in the same 
locations week after week indicate a lack of in- 
terest on the part of the program's planners. This 
lack of interest can easily become contagious. 

Training Curriculum 

The training should be focused primarily on the 
prevention of fires. A secondary goal should be 
to teach the crew how to isolate and then extin- 
guish small fires. Toward these ends, the curricu- 
lum should include the following eight topics. 

Theory of Fire. When they understand what 
fire is, crewman are better equipped to prevent 
it. {See Chapter 4 for a discussion on fire theory.) 

Classes of Fires. The importance of this topic 
stems from the fact that different classes of fires 
(that is, different flammable materials) require 
different extinguishing agents. {See Chapter 5 for 
a discussion of classes of fires.) 

Maintenance and Use of Portable Fire Extin- 
guishers. Portable fire extinguishers can con- 

trol a fairly large fire if they are used promptly 
and properly. Through training, crewmen should 
develop confidence in these appliances. They 
should check to see that fire extinguishers are in 
their proper places, in good condition and ready 
for use. Additionally, every crew member should 
be absolutely certain about the proper use of the 
different types of extinguishers. {See Chapter 7 
for a discussion of portable fire extinguishers. See 
Chapter 8 for a discussion of extinguishing agents 
used in portable appliances.) 

Good Housekeeping. Basically this means 
cleanliness. However, from the fire prevention 
standpoint it means the elimination of sources of 
fuel for fires, that is, the elimination of fire 
"breeding grounds." {See Chapter 1 for a discus- 
sion of some potential fire hazards.) These and 
other housekeeping problem areas are listed be- 
low. Almost every one of them can be elimi- 
nated with a minimum of effort. 

1 . Cleaning rags and waste should be stored 
in covered metal containers. 

Figure 2.3. Informal discussions provide an opportunity for 
crew members to learn from each other, to stimulate interest 
in fire prevention, and help to establish the proper attitude 
toward safety. 

Figure 2.4. Oily rags should be placed in covered metal 
containers to prevent fires by spontaneous ignition. 

Fire Prevention Programs 


2. Accumulations of oily rags should be 
placed in covered metal containers (Fig. 
2.4) and discarded as soon as possible. 

3. Accumulations of packaging materials 
should be disposed of immediately. 

4. Dunnage should only be stored in the 
proper area. 

5. Accumulations of sawdust (especially oil- 
or chemical-soaked sawdust), wood chips 
or shavings should be disposed of prop- 

6. Accumulations of flammables in crew or 
passenger quarters should be avoided. 

7. Oil-soaked clothing or other flammables 
should never be stored in crew lockers. 

8. Paints, varnish and so forth should be 
stored in the paint locker when not in 
use — even overnight. 

9. Leaks in product, fuel-oil or lubricating- 
oil piping and spilled oil or grease should 
be cleaned up; also oil in bilges or on tank 
tops and floor plates. 

10. Kerosene and solvents should be stored in 
appropriate containers and in approved 

1 1 . Oil-burner cleaning substances should not 
be left in open containers in the boiler 

12. Oil-soaked clothing should not be worn 
by crew members. 

13. .Grease filters and hoods over galley 

ranges should be cleaned regularly. 

14. Avoid accumulations of dust in holds and 
on ledges in holds, and accumulations of 
lint and dust on light bulbs. 

15. Avoid soot accumulations in boiler up- 
stakes and air heaters, 

Elimination and Control of Ignition Sources. 

The safety committee should be aware of the 
causes of recent fires on other vessels. "Proceed- 
ings of the Marine Safety Council," published by 
the U.S. Coast Guard, maritime-oriented publica- 
tions and newspapers are excellent sources of such 
information.) Discussions of actual ship fires have 
the most impact and help crewmen to realize that 
fires still can and do occur aboard vessels {see 
Chapter 3). 

As was pointed out, cleanliness can eliminate 
sources of shipboard fires. Good training, a good 
attitude and alertness can assist immeasurably in 
eliminating another necessary ingredient of fires, 
namely, the source of heat or ignition. (The major 
sources of ignition aboard ship are discussed in 
Chapter 1 .) These can be eliminated by: 

Figure 2.5. "Smokes" that are discarded carefully cannot 
become sources of ignition. 

1. Not smoking in restricted areas; discard- 
ing ashes, butts and matches carefully 
(Fig. 2.5); using only saftey matches on 
tank vessels; closely observing longshore- 
men working in holds 

2. Not overloading electrical circuits; pro- 
tecting circuits with the proper fuses or 
circuit breakers; proper maintenance and 
repair of electrical equipment; following 
instructions and regulations for wiring 
(Fig. 2.6) 

Figure 2.6. Inspection, maintenance and use of approved 
components reduce the possibility of fire in and around 
electrical equipment. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

3. Keeping flammable materials clear of 
steam pipes, light bulbs and other sources 
of ignition. 

4. Thoroughly cleaning cargo holds before 
any cargo is loaded. (Otherwise, there is a 
possibility of mixing incompatible cargos 
such as vegetable oil and fibers and caus- 
ing a fire through spontaneous ignition.) 

5. Careful loading operations (particularly 
the loading of baled fibers), so that bales 
do not strike coamings, machinery or 
other steel structures; care by longshore- 
men not to strike bands with their hooks 
(Fig. 2.7) 

6. Removing cargo lights from holds when 
loading is completed; replacing receptacle 
watertight caps after portable lights are 

7. Observing all precautions when welding 
or burning — including the posting of a 
fire watch — or seeing that shoreside 
workers do so. (Welding and burning are 
among the most hazardous operations per- 
formed aboard ship.) 

8. Eliminating the causes of static electricity. 
(This is extremely important on tank ves- 
sels, especially when butterworthing.) 

9. Awareness of the possibilities of spontan- 
eous ignition, and how to avoid it. (Again, 
this is basically good housekeeping.) 

10. Using approved flashlights and portable 
lights and nonsparking tools on tank ves- 

1 1 . Not using electric tools where a fire haz- 
ard may exist, and using only tools in 
good condition 

12. Following the instructions of the senior 
deck officer on tank vessels when loading 
or discharging cargo, especially regarding 
smoking, boiler and galley fires and other 
possible sources of ignition; proper bond- 
ing of the vessel; ensuring the integrity of 
cargo hose and couplings 

13. Continually observing cargo pumps dur- 
ing transfer operations. (Loss of suction 
or prolonged operation when tanks are 
empty may overheat the pump and result 
in explosion and fire.) 

Preparation for Emergencies. Except for the 
knowledge and experience gained in actually 
fighting a fire, no training is as effective as live, 
well-conducted fire drills. The experience gained 
through drills can help prevent a major tragedy. 
This same experience can reduce the possibility of 
injuries during an actual emergency, and equip- 
ment deficiencies that show up during drills can 
be corrected before they become problems {see 
also Chapter 10). 

The station bill is very important to the conduct 
of fire drills. The master and department heads 

Figure 2.7. Cargo that is damaged during loading can leak 
and cause a fire several days later. 

Fire Prevention Programs 


should ensure that it is up to date. All crew mem- 
bers should be aware of and familiar with their 
duties and responsibilities. 

Fire drills should be conducted weekly (at 
least), and at irregular intervals to avoid expecta- 
tions. Fire conditions should be staged in different 
parts of the vessel to add interest and create chal- 
lenges. Each drill should begin with the sounding 
of the alarm and end with a constructive discus- 
sion and analysis. 

Respiratory Protection Devices. The proper use 
of respiratory protection devices is a most impor- 
tant part of the rescue and firefighting education 
of every crewman. Masks are designed for differ- 
ent purposes, and each has certain limitations. It 
is important that the proper mask be chosen for 
the task to be performed. Manufacturers' instruc- 
tions make excellent guidelines {see also Chapter 

Crewmen should practice donning masks; face- 
pieces in particular must fit properly. Constant 
practice and training are required to develop pro- 
ficiency, and breathing with a mask in place will 
develop confidence in its use. However, overde- 
pendence on a mask can be dangerous and can 
jeopardize the wearer. Close supervision and life- 
lines are essential for safety during operations in 
which respiratory protection devices are used. 

Knowledge of Cargo. The crew should be fa- 
miliar with the types of cargo carried on their ship. 
The crew is the ship's firefighting force, and 
knowledge of potential fire hazards is important 
information. An item-by-item review of the cargo 
manifest will provide the crew with information 
on the amounts of each cargo on board. To 
acquaint the crew with particular characteristics 
of hazardous cargos, they should refer to "Chem- 
ical Data Guide for Bulk Shipment by Water," 
CG-388. They should also review classifications 
of fires and the types of extinguishing agents they 

Comparison of the flash points, ignition tem- 
peratures and explosive ranges of dangerous 
liquids and gases is of help in understanding their 
relative hazards. The Hazardous Materials Regu- 
lations of the U.S. Coast Guard are the best source 
of such information. They are contained in Title 
49 CFR (Transportation); Parts 100-199. Where 
necessary, the information in those regulations 
can be supplemented with data supplied by the 
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 

Title 49 CFR 172.101 contains a list of the 
materials classed as hazardous by the U.S. Coast 
Guard. It is important that these substances be 
easily recognized when they are being transported. 

For this reason, they are marked with distinctive 
labels to indicate their particular hazard. 

These hazardous material warning labels (Fig. 
2.8) are authorized by the U.S. Department of 
Transportation (DOT). United States Coast Guard 
regulations require that they be placed on the out- 
side of every container in which a hazardous 
material is to be transported by ship. Placards 
similar to the labels are required for trailer-type 
shipments. In addition, hazardous material class 
numbers are required by some foreign govern- 
ments. These numbers are also referred to as UN 
class numbers and are endorsed by the Inter- 
Governmental Maritime Consultative Organiza- 
tion (IMCO). The class number is located at the 
bottom corner of the DOT label. Most of the 
hazards indicated by the labels in Figure 2.8 are 
obvious. Two that are less obvious are: 1) oxi- 
dizer: A substance that gives off oxygen readily 
to aid in the combustion of organic matter; and 
2) organic peroxide: a flammable solid or liquid 
that will increase the intensity of the fire. Many 
peroxides can be broken down by heat, shock or 
friction. They are widely used in the chemical 
and drug industries. 

The labels are, of course, visible during loading. 
However, during a fire, they may be obscured by 
smoke or destroyed by flames. Here again, the 
ship's dangerous cargo manifest is extremely im- 
portant. It is the only positive indicator of the 
type of materials involved in the fire. 


Inspection is one of the most important parts of 
the shipboard fire prevention program. Its purpose 
is to find and eliminate fuels and ignition sources 
that could cause fires. A number of these possible 
fire causes were listed earlier in this chapter. As 
noted, the elimination of these sources is not a 
technical matter, but mainly common sense and 
"good housekeeping." 

Because vessels are large and complex, the 
responsibility for inspection cannot rest with any 
individual or group of individuals. Instead, every 
crewman should be an informal inspector, check- 
ing for fire hazards at all times, on and off duty, 
wherever he may be on the ship. This is a matter 
of attitude, and an extension of the idea of "one 
second for safety." 

In addition, the master, chief officer and chief 
engineer should make a joint formal inspection of 
the entire vessel at least once each week. This 
should be a complete inspection, from bow to 
stern and bilge to bridge. The formal inspection 
should be systematic; a checklist should be used 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 





NOTE: May be used in 
addition to other 
required labels. 




UN CLASS 2 or 6 








Required for domes- Note: A Poison Label 
tic shipments includ- may be used on inn- 
ing the domestic por- port/export shipments 
tion of import and in addition to this 
export movements. label. 






Figure 2.8. Hazardous material warning labels. Note the UN class number on each label. 

Fire Prevention Programs 31 

Hazardous Materials 
Warning Labels 

















'/ \> 

/ J 


V /' 

r v 













Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

to assure that no area is overlooked. A sample 
checklist, included at the end of this chapter, can 
be used as a guide for informal inspections as well. 

Requirements Prior to Repairs 
and Alterations 

United States Coast Guard regulations, in Title 46 
CFR (Shipping) require inspections before rivet- 
ing, welding, burning or such fire-producing oper- 
ations are undertaken in certain portions of a ves- 
sel. They also require that the provisions of NFP A 
standard No. 306, Standard for the Control of Gas 
Hazards on Vessels to Be Repaired, be used as a 
certified guide. Regulations state that the inspec- 
tions be made by a marine chemist. If one is not 

available, then consideration will be given to other 
persons. The marine chemist makes a crucial judg- 
ment, based on his findings, as to whether or not 
burning, welding and other hot work may be per- 
formed. The master, chief officer and chief engi- 
neer should be familiar with the services of ma- 
rine chemists and the certificates they issue 
(Fig. 2.9). 

NFPA standard No. 306 requires the use of 
special designations to describe the conditions 
found during marine chemists' inspections. These 
are "Safe for Men" or "Not Safe for Men" and 
"Safe for Fire" or "Not Safe for Fire." Briefly, 
the "Safe for Men" conditions are defined as 

1. The compartment contains at least 18% 
oxygen by volume. 

PHONE 301/875-4131 


MEMBEtS OF N. t. t. A. 


6J5J FAUS to AD 

Survey Requested By: 


Type of Vessel: 


Owner or Agent: 

Harbor Towing Co. 



Harbor Towing Yard 

Harbor Towing 

Date: January 21 , 1978 
Time of Completion: 8:30 AM 
Certificate No.: HT-1 

Last Cargo: Gasoline & #2 Fuel Oil 
Test Method: MSA Explosimeter a. 

Forward Rake .... SAFE FOR MEN 
Cargo Tanks Nos. 1-2, Port & Stbd 
Cargo Tanks No. 3, Port & Stbd . . 

Cargo Tank No. 4, Port & Stbd . . 



(These tanks have been cleaned and 
are to serve as buffer tanks) 

(These tanks have been butterworthed 
but not mucked) 

In the event of any physical or atmospheric changes affecting the fas-free condition* of the above space*, or if in ar.y doubt, immediately stop all 
hot work and contact the undersigned. 

i.goaint (») The i.»eco 
J>d thai, fb) To... materials 

nana* fir 

Standard Safety Designations NFPA lot - 19TS 

Scum roa Mi. Means thai ia ihe compartment or ipaci 
catalcni at the nm.-^i.fn is «< least 19 pejteat by .(.'. n. 

ra the eicnoaphcre arc within pcrmisaable loncenirsbons; and (c) la the lurLsmer.r ol iSe 
Manaa Chemist, the lasidura vt not capable of pciiducins toeic materials under« 
etsDOsphcric conditions while main' air eel m directed on ihe Mmnt Chimm'i Certificate. 

Sart aaa Fiea M.uu that 10 the compartment • 
«4 lunouM. materials in the eimmpherc u rwlow 10 | 

aaat that, ( b ) la the judgment ol the Marine Chemist, iht cesidurs ace eot capable of pro 
•twang a higher concentration than pe-mitied by 1-5 2 (a) under raitting aiiiiccuhctic 
cood.uooj in the presence of nre and -lulc maintained ai duectrd on the Marine Chemist's 
Certihesis; nod luriher, (c ) All ad|irmi ipun have eithei been cleaned auffir irnuy la pre- 
vavit the spread ad tire, arc taTisfartonlr meried. or, in the case ol fuel tanks, nave been 
traeiad as deemed r by the Marine Chcmaet. 

SAav. roa S.iniijciin Mi.v thai the cr.mpsxrmeet an (a) Shall rod 
the rveiiau-cincnu of IS I. and. (b) la tlic judgment ol the Mann- Chemist, the rvaiduaJ 
eoeeivuai.ble nxaienala designated are noi capable et pruducmg hies beyond the eeunguuhing 
caavabtLuea at* the equipoacoi oa hand, and, (e) All adjacent cor - 
eaeet the rve*uLrcsarae» af I-S.2 (c). 

Qualiti rations 

Tcanafer el ballast or manipulation of valves or closure oqi 
dona ia lines, larju or comparimrnu subject la gaa ai 
approved m fhu Certificate. inspection acid crdoiiroi. 
lSc spaces so acfecied. A" Lines. «i 
ancca shall bra considered not sale' tending to alter condi- 
."ii, unless specifi-eJty 
i' ..r rcissui o( Crri-ficalc lor 
1 Sunilari. enclosed appurlen- 
otherwise sprccfically designated. 

compartments ae i 


Toe undersigned shipyard representative acknowledge* receipt of this 
Certifccsie and understands the conditions and limitations under which ,. wu 

Qssrstasat's Eudorsrment 

This it to certify that 1 have personally determined that si; spaces in the 
foregoing list are in accordance svith the Standard For the Control of Gaa 
Hasarcts on Vesseb to Be Repaired, adopted bj' ihe National Fire Protection 
Aasociation. and have found the condition of each o be in accordance with iu 
assigned designation. 

This-Gcj-tifitjie is baaed on conditions existing at the the inspection 
herein get forth was crrmpletrd and is issued tubjecl lo compliance with all 
qualifications aJihVirutructiona. 

Sauaysuel It 

a .^f.A?jy7§c^^.£, : 


$.[3e m A.¥- 



Marine Chemiit 

Figure 2.9. Certificate issued by marine chemists after an inspection according to NFPA stand- 
ard No. 306. 

Fire Prevention Programs 


2. Toxic materials are within permissible con- 
centrations. The permissible limits are given 
in the current Table of Threshold Limit 
Values of the American Conference of 
Governmental Industrial Hygienists. 

3. If the area is maintained as directed, resi- 
dues will not produce toxic materials. 

"Safe for Fire" conditions are defined as: 

1. The concentration of flammable gas in the 
compartment is less than 10% of the lower 
flammable limit. (The lower flammable lim- 
it of a gas is the minimum flammable con- 
centration of that gas in air.) 

2. If the area is maintained as directed, the 
the residues are not capable of producing 
concentrations greater than 10% of the 
lower flammable limit. 

3 . Adjacent spaces have been properly cleaned 
or made inactive to prevent the spread of 

The meanings of the "Not Safe" categories are 
obvious from these definitions. 

Regulations provide that, if a marine chemist is 
not available, The Officer in Charge, Marine In- 
spection Office, upon the recommendation of the 
vessel owner and his contractor or their repre- 
sentative, shall select a person who, in the case of 
an individual vessel, shall be authorized to make 
the inspection. 

If this authorized person is not available, the in- 
spection is made by the senior officer present. For 
this purpose, several types of testing instruments 
are carried on board. 

Combustible-Gas Indicator. Under Title 46 CFR 
35.30-15, U.S. flag vessels (manned tank barges 
and tank ships) authorized to carry flammable and 
combustible liquid cargos at any temperature 
are required to carry combustible-gas indicators 
{See Chapter 1 for a description of these hazard- 
ous liquids.) 

A combustible-gas indicator (sometimes re- 
ferred to as an explosimeter) is used to determine 
whether there is a flammable atmosphere in any 
area of a vessel {see Chapter 16). The instrument 
should be a type that is approved by Underwriters 
Laboratories, Factory Mutual Engineering Divi- 
sion or some other agency acceptable to the U.S. 
Coast Guard. The manufacturer's operating and 
maintenance instructions should remain with the 
instrument. All officers should be thoroughly 
familiar with the instrument and know how to use 
it. The combustible-gas indicator is a safeguard 
against fire; if it is used improperly, an unsafe 
environment may appear to be safe. If it is not 

used at all, there is no way to know whether an 
environment is safe. 

Flame Safety Lamp. United States Coast Guard 
regulations require that all cargo, miscellaneous 
and passenger vessels on international voyages 
carry flame safety lamps as part of their fireman's 

The flame safety lamp is used to test only for 
oxygen deficiency. Its operating principle is sim- 
ple: If there is enough oxygen in the surrounding 
atmosphere to keep the flame burning, then there 
is enough oxygen to support life. It is important to 
remember that this instrument contains a source 
of ignition and must be in good condition. Like 
the combustible-gas indicator, it must be used 
correctly, or it might give false results {see 
Chapter 16). 

Oxygen Indicator. Some vessels carry oxygen 
indicators, although these instruments are not re- 
quired by U.S. Coast Guard regulations. There 
are several different types, but all serve the same 
purpose as the flame safety lamp. That is, they are 
used to determine whether the atmosphere con- 
tains sufficient oxygen (15% or more) to sustain 
life. This is particularly important in spaces that 
have been closed for a long time, for example, 
cofferdams, deep tanks, double bottoms and chain 

The oxygen indicator is preferred over the 
flame safety lamp. It has the advantage of being 
equipped with a meter so that the actual amount 
of oxygen in the atmosphere can be determined. 
The instrument can also be used to determine 
whether a "nominally inert" gas is free of oxygen, 
that is, contains less than 5% oxygen. 

Like the combustible-gas indicator and the flame 
safety lamp, the oxygen indicator must be used 
and cared for properly. An incorrect reading on 
the meter can provide a false sense of security that 
may result in asphyxiation and death, or an incor- 
rect reading can result in a fire if, for example, hot 
work is allowed in an atmosphere that is believed 
to be inert but actually isn't. Operators should 
carefully check the manufacturer's manual sup- 
plied with the instrument for proper operation and 
maintenance procedures. 


The collision and resulting fire of the SS C. V. Sea 
Witch and SS Esso Brussels in New York harbor 
on June 2, 1973, was a major tragedy resulting in 
loss of life and in damages totaling approximately 
$23 million. In its marine casualty report released 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighling and Fire Safely 

March 2, 1976, the Department of Transporta- 
tion listed the following two contributory causes: 

The modification to the differential gear mech- 
anism stub shaft and connecting universal ... on 
23 April 1973, approximately six weeks prior to the 
collision, was improper. The milling of the stub 
shaft for the fitting of a square key to replace the 
originally designed captured or locked-in Woodruff 
key without a provision for securing the key al- 
lowed the new square key to s slip out of position 
and permit free rotaton of the shaft.* 

The extensive loss of life of the crew on the SS 
Esso Brussels may not have occurred or may have 
been greatly reduced had there been no delay in 
releasing the lifeboat falls and had the hand 
cranked lifeboat engine immediately started. 

On September 26, 1974, the SS Transhuron 
stranded at Kiltan Island, and the vessel had to be 
left for salvors. The stranding followed a loss of 
propulsion as the result of a fire in the engine 
room. The Department of Transportation, in its 
marine casualty report released December 30, 
1976, stated: 

The loss of main propulsion power was due to a 
fire in the main propulsion control desk caused by 
the action of sea water directed onto high voltage 
components in the control circuitry. Contributing 
to the fire were: 

a. Failure of a pipe nipple in a gauge connection 
in the circulating water header of the freon 
condenser of the air conditioning unit. 

b. Wasting of the material of the pipe nipple due 
to the connection of dissimilar metals in a salt- 
water environment. 

Firefighting efforts with semiportable CO2 extin- 
guishers were reported in part as follows: "The 
hose burst in way of its connection to the shut-off 
valve at the horn and the horn separated from its 
threaded connection at the valve and blew off." 
The report concludes: "Cause of the failure of the 
hose of the B-V semiportable CO2 extinguisher is 

The March 1 977 issue of the Proceedings of the 
Marine Safety Council recounts the death of the 
chief engineer of a U.S. tanker, the SS Thomas Q. 
There was no fire, although all the ingredients 
were present. The tanker was undergoing ballast- 
ing after completing discharge of a cargo of 
naphtha. The pumpman entered the pump room 
against orders and was overcome. The chief engi- 
neer attempted a rescue and was also overcome by 
the naphtha. Both were finally removed, but it was 

*This refers to the C.V. Sea Witch. 

too late for the chief engineer. Five causes contri- 
buted to the unfortunate incident, the first of 
which was equipment failure. According to the 
report, "The cargo pump seals were faulty and 
leaked naphtha." 

These documented incidents clearly indicate 
the relationship between poor preventive mainte- 
nance and fire. Consideration of the possible losses 
in both human life and dollars leaves no doubt 
that preventive maintenance and repair programs 
can return dividends well beyond their cost. 

Programs Require Supervision 

Strong leadership and the backing of management 
are necessary ingredients of preventive mainte- 
nance programs. Information should be channeled 
from the master through department heads to the 
members of each department. A preventive main- 
tenance and repair program is a form of discipline; 
to be effective, it must be carefully supervised and 

It would be beyond the scope of this book to 
outline complete programs for preventive mainte- 
nance on typical vessels. (Such programs should 
already exist on all ships.) Instead, we shall dis- 
cuss the basic elements of a program for the care 
of machinery and equipment, and its relation to 
fire prevention. A well-run program can become 
the first line of defense against fire. 

Elements of a Preventive Maintenance 

The four basic elements of a preventive mainte- 
nance program are 1) lubrication and care, 
2) testing and inspection, 3) repair or replacement, 
and 4) record keeping. 

The first three should be performed according 
to definite schedules that depend on the equip- 
ment in question. For example, some equipment 
might be serviced at various intervals during each 
watch. Other equipment might require mainte- 
nance once each watch, or daily or weekly, on up 
to annually or at even longer intervals. The manu- 
facturer's manual is the best guide for establishing 
the schedules for periodic maintenance proce- 

This is by no means a new approach to preven- 
tive maintenance. However, it does imply that 
maintenance schedules must provide the answers 
to such questions as: What controls have been 
established to ensure that the schedule is being 
followed? Have provisions been made for turnover 
in both supervisory and other personnel? Many 
existing schedules have left such questions un- 
answered. Standardized maintenance schedules 

hire Prevention Programs 


are absolutely necessary, but they are effective 
only when they are implemented. 

Lubrication and Care 

Machinery and Equipment. Probably the most 
basic element in a preventive maintenance pro- 
gram for machinery and equipment is regular and 
proper lubrication. Scheduling alone is not suffi- 
cient to ensure this, because personnel may tend 
to neglect machinery that is difficult to reach. Con- 
trols must be instituted to ensure that manufac- 
turers' lubrication recommendations are followed, 
and the lubrication schedule should be watched 
closely by supervisory personnel. 

Machinery should be lubricated carefully to 
avoid spillage because most lubricants are flam- 
mable. A spark or other source of ignition could 
quickly transform some spilled lubricant into a 
fire problem. 

Boilers and Appurtenances. Title 46 CFR (Ship- 
ping) requires that boilers, pressure vessels, pip- 
ing and other machinery be inspected and tested 
at regular intervals. If emergency repairs are re- 
quired between inspections, the nearest Officer in 
Charge of Marine Inspection, U.S. Coast Guard, 
must be notified of this fact as soon as possible 
after the repairs are completed. 

Because they involve heat and high pressure, 
boilers and appurtenances require very special 
care. Perhaps no other type of equipment pays 
higher dividends for proper preventive mainte- 
nance. On the other hand, neglect of this equip- 
ment can result in poor operation, explosion and 

Chemical treatment and testing of water and 
fuel systems are recommended to reduce corro- 
sion, prevent slag, scale and sludge buildups in 
boilers and protect diesel engines from fuel con- 
taminants. Excessive corrosion can cause tube 
failure and an explosion. Then, if the fuel supply 
is not shut down, a fuel oil fire, which can be 
difficult to control, may follow. Fuel contaminants 
can eventually lead to inefficient burning with 
resultant soot buildup on tubes and in the stack. 
A heated piece of carbon could then ignite the 

Proper maintenance of burning equipment will 
prevent fuel oil from collecting in the furnace. 
Burner tips (atomizers) should be cleaned and the 
assembly adjusted periodically, for efficient opera- 
tion and proper combustion. When not in use, a 
burner should not be left in place; it should be 
removed completely to prevent oil from dripping 
and collecting in the fire box. Any burner that has 

been shut off should be completely removed to 
preventing anyone from inadvertently attempting 
to light it. 

As a precaution, the boiler should be inspected 
regularly when it is out of service. Oil accumula- 
tions can be an indication of a malfunction or a 
leak somewhere in the system. 

Piping and Fittings. Piping and fittings that 
carry fuel, chemicals, flammable products, water 
or steam should not be abused or misused. They 
should not be used for handholds or footholds or 
for securing chain falls. The results of such misuse 
may not be evident immediately, but continued 
misuse can only weaken the equipment. It can 
lead to a slow leak or a sudden rupture. 

Leaks in piping and fittings should be repaired 
immediately. In some cases, it is only necessary 
to tighten a gasket or some screw threads. In 
others, a section of piping may have to be replaced. 
Whatever the repair, care should be taken to 
ensure that it is done properly. The repair should 
leave the piping properly aligned and supported. 

Bearings. Overheated bearings have caused a 
number of shipboard fires. Such fires can be pre- 
vented by following a few simple rules: 

1. Bearings should be lubricated with the 
appropriate amount of the proper lubricant, 
using the correct pressure. 

2. No piece of machinery should be started 
unless the operator is sure that its bearings 
have been lubricated with the proper lu- 

3. Unless absolutely necessary, no piece of 
machinery should be used if its bearings are 
in poor condition. 

4. The operator should know the approximate 
normal running temperature of the bear- 
ings and should check during operation to 
determine if they are running too hot. 

Testing and Inspection 

Fire Protection Equipment. Coast Guard regu- 
lations require owners, masters or persons-in- 
charge to ensure that portable fire extinguishers, 
semiportable fire extinguishing systems and fixed 
fire extinguishers are tested and inspected "at 
least once in every 12 months." The required tests 
are described in the appropriate USCG regula- 
tions corresponding to the service of the vessel. 
Records of such tests should be maintained in or 
with the logbook. 

No voyage should begin unless all fixed systems 
are known to be in working order, and all portable 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

extinguishers are usable and in their proper places. 
United States Coast Guard regulations require 
that the master conduct drills and inspections to 
familiarize the crew with the operation of all 
emergency equipment. The crew is the ship's 
firefighting team, but they can't be any more 
effective than the tools they are given. The crew 
should therefore share the concern of the mas- 
ter for the maintenance of this equipment. There 
are many case histories in which extinguishing 
systems and portable fire extinguishers failed 
when they were needed. In many respects, fire 
protection equipment that fails is worse than no 
protection at all. 

Fixed Systems. Frequent testing and inspection 
are the only means of detecting the need for re- 
pairs to fixed systems. As is true for other equip- 
ment, these preventive maintenance procedures 
must be scheduled at definite intervals. The fire 
and boat drills required by USCG regulations pro- 
vide an excellent opportunity for testing and in- 
spection. The following checks are suggested; any 
problems that are found should be corrected 

1. Check the capacity of the pumps by 
charging and utilizing a sufficient number 
of hoses. Check for proper volume and 
pressure and the integrity of the piping 
and fittings. 

2. Inspect the hoses for cuts and abrasions, 
proper stowage and marking. Test them 
at 45 kg (100 lb) or the highest pressure 
to which each hose will be subjected in 
service, whichever is greater. 

3. Inspect all threads and clean them with a 
wire brush if necessary. Keep the threads 
lubricated; replace gaskets when neces- 

4. Operate the all purpose nozzle, and clean 
it when necessary. Check the holes for 
clogging and corrosion. 

5. Operate the hydrant valves to ensure that 
they are ready for use. 

6. Check the stowage of applicators and 
clear the holes and internal strainer where 
necessary. Lubricate the threads and make 
sure the applicator fits the nozzle. Do not 
use lubricant on the heads. 

7. Ensure that nothing is connected to the 
system that shouldn't be. 

8. Check for proper operation of the relief 
valve, remote control pump starting and 
the pressure alarm where these controls 
are required. 

9. In foam systems, check the quantity and 
quality of the foam; operate the foam 
proportioners and driving equipment. 

10. Visually check all CO2 lines and dis- 
charge outlet heads. 

Every piece of equipment aboard ship should 
be inspected and tested before the vessel leaves 
port. No aircraft is taken from its hangar before 
all systems are checked, and before takeoff the 
pilot runs through an extensive checklist. The 
status of the equipment on a vessel prior to its 
sailing is just as critical as that on an aircraft. 
Vessel management should require a careful 
check, and the master should ensure that it is 
performed. The results of this testing and inspec- 
tion should be the subject of a formal report to 

Repair or Replacement 

It is important that repairs be performed by com- 
petent and knowledgeable people. Whether these 
are ship's personnel or shoreside contractors 
aboard or in a shipyard, controls should be estab- 
lished to ensure that repairs are done properly. 
An improper repair to an electric range in the 
galley, to a leaky joint in a fuel line or to a defec- 
tive boiler can have the same results — fire at sea. 
Regulations requiring that the U.S. Coast 
Guard be notified when equipment is repaired or 
replaced should be followed. Replacements 
should be only approved types of machinery and 
equipment. Approval is based on past perform- 
ance, and safety is an important criterion. 

Record Keeping 

The history of each major piece of machinery 
should be recorded. The record should include 
all tests, inspections, malfunctions, repairs, ad- 
justments, readings and casualties. A card file 
with a separate card for each piece of equipment 
has worked well on many ships. Such a file can 
provide new personnel with the history of each 
piece of equipment from the day it was installed. 
It can be of great help in diagnosing problems 
and in deciding when to replace machinery. 


Vessel owners and operators cannot expect the 
people who operate their ships to participate in 
a continuing fire prevention program unless they, 
the owners and operators, demonstrate their in- 
terest in the program. Active participation, ob- 
vious concern for fire safety and recognition of 
effort will demonstrate such interest. 

Fire Prevention Programs 


One way in which owners can recognize fire 
prevention efforts is by awarding a plaque to each 
vessel that achieves a certain number of "fire- 
free" years. The plaque might first be awarded for 
a five-year period. Then it would be updated for 
each successive fire-free year. The plaque would 
be mounted prominently on the vessel, where it 
could easily be viewed and admired. 

Crew members who complete firefighting and 
fire prevention training courses should receive 
recognition from both ship owners and unions. 
This recognition could be in the form of a cer- 

tificate, along with a writeup in company and 
union publications. 

If a vessel is unfortunate enough to have a fire, 
its crew should be rewarded for noteworthy fire- 
fighting efforts. The particular situation will usu- 
ally indicate the most effective method of recog- 

As noted at the beginning of this section, fire 
prevention is difficult to sell. Recognizing effort 
on an individual basis, by ship or crew member, 
will help provide the incentive to maintain a good 


U.S. Coast Guard. CG-115, Marine Engineering 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-123, Rules & Regulations 

for Tank Vessels 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-174, A Manual for the Safe 
Handling of Inflammable and Combustible 
Liquids and Other Hazardous Products 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-190, Equipment Lists 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-239, Security of Vessels & 

Waterfront Facilities 
U.S. Coast Guard. CG-257, Rules & Regulations 

for Cargo and Miscellaneous Vessels 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-329, Fire Fighting Manual 
for Tank Vessels 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-388, Chemical Data Guide 
for Bulk Shipment by Water 

U.S. Coast Guard. CG-466-1, Chemical Hazards 
Response Information System (CHRIS) 

U.S. Coast Guard. Hazardous Materials Regulations, 
Title 49 CFR, Parts 171-177 

U.S. Coast Guard. Marine Casualty Report — MAR- 
76-2 — SS Transhuron 

U.S. Coast Guard. Marine Casualty Report — MAR- 
75-6— SS CV Sea Witch— SS Esso Brussels 

U.S. Department of Labor. Safety & Health Regu- 
lations for Maritime Employment, OSHA, 
Title 29 

Preventive Maintenance in the Boiler Room Helps 
Prevent Breakdowns at Sea. Marine Engineering/ 
Log, June 1977 

Mine Safety Appliance Co. — Supplementary Inspec- 
tions, MSA Explosimeter. 

NFPA. Fire Protection Handbook. 14th ed. 

Control of Gas Hazards on Vessels to be Repaired. 
Bulletin No. 306, National Fire Protection Asso- 
ciation, Boston. 

38 Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Accommodation Areas 

Crew Quarters Yes No 

1. Direct and uncluttered means of escape - — — 

2. General alarm system in good order 

3. Area free of combustible rubbish 

4. Area free of combustibles close to sources of heat 

5. Area free of overloaded electric circuits 

6. Area free of unauthorized repairs to electrical wiring 

7. Area free of jury-rigged electrical wiring 

8. Electrical equipment properly grounded 

9. a. Extinguishers in place and unobstructed 

b. Extinguishers of proper type and size 

c. Extinguishers properly charged 

d. Date of last examination noted 

10. Noncombustible ashtrays, adequate in number and size, and properly placed 


1. Area free of combustible rubbish 

2. Noncombustible receptacles with covers provided 

3. a. Oven hood and ducts clear and free of grease 

b. Date of last cleaning recorded 

4. Extinguishing system properly marked 

5. a. Extinguishers in place and unobstructed 

b. Extinguishers of proper type and size 

c. Extinguishers properly charged 

d. Date of last examination noted on inspection tag 

6. Area free of leaking pipes and fittings 

7. Area free of overloaded electrical outlets 

8. Electrical appliances in good repair 

9. Electric oven and ranges dry 

10. Oven free of cracks or crevices 

11. Oven burners secured 

12. Noncombustible ashtrays, of adequate number and size, and properly placed 

Mess Rooms and Lounges 

1. Noncombustible ashtrays 

2. a. Extinguishers in place and unobstructed 

b. Extinguishers of proper type and size 

c. Extinguishers properly charged 

d. Date of last examination noted 

3. Fireproof containers with covers provided 

Deck Department 

1. Decks free of combustible rubbish 

2. Decks free of oil and grease 

3. Decks free of leaking pipes and fittings 

4. Electrical deck machinery in good repair 

5. Holds clean and dry before loading 

6. Cargo lights removed after loading 

7. Dangerous cargo properly stowed 

8. Cargo stowed to avoid shifting 

9. Decks free of damaged or leaking containers 

10. Dangerous-cargo manifest and cargo stowage plan in order 

11. Fuel for lifeboats properly stored 

hire Prevention Programs 39 

12. No Smoking signs posted 

13. Paints and flammables properly stowed 

14. Bos'n stores properly secured 


1. Pump room free of leaks 

2. Expansion trunks properly secured 

3. Cargo valves properly marked 

4. Venting system and screens 

Engineering Department 

1. Clear of rubbish, waste, oily rags 

2. Noncombustible receptacles with covers provided 

3. Noncombustible ashtrays of adequate number and size properly placed 

4. Decks, tank tops, clear of oil and grease 

5. Area free of leaking pipes and fittings 

6. Out-of-service boilers free of oil accumulations 

7. No combustible liquids in open containers 

8. Paints and varnishes in proper storage room 

9. Lumber in proper storage room 

10. Area free of unapproved or jury-rigged wiring 

11. Area free of unsafe or homemade stowage 

12. No unapproved electrical fixtures in paint lockers, battery rooms, etc. 

13. Warning signs (High Voltage-Keep Clear) posted 

14. Switchboard area clear and free of obstructions 

15. Area free of improper fusing or bridging 

16. Motors free of lint and dust 

17. Motors clear of combustible material 

18. Ladders clear and unobstructed 

19. No combustible runners on deck plates 

20. a. Extinguishers in place and unobstructed 

b. Extinguishers of proper type and size 

c. Extinguishers properly charged 

d. Date of last examination noted 

Fire Protection Equipment 

Ft remain System Yes No 

1. Hose in place and free of cuts and abrasions . 

2. Nozzle in place, and applicator provided (if required) 

3. Valves unobstructed and easily operated 

4. Hose spanner in place 

5. Station properly marked 

CO 2 System 

1. CO2 room clear of debris and improper stowage 

2. Operating control valves unobstructed 

3. Alarms and indicators in good order 

4. Operating controls set for proper operation 

5. Required number of CO2 cylinders on hand and connected 

6. Pipes and fittings in good condition 

7. Discharge outlets in good condition 

8. Operating instructions posted 

9. Signs posted at all CO2 alarms 


Marine Fire Prevention, Fire fighting and Fire Safety 

Foam System 

1. Hose in place and free of cuts and abrasions 

2. Nozzles and equipment ready for use 

3. Sufficient supplies of solution and/or powder 

4. Foam containers free of leaks 

5. No leaking pipes or fittings 

6. Valves in operating condition 

7. Valves and controls properly marked 

8. Operating instructions posted 

9. Monitor stations properly marked 

Steam Smothering System 

1. Pipes and fittings in good condition 

2. Operating controls properly set 

3. Operating instructions properly posted 

4. Valves marked to indicate the protected compartments 

5. Discharge outlets in good condition 

Water Spray System 

1. Apparatus marked 

2. Control valves marked to indicate the protected compartments 

3. Spray heads in place and unobstructed 

Emergency Equipment 

1. Storage space properly marked 

2. Gas mask or self-contained breathing apparatus properly located outside 
refrigeration equipment space 

3. Self-contained breathing apparatus in good condition 

4. Firefighter's outfits in good condition and stored in widely separated, 
accessible locations 

a. Self-contained breathing apparatus in good condition 

b. Lifeline free of tangles and ready for immediate use 

c. Explosion-proof flashlight with spare batteries 

d. Flame safety lamp (except tank vessels) 

e. Helmet 

f. Boots — electrically nonconducting material 

g. Gloves — electrically nonconducting material 
h. Protective clothing 

i. Fire axe 

NOTE: A no answer to any of the above items requires positive action. 

Submitted by 





Case Histories of 
Shipboard fires 

Maritime history includes many accounts of fire 
aboard ship. In some cases, efficient seamanship 
and the firefighting efforts of the crew saved the 
ship, its cargo and everyone aboard. In others, 
mistakes were made; inadequate firefighting could 
not prevent the loss of lives and property. This 
chapter contains several brief episodes of both 

These case histories make fascinating reading, 
but they have a very serious purpose: They are 
presented so that seamen who have not had per- 
sonal experience with shipboard fires may bene- 
fit from the experiences — both good and bad — of 
those who have. (See Chapters 1 and 2 for a dis- 
cussion of safety measures that could have pre- 
vented at least some of the fires that are described 
here.) The remainder of this book should be read 
in the light of these accounts. They are, in a 
sense, demonstrations of correct and incorrect 
firefighting techniques. As such, they are valuable 
to seamen who face the possibility of having to 
fight fire in a very wide range of shipboard situa- 


The Morro Castle, 508 feet in length, 70 feet 
wide, 1 1,520 gross tons and propelled by turbine 
electric drive, was considered one of the most at- 
tractive Caribbean cruise ships of the Ward Line. 
Every Saturday, for 173 voyages, she had em- 
barked from New York for a 7-day round-trip 
cruise to Havana. In addition to passengers and 
crew, she also transported mail and cargo on 
these weekly voyages. 

The Morro Castle, carrying 318 passengers 
and a crew of 231, representing six different na- 
tionalities, sailed from Havana on Wednesday, 
September 5, 1934. She was due to arrive in New 

York on Saturday morning and to sail for Havana 
again that same evening. However, 135 persons 
were to die as a result of a fire on that return 
voyage to New York. 

On the evening of Friday, September 7, the 
master became seriously ill while dining in his 
cabin. The ship's doctor administered a heart stim- 
ulant, but to no avail; the master died of heart 
failure. This misfortune placed the chief officer 
in command of the vessel and moved other officers 
upward by one rank. 

The Fire 

At 0245 on Saturday, September 8, 1934, smoke 
and possibly flames were detected by several pas- 
sengers and crewmen coming from the writing 
room on B (promenade) deck. At approximately 
the same time the night watchman detected smoke 
issuing from the cargo ventilating system. He was 
unfamiliar with the ventilating system but left to 
find the cause of the smoke, without notifying 
the bridge. He never reached hold 2 or 3, where 
he believed the fire to be located; he was stopped 
at the promenade deck by fire in the writing room 
and two forward suites. 

Stewards were vainly attempting to fight the 
fire with portable fire extinguishers. Fire hoses 
were then advanced. However, there was a con- 
siderable delay, owing to the master's prior order 
to remove certain hoses and cap some firemain 
hydrants. Hoselines had to be brought to the fire 
scene from two decks below. The master's order 
had been prompted by a lawsuit brought against 
the company by a passenger who was injured be- 
cause other passengers were playing with the fire 

The writing room had a locker in which 1 00 or 
more blankets were stored. -The blankets had 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

been cleaned commercially with a flammable 
substance, and it was in this locker that the fire 
actually started. A steward reported that the 
locker was a mass of flames when he opened its 

There was a large quantity of highly polished 
paneling in the writing room, corridors, salon, 
stairways and other passenger accommodations. 
The fire spread rapidly along this paneling, into 
the corridor, to adjoining salons and down the 
staircase to the deck below. 

The vessel had an electric fire sensor system 
capable of lighting a monitoring panel in the 
wheelhouse. The system could detect fire in 217 
staterooms, officer and crew quarters; however, 
there were no fire detectors in the lounge ball- 
room, library, writing room or dining room. At 
0256 lights began flashing on the monitoring 
panel. Every stateroom was either afire or hot 
enough to transmit an alarm. Smoke conditions 
were becoming worse, as smoke was being forced 
throughout the accommodations by the ventilat- 
ing system which had not been shut down. 

Most of the telephones were unserviceable at 
the time. Thus, the first officer had to run five 
decks below to the engine room, to order an in- 
crease in pressure on the firemain. 

At 0257 the acting master gave the signal to 
stand by the lifeboats. 

The ship's Lyle gun and powder were stored 
directly above the writing room. Shortly before 
0300 there was a huge explosion as the Lyle gun 
and 100 pounds of powder for charges became 
involved. The explosion blew out many windows 
in the immediate area, increasing the flow of 
oxygen to the fire. 

The seas were choppy, with winds of approxi- 
mately 20 knots; yet the acting master continued 
straight into the wind, thereby driving the fire 
aft. Finally, at 0300, the acting master called for 
a left rudder, turning the vessel toward shore. 

By 0310 the electric wiring was damaged by 
fire, and the ship was thrown into darkness. The 
gyrocompass, electric steering apparatus and 
standby hydraulic system were all out of action. 
There was an emergency steering system at the 
stern that could have been reached through the 
shaft tunnels. However, the acting master never 
issued an order to utilize this equipment. 

Slow speed was ordered by the acting master, 
and he began to steer the ship with the engines. 
He headed toward shore on a zigzag course. The 
order to stop all engines came at 0321. There was 
a delay when the order came to drop anchor, be- 
cause the crewmen at the release levers were un- 
familiar with their operation. The anchor was 

finally dropped by a ship's officer and the signal 
was then given to abandon ship. 

The Mono Castle's chief radio operator heard 
the Andrea Luckenbach calling WSC, the radio 
station at Tuckerton, requesting information 
about a ship on fire. He then transmitted a CQ 
(stand by for an important message) without or- 
ders from the bridge. The reply from Tuckerton 
was to stand by for 3 minutes, in compliance with 
the 3-minute silent period observed each half 
hour so that emergency messages could be re- 
ceived. Finally, at 0318, the acting master gave 
the order to transmit an SOS. 

Of the 12 lifeboats carried, only 6 were 
launched. These 6 lifeboats, with a capacity of 
408 persons, carried only 85 people, mostly crew- 
men. The chief engineer left in the first lifeboat 
with 28 other crewmen and only 3 passengers. 
The officers in the lifeboats that were lowered 
made no effort to remain close to the ship, to 
offer assistance to persons in the water or still 
aboard. Passengers had to jump or lower them- 
selves into the water by means of ropes. 

The Andrea Luckenbach was the first vessel 
to arrive at the scene, and she rescued 62 people 
in the water. At least three other vessels arrived 
and assisted in the rescue. 

Lack of Fire Protection 

The Morro Castle was fitted with 42 firemain 
outlets, thousands of feet of hose and many port- 
able fire extinguishers. She had enough lifeboats, 
rafts, life buoys and life preservers to accommo- 
date more than three times her maximum capacity 
of passengers and crew. Her cargo holds had a 
smoke detection system that was monitored in the 
wheelhouse. The cargo holds and engine room 
had fixed fire-extinguishing systems. The vessel 
had automatic fire doors, installed every 130 
feet, in addition to such doors in public areas. 
One might have believed that she was a very safe 

However, most of these safety features were 
rendered ineffective by alterations to the equip- 
ment and/or a lack of proper training. The mas- 
ter had ordered the cargo hold smoke detector 
system vented outside the wheelhouse because of 
the offensive odor of some of the cargo. The auto- 
matic fire doors had become manual doors when 
the automatic trip wires were removed. 

The crew was not trained in the handling of 
fire emergencies — either in fighting fire or in 
evacuating passengers. The capping of many fire- 
main hydrants caused a delay in advancing and 
charging hoselines and getting water to the fire. 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


Proper lifeboat drills were not held during the 
cruise, as they would have disturbed the passen- 
gers. Many passengers did not know how to don 
a life jacket properly. The policy seemed to be 
that the passengers' enjoyment came first. 

Some Conclusions 

Among the many lessons to be learned from the 
Mono Castle disaster are are following: 

1. The entire crew must be thoroughly 
trained in order to provide the discipline 
needed to function promptly, efficiently 
and effectively both in their normal as- 
signments and in any emergency that may 

2. The master must have enough confidence 
in his officers and crewmen to train them 
for positions higher in rank than their 
normal assignments. (When the master 
died, the chief officer did not have the 
knowledge required to perform the duties 
of the master.) 

3. Well planned and well conducted training 
is absolutely necessary, not only in sea- 
manship but also in the handling of 
emergencies — especially in preventing 
and combating fire and in abandoning 

4. Drills must be held for the benefit of the 
crew and passengers. Passengers do not 
need to be frightened, but should be made 
to realize that an emergency may arise 
during which they may have to abandon 

5. Officers must guide, direct and assist pas- 
sengers, and lead and supervise crew 
members. There were complaints from 
passengers about the crew, but many com- 
plimented stewards and bellboys for 
their handling of the situation without 

6. A sprinkler system, or a continuously 
monitored smoke and fire detection sys- 
tem, should be installed throughout every 
passenger vessel. Interior structural mem- 
bers, bulkheads, overheads and decks 
should be fire resistive, noncombustible 
or fire retardant. 

7. Firestops should be installed in horizontal 
and vertical voids, wherever smoke, heat 
and fire can move from one space to an- 
other. Ducts should be equipped with 
dampers that can be controlled both re- 
motely and locally. 

8. The alarm must be sounded without de- 
lay whenever smoke or fire is detected. 

9. Fire detection and firefighting systems 
and equipment should not be altered, re- 
moved or changed in any way that re- 
duces their effectiveness. 

10. Firefighting plans and drills should in- 
clude methods for controlling ventilation 
systems during firefighting operations. 

11. Flares and other pyrotechnics should be 
isolated and stored in a fire resistive space 
on the highest deck. 

12. Every effort should be made to keep pas- 
sengers and crew informed during an 
emergency, to guide them and to allay 
their fears. 


The Normandie was France's entry in the trans- 
atlantic crossing competition of the 1930s. She 
was a quadruple-screw electric steam turbine 
vessel slightly over 1000 feet in length, 80,000 
gross tons and capable of a speed of 30 knots. 
She mustered a crew of 1300 officers and men 
and could carry about 2000 passengers. There 
were 7 decks (A to G) below the main deck and 
3 decks (promenade, boat and sun) above the 
main deck, for a total of 1 1 decks. 

Since shortly before the commencing of hos- 
tilities between France and Germany in 1939, 
she had been tied up at Pier 88, North River, 
New York. Her French crew maintained the 
boilers, machinery and other equipment neces- 
sary for a ship in idle status. In May 1941, a 
U.S. Coast Guard detail was placed aboard the 
vessel "to provide safety and prevent sabotage." 
Should the United States enter the war, which she 
did some 7 months later, the Normandie would 
become the USS Lafayette, a large, fast, troop 
carrier. One week after this country entered the 
war against the Axis powers, the French crew 
was removed and the Coast Guard took over the 
ship's maintenance. 

Plans were made, scrapped, remade and made 
again to refit the ship and have her ready to pro- 
ceed to Boston within two months for further 
work. Since no drydock was available, a ship re- 
pair company was contracted to do the work at 
Pier 88. Thousands of men climbed aboard, some 
as the new crew but most as workmen. Tons of 
equipment and stores were hoisted aboard. In- 
cluded in these stores was an item that would 
seal the doom of this fine ship — almost 20 tons 
of kapok in the form of canvas-covered life pre- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Sa/eiy 

servers. Kapok is a highly flammable, oily fiber 
that is very apt to produce quick-spreading flash 
fires. It also has a high combustibility; once ig- 
nited, it supports an intense fire that is difficult 
to extinguish. 

When the vessel was in the Port of New York 
as the French Line's Normandie, she had a direct 
telephone line to the American District Tele- 
graph Company (ADT). The company is a cen- 
tral supervisory agency that receives fire alarm 
signals from subscribing customers and relays 
them to the New York City Fire Department. As 
the USS Lafayette, the ship had no fire alarm con- 
nection to a shore receiver. The French Line, no 
doubt feeling that the safety of the ship was no 
longer their responsibility, had, a month prior 
to the fire, discontinued the ADT fire alarm serv- 
ice. No government agency made any effort to 
continue or renew the fire alarm coverage. 

At the time of the fire, the vessel's elaborate 
fire detection system, with 224 fire alarm stations, 
was not working. Fire guards were employed by 
the contractor in accordance with the govern- 
ment contract, but they had been given little or 
no training. As a result, they were practically use- 
less when the fire occurred. Many of the fire ex- 
tinguishers aboard were empty, while others had 
instruction labels that were written in French. 
It would be safe to say that not many of the peo- 
ple aboard the ship that day spoke French. Hose 
connections aboard ship were in the process of 
being converted from the French coupling to the 
American hose thread. There was a U.S. Coast 
Guard fire brigade aboard but, to accommodate 
conversion work, they were relocated to a part 
of the ship remote from the central fire control 
station. So, while it appeared that fire protection 
features were maintained, in truth these features 
were of a cosmetic nature: They looked good on 
the surface but they only covered up the hor- 
rendous vulnerability of the ship. 

Every comparable French liner had been de- 
stroyed earlier by fire; the Normandie was to be 
no exception. On the afternoon of February 9, 
1942, sparks from a burner's blowtorch started 
a fire that would, within the next 12 hours, leave 
the ship a helpless wreck. Lying on her side, she 
denied the use of the pier to other vessels in the 
busiest wartime port in the United States. 

The Fire 

Normally a fire occurs when heat is introduced 
into an area containing sufficient oxygen and 
fuel. The oxygen (in the air) and the fuel (in this 
case the highly flammable kapok) were present 
when the high temperature of the cutting torch 
was brought into the area. Hot work, that is, 
welding and cutting with heat, calls for the great- 
est of surveillance. If heat in the form of an oxy- 
acetylene flame is brought into a space, one of 
the other alternatives is to remove the fuel. Re- 
moving the fuel, tons of kapok, would have been 
a difficult and time consuming operation, so an 
attempt was made to separate the kapok from the 
burner's torch. Portable equipment was used; fire 
guards would place a 2 X 3 ft asbestos board and 
a 36-inch semicircular metal shield between the 
hot work and the kapok. 

During the last 20 seconds before completion 
of the job, the people holding the protective 
shields in place started to walk away. A flame 
appeared at the base of the surrounding kapok 
pile. Workmen attempted to extinguish the fire 
with their hands. Extinguishers were either un- 
available or ineffective, and nearby fire hose con- 
tained no water. The untrained fire guards were 
useless; the one nearby fire bucket was kicked 
over by a clumsy workman. The alarm had to be 
sent to the isolated fire brigade by messenger. 

About 15 minutes after the start of the fire, 
the New York City Fire Department was finally 
alerted via a street fire alarm box. The heavy 

Origin of Fire (Grand Salon 

Main Stairway 

Figure 3.1. Profile of the Normandie, showing the grand salon where the fire originated. 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


smoke had chased the fire watchmen, fire brigade 
members and others who tried to control the fire 
away from the grand salon, where the fire had 
started (Fig. 3.1). The heavy smoke also forced 
the evacuation of the engine room. The city fire- 
fighters ran hoses aboard. (Fire departments pre- 
fer to use their own hose from their own pumpers, 
rather than rely on ship's hose, mains or pumps.) 
Fireboats directed their deck guns onto the burn- 
ing ship, and private tow boats added their fire 
streams. The sheer amount of water had a good 
and a bad effect. By 0630 the fire was declared 
under control; however, the ship had a 10° list to 
port, i.e., away from the pier. The list became 
progressively worse; at about midnight it was 35°, 
with water pouring in through open ports and a 
garbage chute that had been left open on the port 
side of the hull. The Normandie capsized 2 hours 
and 45 minutes later. 

The Causes 

What was the cause of this disaster? A quick an- 
swer might be "carelessness in handling hot 
work"; but there was more to it than that. In fact, 
there was no single cause. The destruction of this 
valuable ship was the result of many faults of 
omission and commission. Some of the more ob- 
vious were the following: 

1 . Poor planning. Within a few short months 
the ship had been under the jurisdiction of 
the French Line, the Army, the U.S. Coast 
Guard and the Navy. Only 2 days before 
the fire, the Maritime Commission affirmed 
that the Navy had assumed full responsi- 
bility for the ship. A congressional investi- 
gative committee made an unsuccessful 
attempt to find out who (which individual) 
was actually responsible for the safety of 
the ship before and during the fire. Re- 
sponsibility for the ship was respectfully 
declined by everyone questioned. The com- 
mittee found that the lines separating the 
responsibilities of the various levels of 
command, staff and support agencies and 
the ship repair people were too hazy to be 

2. Poor use of water. If care is not used in di- 
recting hose streams onto the upper parts 
of a ship, the water can and will affect the 
stability of the vessel. In the case of the 
Normandie, many tons of water were 
thrown onto the fire, 10 decks above the 
keel. The water could not run off, and it 
caused the ship to capsize. (See Chapter 8 
for a discussion of the problem of free sur- 
face water.) 

3. Welding and burning. Hot work — burning 
and welding — has been the cause of dis- 
astrous fires, both ashore and at sea. (See 
Chapter 1 for a discussion of the regula- 
tions governing hot work.) In general, re- 
pairs involving hot work should be kept to 
a minimum. The method of burning and 
the so-called precautions taken in the grand 
salon of the Normandie left much to be 
desired. The carelessness exhibited there 
was the immediate cause of the fire. Even 
so, if a charged hoseline had been avail- 
able, or if the material in the vicinity had 
been something other than kapok, there 
might not have been a disaster. The ob- 
vious conclusion is that hot work should 
be done aboard a vessel only under the 
personal supervision of a ship's officer, who 
must ensure that real safety precautions 
are observed. 

4. Surveillance — fire protection. Ships require 
greater surveillance and more fire protec- 
tion when undergoing repairs and altera- 
tions than at any other time. 

5. Previous fire experience. Those in authority 
should have been aware that every com- 
parable French liner was lost through fire. 
In addition, the Normandie, like other 
ocean greyhounds, was a "tender" ship; 
with its low metacentric height, the shift- 
ing of a small amount of weight from one 
side to the other could cause it to list. When 
ships of a certain class are subject to the 
same hazards or have suffered the same un- 
fortunate fate, steps should be taken to 
counteract the vulnerabilities. 


The 20,314-ton Lakonia was built at Amsterdam 
in 1930 for the Dutch Nederland Line and origi- 
nally named the Johan van Olbenbarnevelt. She 
was rebuilt in 1951 and again in 1959. In 1962 
she was purchased by the Greek Line and con- 
verted to a first-class cruise liner. At this time 
she was renamed Lakonia. 

On the evening of December 19, 1963, the 
Lakonia sailed from Southampton. The crew con- 
sisted of men of various nationalities, including 
Greek, British, Italian, German and Cypriot, 
which probably created a communication prob- 
lem. The passengers were mostly British, includ- 
ing a large percentage of older persons looking 
forward to a holiday cruise. 

A boat drill was held on December 20. As was 
usual on cruise ships during the period, this drill 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

was completed as quickly as possible. Passengers 
were assembled at their stations, but no boats 
were lowered; the passengers were not properly 
instructed in the use of their life jackets. 

The Fire 

The captain was notified by a crew member at 
2250 that smoke was issuing from the main for- 
ward staircase and the main ballroom. Passengers 
stated that approximately 10 minutes earlier they 
observed the stewards breaking down the door to 
the hairdressing salon. The stewards attempted to 
control the fire using portable fire extinguishers, 
but their efforts were unsuccessful. No fire alarm 
was sounded before the attempt to extinguish the 
fire, and this delay consumed precious time. As 
soon as he was notified of the fire, the master 
ordered the radio officer to send an SOS giving 
their position, approximately 180 miles north of 
Madeira. This order, even though precautionary, 
was proper. 

An order was given for passengers to assemble 
in the restaurant, which was three decks below 
the promenade deck and had only one staircase. 
Fortunately, many passengers refused to obey 
this order, which would have created a great deal 
of congestion and possibly panic. Some commo- 
tion was caused by passengers looking for rela- 
tives and friends, but no real panic. 

The master ordered the boats lowered at 2400. 
The sea was calm, help was on the way and the 
24 lifeboats were more than adequate to handle 
the 1036 persons aboard. However, 95 passen- 
gers and 33 crewmen lost their lives in this ma- 
rine casualty. How and why did it happen? 

Probable Causes for the Tragedy 

The public address system broke down, causing 
a lack of communication and creating much con- 
fusion. Uniformed deck officers were not present 
to supervise the loading of the lifeboats. Many 
seamen were fighting the fire, so the lowering of 
the boats was left to untrained stewards. 

Many boats were not properly stocked with 
equipment. Their launching gear was in disre- 
pair — jammed and improperly lubricated. Seven- 
teen boats were lowered successfully, but many 
of these were not fully loaded. Some passengers 
were reluctant to enter boats after seeing one 
dump its passengers into the water. The absence 
of uniformed leaders also influenced passengers' 

Many passengers and crewmen were still 
aboard when fire disabled the remaining lifeboats. 
To survive, these people had to go over the side, 

relying on their life jackets and floating objects 
for support. 

British and American aircraft dropped life 
rings and rafts to people in the water, greatly re- 
ducing the number of casualties. The Argentine 
liner Salta, British freighter Montcalm, United 
States Rio Grande and Pakastani Mahdi re- 
sponded to the scene and assisted in rescue 
work. This, no doubt, was a result of the prompt 
transmission of the SOS on the orders of the 

Among the lessons to be learned from this in- 
cident are the following: 

1. Crew members must receive training in 
firefighting operations that will not hamper 
Abandon Ship procedures. Hoselines 
should be operated from positions between 
the fire and the lifeboats, to enable passen- 
gers to safely reach and use the boats. 

2. Lifeboat drills should require passenger 
participation under the direction of knowl- 
edgeable crewmen. 

3. Uniformed crew members must be at their 
assigned positions, in accordance with the 
station bill, to function as a trained team. 

4. During training, emphasis must be placed 
on the importance of sounding the alarm 
at the earliest possible moment. 

5. Effective communication throughout a ves- 
sel is essential, to keep passengers and crew 
informed and to coordinate crew opera- 

6. Passenger and crew accommodations 
should be free of combustible structural 
material and furnishings. 

7. Smoke detection devices and sprinkler sys- 
tems provide excellent protection for pas- 
senger and crew accommodations. 

8. Lifeboats, davits and jackets must be in- 
spected frequently to ensure serviceability 
during an emergency. 


The Rio Jachal was a cargo and passenger ship 
of Argentine registry, 527 feet in length, with a 
65-foot beam and 18,000-ton displacement. It 
had completely air-conditioned accommodations 
for 116 passengers, and four cargo holds with a 
4000-ton capacity. It had been placed in service 
in 1950. 

On the morning of September 28, 1962, the 
Rio Jachal left the Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn 
for Pier 25, North River, to take on 3000 tons of 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


cargo and about 70 passengers for a September 
30 sailing. She tied up on the north side of Pier 
25. Late that evening, two U.S. Customs port in- 
vestigators having business on the pier learned 
that there was a fire on board the Rio Jachal. The 
alarm was relayed to a pier watchman who left 
the pier and crossed a wide street to send an 
alarm from a city fire alarm box, bypassing tele- 
phones on the vessel and pier. The alarm had 
been seriously delayed on the vessel and was fur- 
ther delayed by the watchman. 

The passenger space aboard the Rio Jachal 
could be described as a combustible, wooden 
framed, floating hotel within steel bulkheads. 
These steel bulkheads were covered with wood 
studding and plywood paneling, which concealed 
voids varying to 12 inches in depth. The hanging 
plywood ceilings covered voids up to 24 inches. 
The passageways were also covered with plywood 
panels, and the staterooms had wood veneer doors 
that were not self-closing. The staterooms them- 
selves were separated by combustible partitions 
of wood studding and plywood. However, these 
staterooms, in groups of 2, 3 or 4, were located 
within steel transverse bulkheads. Readily ignit- 
able furnishings were used throughout the state- 
rooms and public spaces. 

The Fire 

Crew members discovered dense smoke in unoc- 
cupied stateroom number 309 on B deck at ap- 
proximately 2120. The ship was equipped with 
an automatic fire detection system. The involved 
stateroom (Fig. 3.2) was equipped with a thermo- 
static device, actuated at 140°F, that registered 
an audible and visual alarm on the bridge. Un- 
fortunately, the bridge was unoccupied and 
locked when the ship was in port, so the system 
was not monitored. 

In attempting to put out the fire, the crew first 
employed fire extinguishers and then hoselines. 
However, the fire developed in intensity and vol- 
ume and forced the crewmen to retreat so rapidly 
that they were unable to close the watertight 
doors in the area near the fire site (Fig. 3.2). 
There were 1 1 watertight doors on the vessel, 9 
of them on B deck. However, the locations of the 
doors were untenable, owing to the rapid exten- 
sion of the fire. The crew did manage to close 
two watertight doors immediately forward of the 
fire area on B deck, with control wheels located 
on the deck directly above. This effectively 
stopped the forward advance of the fire. 

The fire extended from stateroom 309 to the 
passageway and then moved fore and aft. The 


.Promenade Deck 

Stateroom 309 

o o o o o 


s'sss'JS's 77TfrFJfI}JJJJ}f f / 7~J J * I > 1 1 1 I ' 



4 * 

V ivvj I I- // ,/ 

— ~ — - — . r gsc Open Wate r zzgjzzzzz Closed^ Water-tight 

-tight Door 

i r 

: DoorJI 1 

Figure 3.2. Cutaway view of part of the Rio Jachal. The arrows show the extension of the fire from stateroom 309 (the site 
of the fire) to the bridge. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

strongest draft was aft. The fire moved through 
the open watertight door and up the unenclosed 
semicircular stairway to A deck. From there, it 
extended from deck to deck, along passageways 
and stairways, until it reached the bridge. 

On the main deck one fire door was closed, 
but the other three fire doors in the passageways 
did not close. One switch on the bridge could 
have closed all these doors simultaneously, but 
the crew was unable to reach it. In fact, the bridge 
area was burned out, so that all above-deck 
power, pump, and fuel-transfer control systems 
were inoperative. In all, six deck levels were afire 
through the midship section. 

There was no evidence of fire spread other than 
through stairways and passageways. Even the 29 
individual air conditioning systems, with ducts 
concealed in the dropped ceiling, communicated 
little or no fire. Spread was horizontal and verti- 
cal — essentially a surface fire feeding on the com- 
bustible frame interior and furnishings. Con- 
cealed spaces were not a major problem. 

Firefighting Operations 

The first-arriving firefighters promptly stretched 
hoselines down the pier and then to A deck and 
the main deck, in an attempt to confine the fire. 
Other firefighters checked the holds and engine 
room for fire, removed passengers, and awakened 
crew members asleep in cabins. Aboard at the 
time were 12 officers, 40 crew members and 7 
passengers who were using the ship as their hotel. 

Firefighters were met by the master, officers 
and crew members, but they encountered lan- 
guage difficulties and had trouble communicating 
effectively. However, one of the firemen spoke 
fluent Spanish, and he was immediately enlisted 
as an interpreter. Because of the length of time 
taken to transmit the alarm, the fire had a good 
start and was difficult to control. Not long after 
arrival, the firefighters had to call for additional 

A decision was made to leave the ship at the 
pier, rather than move it. Though the ship was 
not fully loaded, it could not be considered light. 
It was, however, in stable condition, with the bal- 
last tanks filled, diesel fuel close to capacity and 
935 tons of cargo in the four holds. 

Firefighters were ordered to reach the heart of 
the fire on B deck and to advance lines into posi- 
tion on the upper decks. Many hoselines were 
brought into the ship, as an aggressive interior 
attack was essential. Water from the streams was 
trapped on the upper decks, creating an unfavor- 
able stability condition. 

Ventilation of the fire area had to be very 

closely coordinated with advancement of lines, 
to ensure that drafts did not draw fire into unin- 
volved spaces. Each deck had to be vented hori- 
zontally; the prevailing wind, blowing across the 
vessel from starboard to port, was a factor in vent- 
ing through the exterior windows. The only verti- 
cal ventilation was through the stairways, which 
ended at the bridge. 

Three fireboats were moored to the port side 
of the Rio Jackal. After the initial hoselines from 
the first-arriving firefighting units were in posi- 
tion, all water could have been supplied by the 
fireboats. Fireboat deck pipes were not generally 
used. Their heavy streams would have extin- 
guished very little interior fire, but would have 
added large volumes of water to the decks, wors- 
ening the stability problem. They also could have 
seriously hampered personnel operating in the in- 
terior. Deck pipes were used only to prevent ex- 
tension of the fire to wooden lifeboats, when 
flames issued from the portholes. Even then, they 
were used only momentarily. 

The Starboard List 

During these firefighting operations, the ship's 
stability had to be monitored continually. Before 
the fire, the ship was in balance, with the center 
of gravity and the center of buoyancy on the 
same vertical plane. As tons of water collected on 
the starboard side, the center of gravity shifted 
causing the ship to list toward the pier; when the 
list reached an angle of about 15°, the master and 
fire chief became very concerned. 

Good progress had been made in controlling 
the fire. However, the master, the fire chief and 
their staffs knew that final extinguishment could 
not be accomplished until the list was corrected, 
otherwise the continued use of water would cause 
the ship to capsize and spread fire to the pier. 
They decided to shut down all water as a first 
step in correcting the list. For safety, all person- 
nel were ordered off the vessel. Then a few men 
equipped with breathing apparatus returned to 
the ship to contain the fire with minimal use of 

Meanwhile, three crew members and six fire- 
fighters, all equipped with breathing apparatus, 
descended into the engine room to try to correct 
the list. (The clinometer at the operations plat- 
form showed a 15° list to starboard when they 
reached the smoke-filled engine room.) The list 
was to be corrected by discharging ballast 
water — a hazardous operation requiring knowl- 
edge and skill. Since the ship was without power, a 
generator had to be started. The party in the en- 
gine room located the compressed-air tank; after 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


about 10 minutes they succeeded in turning over 
the generator. Immediately the bowels of the ship 
lit up as power was supplied to the lighting sys- 
tem. Once power was available, the transfer and 
ballast pumps could be operated, and work could 
be started on correcting the list. 

Five hundred tons of water were discharged 
from the starboard ballast tanks by one pump 
operating for 15-20 minutes. Only 2.5 tons of 
diesel fuel could be transferred from the star- 
board to the port tanks because the latter were 
almost filled to capacity. Now the clinometer read 
6° to starboard. Measures were then taken to 
relieve the upper decks of water, e.g., removing 
stateroom windows and setting up eductors. 

As the ship was righted, the previously burned- 
out portions of the upper decks afforded less fuel 
for fire extension. All firefighters then returned 
to their lines. The strategically placed personnel 
readily extinguished the remaining fire. Within 
2 hours after the first alarm was sounded the fire 
was under control and the Rio Jackal was very 
close to an even keel. 

Successful Conclusion 

The crew and professional firefighters had worked 
valiantly and efficiently to confine the fire and 
thereby . save the vessel. Although some areas 
were severely damaged, the fire was confined to 
the midship section of the vessel. This successful 
operation emphasizes several important factors: 

1 . Early detection of smoke and/or fire is vital 
for the protection of passengers, crew, ves- 
sel and cargo. This is true at sea, at an- 
chorage, moored at a pier or in a shipyard. 
It is therefore important to monitor all 
smoke and fire detection devices at all 
times. At sea, this fire may have been de- 
tected earlier and suppressed quickly. The 
fire detection system would have been 
monitored, the bridge and engine room 
fully manned and a trained fire party ready 
to respond to room 309 on B deck. 

2. Remote locations for the control of water- 
tight doors must be readily accessible to 
crew members. 

3. The stability of the vessel is of paramount 
importance. During a firefighting opera- 
tion, water must be used wisely because of 
the adverse effect it may have on stability. 

4. When language difficulties are encoun- 
tered, an interpreter should be found; com- 
plete and reliable communication is ex- 
tremely important. 

5. When a vessel in drydock, at anchorage or 
at a pier experiences a fire, the local fire 
department will probably assist with, or 
take over, the firefighting operations. The 
master should be prepared to provide gen- 
eral arrangement plans and other plans that 
may be needed, and to assign crew mem- 
bers to guide and assist the professional 

6. Professional firefighters coming aboard a 
vessel usually will not use the ship's fire- 
main. They prefer to employ their own 
equipment, since it is more familiar and 
they are certain that it is dependable. 

7. In passenger ship fires, it is important to 
locate and control stairways to contain the 
vertical extension of smoke, heat and fire. 

8. Whenever possible, hoselines should be 
advanced to the fire from below or along 
the same deck level to avoid the rising heat 
of the fire. Hoselines should not be 
stretched down ladders in the vicinity of 
the fire, because they may be enveloped in 
heat and smoke. 

9. A delay in transmitting the fire alarm gives 
the fire more time to extend and to increase 
in severity. 


From the time she was constructed in 1927 for 
the Eastern Steamship Company, the Evangeline, 
as she was originally named, sailed under several 
national flags and ownerships. This 379-foot, 
5000-gross ton, 2474-net ton vessel also served 
as a troopship during World War II. In 1965 she 
was renamed the Yarmouth Castle and sailed as 
a cruise ship for the Chadade Steamship Com- 
pany of Panama. 

Under the command of a 35-year-old master 
the Yarmouth Castle sailed for Nassau on the 
evening of November 12, 1965, on a regular bi- 
weekly cruise. The ship carried 165 crew mem- 
bers and 376 passengers, including 61 members 
of the North Broward, Florida, Senior Citizens 
Club. This organization was to lose 22 of its 
members as a result of the fire that ensued. 

The Fire 

At approximately 0100 Saturday, November 13, 
as the Yarmouth Castle was in Northwest Provi- 
dence Channel abeam of Great Stirrup Bay, the 
odor of smoke was detected in the engine room. 
The smoke was thought to be coming from the 
galley bakeshop area via the ventilating system. 
This area was searched, but no fire was found. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Within minutes passengers and other crew 
members smelled smoke and began searching for 
the source. Many believed the fire to be in the 
men's toilet on the promenade deck, since smoke 
was issuing from that location. Unknown to the 
search party, which was increasing in size, the 
fire was in storage room 610, one deck below on 
the main deck. There was considerable confusion 
among the search party, which now included the 
master and the cruise director. 

When the fire was finally located in room 610, 
members of the crew fought the fire with hand 
fire extinguishers. When this proved futile, hose- 
lines were advanced, and the engine room was 
ordered to start the fire pumps. This too proved 
ineffective, and fire spread into the corridors and 
toward the stairwells. The inexperienced fire- 
fighters were driven back by the intense heat and 
smoke. At this point the master returned to the 

No alarm had been sounded yet, but some pas- 
sengers were awakened by the noise, and more 
became aware of the odor of smoke. The pas- 
sengers in the ballroom were among the last to 
learn of the problem as a woman dashed into the 
room screaming "Fire." 

The bridge ordered the engines and ventilating 
system shut down at 0120. Watertight doors in 
the engine room were closed. On orders of the 
master, an SOS was transmitted. Because the 
radio shack was afire, the message had to be sent 
by blinker to two ships that were sighted. 

The order to abandon ship was given at 0125, 
however, it could not be transmitted because the 
wheelhouse was burning and had been abandoned. 
At this time the fire was very heavy amidships, 
with flames leaping high into the air. Only 4 of 
the 14 lifeboats were lowered, and the master 
was in one of the first boats to leave. He later re- 
turned to the Yarmouth Castle and explained 
that he left to get assistance. One of the early 
boats to leave had mostly crew aboard; only four 
passengers were lowered with the boat. 

At 0155 the U.S. Coast Guard was notified by 
the Finnish ship SS Finnpulp that she had sighted 
a ship afire. Aircraft were dispatched from Miami 
for confirmation, observation and rescue if pos- 
sible. The Finnpulp and the Panamanian liner 
Bahama Star both steamed toward the Yarmouth 
Castle to offer assistance. One passenger stated 
that the Bahama Star put 14 boats into the water. 
The Finnpulp put both her boats into the water. 

The master returned to his ship at approxi- 
mately 0300, after most of the passengers and 
crew had left the vessel. Many had to jump into 
the water, hoping to be picked up by lifeboats 
from the two rescue ships. 

The Yarmouth Castle sank at approximately 
0600. The toll in lives was 85 passengers and 
2 crewmen. If the Finnpulp and Bahama Star had 
not been close by at the time of the disaster, many 
more lives would have been lost. 

Room 610, where the fire originated, was not 
equipped with a sprinkler system. Even a mini- 
mal system would have resulted in early detec- 
tion and confinement, and possibly extinguish- 
ment. This storage room contained mat- 
tresses, chairs, paneling and other combustible 
materials — a relatively high fire loading for a 
small space. 

Lack of Fire Protection 

There are many lessons to be learned from a 
tragedy of this magnitude. Among them are the 

1. Early detection of fire and the prompt 
sounding of the alarm are most essential. 

2. The crew must be aware of the importance 
of fire prevention. A crew with the proper 
attitude toward fire prevention would not 
have stored so much combustible material 
in a room without the protection of a 
sprinkler system. 

3. It is the responsibility of the master and 
other officers to continually train and drill 
crew members, so that they will function 
effectively in an emergency. Practical train- 
ing in the use of portable fire extinguishers, 
hoselines and breathing apparatus is essen- 

4. The orders to transmit an SOS and to 
abandon ship cannot be delayed until it is 
no longer possible to do either safely and 

5. A smoke detecting and/or sprinkler sys- 
tem should be required in passenger and 
crew accommodations. 

6. Combustible interior construction and fur- 
nishings should be eliminated wherever 
they can be replaced with fire resistive, 
noncombustible and fire retardant ma- 

7. The master should never have left his ship. 
His responsibility was to direct and lead 
his crew in containing the fire and safely 
evacuating the passengers and themselves. 

8. This fire might have been confined and 
extinguished by the crew if they had been 
trained to report the fire immediately, or- 
der the fire pump started, use portable fire 
extinguishers skillfully and quickly advance 
hoselines while wearing self-contained 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


breathing apparatus. In other words, 
prompt and efficient firefighting could have 
been successful in this case. 


The Kill Van Kull is a narrow estuary connecting 
Newark Bay with the Upper Bay of New York 
harbor; it lies between the southern tip of Bay- 
onne, New Jersey, and the north shore of Staten 
Island. On the afternoon of June 16, 1966, visi- 
bility in the channel was excellent, the tempera- 
ture was 85 °F, the wind was in a southwesterly 
direction at 8 knots and the water temperature 
was approximately 62 °F. It was hardly a day on 
which a nautical catastrophe would be likely to 
occur. Yet, before the sun set that evening, one 
of the worst ship disasters ever experienced in 
New York harbor took place; 33 men lost their 
lives, and 64 were injured. 

A collision between the tankers MV Alva Cape 
and SS Texaco Massachusetts resulted in an ex- 
plosion and fire that involved these two vessels 
and two tugboats, the Esso Vermont and the 
Texaco Latin American. The story will long be 
remembered, not only by those fortunate enough 
to survive the holocaust, but also by the men who 
fought the blaze. Their valiant efforts were suc- 
cessful in subduing the four separate ship fires 
that raged almost simultaneously. 

The Collision 

At 1357, the Massachusetts left her berth at Tex- 
aco's Bayonne Terminal, having just discharged 
2,242,800 gallons of gasoline, bound for Port 
Arthur, Texas. At this time her 27 cargo tanks 

were tightly closed and empty except for seawater 
ballast in her nos. 3, 5 and 7 center and no. 5 
wing tanks. The tug Latin American, alongside 
on her port bow approximately 150 feet aft, was 
no longer assisting the tanker to maneuver out 
into the channel. Aboard the Massachusetts were 
a total of 41 persons — a crew of 39 and 2 pilots. 

The Alva Cape was heading up the Kill Van 
Kull with 132,854 barrels (5,579,868 gallons) of 
naphtha in 21 tanks. The naphtha was to be dis- 
charged at Bayway, New Jersey. The majority of 
the 44 men aboard the Alva Cape were orientals 
from the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. 

By 1407 the Alva Cape was just under the Bay- 
onne Bridge, slightly to the right of the middle 
of the channel (Fig. 3.3). The Vermont was mov- 
ing up fast astern of the Alva Cape, along her 
starboard quarter, in an effort to overtake her. 
The Massachusetts reduced her speed from Slow 
Ahead to Dead Slow Ahead; 2 minutes later the 
Massachusetts went from Dead Slow Ahead to 
Full Astern. The two vessels were now approxi- 
mately X¥i ship lengths apart. Because a col- 
lision seemed certain, both vessels dropped an- 
chor. Contact was made at 1412; the prow of the 
Massachusetts sliced the no. 1 starboard wing 
tank of the Alva Cape 10 feet deep and 15 feet 
below the waterline. 

Explosion and Fire 

The Massachusetts, with her engines full astern, 
immediately began to back away from the Alva 
Cape. For about 3 minutes there was no evidence 
of any smoke or fire. However, as naphtha cas- 
caded from the ruptured tank, a mist of vapor 
could be seen spreading over the water, encircling 
the two vessels. 

Shortly thereafter a tremendous explosion was 
heard near the Alva Cape, and then a second 


Bayonne Bridge 

— \/' /y \Y-GoethaIs Bridge 


Figure 3.3. The area of the collision between the Massachusetts and the Alva Cape. The Massachusetts had left from point 
A, and the Alva Cape was headed for point B. The ships are shown in their final positions after the collision. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighiing and Fire Safety 

blast near the Massachusetts. The water between 
the two tankers, approximately 450 feet apart at 
this time, was engulfed in flames. The current 
quickly carried the flames around the starboard 
side of the Massachusetts. Within a few minutes, 
a third explosion was heard. Most probably the 
Vermont was the source of ignition for the ex- 
plosion near the Alva Cape, and the explosion 
near the Massachusetts was caused by the Latin 

Via radio, a Moran tugboat captain reported 
to his dispatcher that two tankers had collided 
and were afire. The dispatcher immediately tele- 
phoned the Marine Division of the New York 
City Fire Department. A tall dark column of 
smoke, clearly observed in the vicinity of Bay- 
onne, New Jersey, confirmed the fire. Immedi- 
ately, orders were transmitted to three fireboats, 
the Smith (Marine Company 8), the McKean 
(Marine Company 1) and the Firefighter (Marine 
Company 9), to respond to the fire. 

Conditions Upon Arrival 

The first land units to arrive observed two tank- 
ers and two tugboats afire beyond their immediate 
reach. The Alva Cape was pivoting on her anchor 
in a clockwise direction, because of the current 
and wind. The water surrounding the Alva Cape 
was covered with flaming naphtha; the paint was 
burning off her hull above the waterline, from 
bow to stern. Considerable fire was visible on the 
main deck, in the midship and after superstruc- 
tures, and from the hole in the hull (Fig. 3.4). The 
intensity of the fire made survival seem hopeless 
for those who had not already abandoned ship. 
Both vessels drifted toward the tank farm at 
Bayonne, with the Vermont between them. The 
Alva Cape dropped her starboard anchor and the 
Massachusetts dropped her port anchor, which 

limited their movement. They came to a tempo- 
rary halt with the Massachusetts' starboard stern 
alongside the port stern of the Alva Cape, and 
here they continued to burn. The Massachusetts 
was burning mainly in and around the stern super- 
structure, with paint burning on the hull and 
gasoline vapors aflame at tank vents. It was 
learned later that because of her deep draft and 
the mud flats in the immediate area, the Alva Cape. 
could not drift closer to Bayonne. 

Obviously, the first land-based firefighters to 
arrive had to wait for the fireboats before starting 
an attack. The ships were beyond the reach of 
land apparatus, and the fire was too large for any 
equipment that could be transported by police 
launch or tugboat. All available U.S. Coast Guard 
and police launches, tugboats and private boats 
were fully occupied with the recovery of persons 
in the water. 

When the fireboats pulled up to the burning 
tankers, firefighters attempted to determine what 
specific liquid was burning. The flames coming 
from the hole in the Alva Cape indicated a very 
volatile substance. Other questions arose. Was 
there just one kind of liquid, or was this a "drug- 
store" tanker, carrying a wide variety of liquid 
cargo? How much did each tanker carry? From 
the way they rode in the water, it was evident that 
the Alva Cape was carrying near capacity, while 
the Massachusetts was carrying a minimum load. 
The scent of naphtha vapors was not discern- 
ible until members approached close to the star- 
board side of, or boarded, the Alva Cape. Then 
they knew what the cargo was! Naphtha has a 
flash point (closed cup) below — 25 °F and an 
initial boiling point of 105°F. It is lighter than 
water and is not soluble in water. Its flamma- 
bility limits are approximately 1% and 6%. 

Poop Deck 




Bridge Deck 







Upper Deck 



Figure 3.4. Superstructure and tank decks for the Alva Cape. Arrow marks the point of impact. 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 



The fireboat Smith, when it arrived at the scene 
of the collision, proceeded directly to the burn- 
ing vessels. The Firefighter first pulled into a 
Staten Island pier to take firefighters aboard, and 
then also went to the fire. The fireboats' first op- 
eration was to separate the two tankers, to pro- 
tect the Massachusetts from becoming further in- 
volved in fire. The Smith was ordered to operate 
as a wedge between the tankers, using all moni- 
tors to extinguish fire and cool down both tankers. 

The Smith maneuvered between the two tank- 
ers, followed by the Firefighter. The full water 
discharge capacities of both boats were needed 
to protect the firefighters aboard the Smith from 
the intense heat. With the fireboats in position, 
tugs were able to raise the Massachusetts' anchor 
and tow her away from the Alva Cape. The fire- 
boat Harvey (Marine Company 2) was dispatched 
to accompany the Massachusetts to anchorage. 
Enroute, her crew extinguished the remaining 
fire on the tanker. 

When the Massachusetts was towed off, all 
fireboats maneuvered to the ruptured starboard 
side of the Alva Cape. Fireboats amidships and 
astern concentrated their monitor attacks to make 
the Alva Cape tenable for boarding with hand- 
lines. The Smith employed a foam attack to con- 
trol the fire on the water and in the no. 1 star- 
board wing tank. Once the fire in the gaping hole 
in the bow was controlled, firefighters from the 
three fireboats boarded the burning tanker with 
fog and foam handlines. Aboard the vessel, the 
firefighters were faced with four fires of major 
proportion; these were located in 

1. The forward storage tanks and the hole in 
the starboard wing tank 

2. The amidship storage tanks 

3. The amidship superstructure 

4. The stern crew quarters. 

Two fire attack teams were formed — one to 
handle the fire in the forward storage tanks and 
damaged starboard wing tank, and one to handle 
the amidship storage tanks. Fog streams were 
used to cool the deck plates and protect the men 
while they introduced foam into the ullage open- 
ings (inspection holes) and through breaks in the 
steel combings of the expansion tanks, to control 
the fires in the storage tanks. 

At this time, the naphtha issuing from the hole 
in the wing tank reignited and burned several of 
the firefighters. This second fire was more diffi- 
cult to control than the first but eventually was 
brought under control by alternately using fog 
streams and foam lines. 

To ensure extinguishment, the heat in the tanks 
and deck plates had to be dissipated, and the rate 
of vaporization of the naphtha reduced. The gas- 
kets of the hatch covers on the storage tanks were 
smoldering and had to be quenched and removed. 
The covers of the expansion tanks were then 
opened for better access to the storage tanks; the 
foam streams were redirected to seal the foam 
blanket. Opening the tank covers also allowed 
the heat to dissipate more quickly by convection. 

During this period, the naphtha vapors con- 
tinued to penetrate the foam blanket; when a 
hatch cover fell and created a mechanical spark, 
the escaping vapors were reignited. However, the 
foam blanket restricted the fire to a limited area, 
and it was quickly controlled. At this point, a 
holding force could control the tanks, and the 
main firefighting force could direct their atten- 
tion to the bridge and amidship quarters. 

While the major problem had been solved, the 
most punishing one remained — the control and 
search of the after crew quarters. Even though 
considerable time elapsed before firefighters at- 
tempted to enter this area, the heat was unbeliev- 
able. The fire in this area had been particularly 
intense, and the furnishings and contents of the 
compartments were completely incinerated. Self- 
contained breathing apparatus and frequent ro- 
tation of personnel were required, even in the 
upper-deck compartments. Progress was very 
slow, particularly in penetrating the rope locker 
and other below-deck areas. Through effective 
leadership, close control, rotation of forces and 
the determination and courage of the men, con- 
trol was achieved around midnight. 

The tugboats Latin American and Vermont 
were towed to Shooters Island and a Staten Island 
shipyard. They were carefully examined, and all 
fire was extinguished by land-based firefighters. 

The fire was declared under control fairly early. 
However, it took approximately 12 hours to un- 
cover and extinguish the very last traces of fire 
and ensure that there was no reignition of vapors, 
in or out of the tanks. 

Stability was never a serious problem, even 
though the Alva Cape developed a list to star- 
board as the tide receded. Her port side was up 
against the mud flats, with the starboard side 
floating. A tugboat was used to keep the Alva 
Cape against the mud flats, to help maintain sta- 
bility. Eductors were used in the two superstruc- 
tures, but the water that collected there did not 
adversely affect stability. 


1. If the vessels involved had communicated 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

with each other via radiotelephone, this 
tragic accident might have been prevented. 

2. Once a fire involving flowing volatile and 
combustible liquids is extinguished, pre- 
cautions must be taken against reignition. 
Reignition can cause serious injuries, and 
the fire may be more difficult to extinguish 
the second time. Flotation rings, hose 
streams, emulsifiers and foam blankets 
must be employed to prevent reignition. 

3. In this kind of situation, where flammable 
vapors can exist over a large area, the ac- 
tions of each individual must be closely 
supervised. A carelessly dropped tool, a 
nail in a shoe, a short in some emergency 
electrical equipment or a disturbance in 
the pool of flammables can cause an explo- 
sion and loss of life. Caution and discipline 
are imperative. 

4. Traffic control in the vicinity of such a fire 

is critical. Collisions, the ignition of escap- 
ing vapors and interference with the ma- 
neuvering of marine firefighting units must 
be prevented. 

5. In a situation as hazardous and potentially 
explosive as this one, only minimal man- 
power should be committed. To minimize 
the risk to firefighters, the fire problem can 
be separated into parts and the parts at- 
tacked in sequence on a priority basis. 

6. In salvage operations involving tankers, 
flammable products should only be re- 
moved by methods that safeguard against 
the formation of explosive atmospheres. 

7. Firefighting can be very punishing physi- 
cally. Crewman fighting a fire of this cali- 
ber should wear full protective clothing 
and breathing apparatus. They must be 
rotated to minimize their exposure time. 


The SS San Jose was on a voyage from San Fran- 
cisco to Viet Nam, via Guam. Approximately 95 
miles west-northwest of Guam, on November 11, 
1967, at 1850, there was a fire in the vessel's 
boiler room. The vessel subsequently lost all 
power and had to be abandoned. However, she 
was reboarded later and towed to Guam. There 
were no deaths as a result of the incident, and 
only one crew member was slightly injured. 

The vessel was classed as a freighter (reefer), 
was 6573 gross tons and 3410 net tons, and had 
a length of 433 feet and a beam of 61.2 feet. Pro- 
pulsion was by steam, at 12,000 horsepower. She 

was built in Alabama in 1945 and was owned by 
the United Fruit Company. 

At the time of the casualty, there was a north- 
easterly wind at 20-25 knots, with a moderate 
northeasterly sea and swell. The air temperature 
was 80°F, and the water temperature 82°F. The 
sky was overcast, with visibility limited only by 
dusk and darkness. Typhoon Gilda was located 
approximately 440 miles southwest of Guam, 
moving westerly at 12 knots. 

On July 19, 1967, the ship's firefighting equip- 
ment was serviced and found to be in proper 
working order. Remote shutdowns for the ves- 
sel's fuel and ventilation systems were tested on 
July 25, 1967, and found to be satisfactory. Out- 
lets for the fixed CO2 system in the boiler room 
were located both below the floor plates and 
around the boiler room perimeter, at a height of 
about 8 feet above the floor plates. The CO2 
manifold was recessed in the boiler room casing 
in the port passageway of the crew quarters. 

At San Francisco, the vessel loaded 3400 tons 
of refrigerated cargo and 6308 barrels of bunker 
C fuel oil. The fuel was carried in double-bottom 
and deep tanks. Its specific gravity was 1.027 and 
its flash point between 225° to 230°F. The San 
Jose left for Guam on October 27, 1967. During 
the passage to Guam, oil was consumed from nos. 
1, 2 and 3 double-bottom tanks and was trans- 
ferred daily to the port and starboard settling 
tanks in the boiler room. 

The San Jose arrived at Apra Harbor, Guam, 
on November 10, 1967, at 1300, and discharged 
350 tons of cargo. Five tons of ammunition was 
loaded on deck abreast of each side of the fore- 
mast, and 5766 barrels of fuel, commonly re- 
ferred to as "Navy special," was taken on board 
via the port fueling station. This fuel has a spe- 
cific gravity of 0.878, and a flash point of 192°F. 
The San Jose left Guam before 1200 on Novem- 
ber 11,1967. 

The port and starboard settling tanks each had 
a capacity of. 615 barrels of oil. The height of the 
oil in a full tank was 23 feet, 8 inches. Operating 
procedures aboard the San Jose required pump- 
ing the oil to a height of 22 feet, or about 570 
barrels. Each tank terminated in a raised hatch 
or expansion trunk with a hinged cover secured 
by nuts. The pipe nipple at the center of the cover 
was fitted with a non-self-closing gate valve whose 
disk was manually operated by a horizontal lever. 
Next to the trunk and rising from the top of the 
tank was a 3-inch sounding pipe, about 2Vz feet 
high. The sounding pipe was fitted with a 
weighted lever-operated device for opening and 
closing the line. 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


It was the duty of the second assistant engineer 
and junior engineer to fuel the ship and transfer 
fuel oil. They pumped up the settling tanks daily, 
using electric pumps that were situated against 
the aft bulkhead of the boiler room. Both had 
been at sea in the engine departments of merchant 
ships for many years. 

The chief engineer required that the oil level 
be checked in two ways when the settling tanks 
were pumped up: 1) by observing the height of 
the column of mercury in the pneumercator for 
each tank, and 2) by obtaining ullage readings. 
The pneumercators were located on the side of 
the starboard settling tank. Above the pneumer- 
cators was an oil high-level audible alarm panel. 
No program was established for periodic testing 
of the audible alarm, and there was no valid rec- 
ord as to when it was last tested. 

The Fire 

The first assistant engineer obtained an ullage 
reading from the port settling tank and instructed 
the junior engineer to commence pumping. He 
then performed other work that took him away 
from the port fueling station, but not out of the 
machinery spaces. The junior engineer took a 
pneumercator reading of 11 feet 9 inches, and 
then started the transfer pump at about 1810. 
He adjusted the speed of the pump with the rheo- 
stat until the pump was running at about one- 
third capacity. He did not remain at the pump or 
the pneumercator but attended to other duties in 
the boiler room. None of these duties took him 
away from the pneumercator or pump for more 
than 5 minutes. 

The junior engineer, in addition to transferring 
oil, was engaged in blowing tubes on all three 
boilers. Since this was an almost fully automated 
operation, it required very little of his attention. 
At the time of the casualty he had started blowing 
tubes on the starboard boiler. 

About 2 or 3 minutes before the fire, the fire- 
man/watertender noted that the pneumercator 
registered 20 feet 6 inches. He gave this informa- 
tion to the junior engineer, who "pumped" the 
pneumercator and took a reading of 20 feet, 9 
inches-21 feet even. The fluctuation was attrib- 
uted to the rolling of the ship. 

The first assistant engineer went down a ladder 
in the engine room. As he walked toward the port 
side, the vessel took a moderate roll and he saw 
oil flowing on the walkway adjacent to the open 
doorway of the port fueling station. The oil over- 
flowed the walkway coaming, cascaded down into 
the boiler room and flashed into fire. He quickly 
shouted a warning to the junior engineer and 

fireman/watertender on watch below and then 
ran to advise the chief engineer, who was in the 
engineer's office. The time was estimated to be 

The fireman/watertender looked to port and 
saw "balls of fire" falling down around the Bailey 
board. The fire appeared to be coming from 
above, but he could not see exactly where. The 
junior engineer read the pneumercator. He im- 
mediately shut down the fuel oil transfer pump 
and electric ventilation system and closed the 
valves at the fuel oil manifold. No audible alarm 
was heard. 

The junior engineer and fireman/watertender 
rapidly unreeled the hose on the semiportable CO2 
system (two 50-pound cylinders) and directed the 
CO2 gas at the fire around the Bailey board. They 
were able to extinguish fire at their level, but it 
kept reigniting as it was fed by burning oil from 
above. They continued to fight the fire until the 
chief engineer ordered them from the boiler room. 
The boiler fires were secured by the fireman/ 
watertender before he left the boiler room. 

Believing that it was impossible to fight the 
fire using semiportable and portable fire extin- 
guishers, the chief engineer ordered the boiler 
room evacuated, all doors closed and all ventila- 
tion secured. He then activated the remote con- 
trols for the fixed CO2 system in the boiler room, 
releasing the entire 5600 pounds of CO2. No 
attempt was made to fight the fire in the boiler 
room with water. 

The chief engineer arrived on the bridge and 
reported to the master that the port settling tank 
had overflowed and the oil was burning in the 
boiler room. He also informed the master that he 
had ordered the plant secured and all ventilation 
to the boiler room closed, and that he had re- 
leased CO2 from the fixed system into the boiler 
room. The master then activated the remote con- 
trols that closed all fire doors and stopped the 
mechanical ventilation to quarters and cargo 
holds. He sounded the general alarm. 

All accessible ventilation and access openings 
to the boiler room had been closed, but the space 
could not be totally cut off from outside air. There 
was a circular opening to the atmosphere be- 
tween the inner and outer stacks, and no means 
was available to secure this opening. 

Approximately 10 minutes after the fire broke 
out, the master sent an advisory message to 
MSTS, Guam, apprising them of the situation 
and requesting assistance. Two nearby vessels, 
the USS Hissem and the SS Coeur D'Alene Vic- 
tory, were alerted and sent to the San Jose's posi- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

The chief engineer returned to the engine room 
on several occasions to check on the effectiveness 
of the CO2 he had released. He looked into the 
boiler room through the glass port in the fire door 
between the lower engine and boiler rooms. He 
also checked by cracking the watertight door 
from the machine shop to the boiler room. He was 
not able to see clearly because of the dense smoke, 
but he did not observe any actual flames. 

The master directed that the ammunition on 
the fore deck be thrown overboard. He ordered 
crewmen to fight the fires in the quarters and at 
the stack with portable extinguishers and fire 
hoses. The portable extinguishers did little to 
contain the fire and the fire pump stopped when 
the ship's generators tripped off because of the 
falling steam pressure. The water pressure in the 
firemain and fire hoses soon was reduced to a 

The emergency diesel generator was located on 
the deck below the wheelhouse, forward of the 
boiler room. It started automatically and pro- 
vided power for topside emergency circuits. The 
power cables that ran from the emergency gen- 
erator switchboard to the machinery spaces 
passed through the boiler room. The cables were 
burned out, so that no power was available in 
these spaces to operate emergency lighting and a 
fire pump. The emergency diesel generator con- 
tinued to run properly under the control of the 
ship's electrician. However, when the area began 
to fill with smoke, the master ordered it secured. 

Decision to Leave the Ship 

A little over an hour after the start of the fire, 
unable to control it, the master decided to trans- 
fer most of his crew to the Hissem and Coeur 
D'Alene Victory, which were now standing by. 
This was accomplished with two lifeboats; 21 
men went to the Coeur D'Alene Victory, 19 men 
to the Hissem and 13 men remained aboard the 
San Jose. 

Various attempts were made by the Hissem 
to send damage control parties and firefighting 
equipment to the San Jose. However, they were 
all unsuccessful, owing to worsening weather and 
sea conditions. About midnight, when it appeared 
that the fire was burning itself out, the master 
requested that the Hissem tow the San Jose out 
of the path of the approaching typhoon Gilda. 
The Hissem began towing the San Jose at about 
0700 on November 12, 1977. After 2 hours, a 
broaching sea caused the loss of the towing wires. 

The master received instructions from the 
Commander, Naval Forces, Marianas, and from 
his employer, United Fruit Company, to abandon 

the San Jose. Typhoon Gilda seemed to be headed 
straight for the ship and the extremely rough sea 
made it inadvisable to use either of the two re- 
maining lifeboats to leave the San Jose. The 
master therefore elected to use an inflatable life 
raft. The passage of the life raft to the Hissem 
was without incident. The Hissem then took ac- 
tion to clear the course of typhoon Gilda. 

The San Jose was subsequently relocated by 
aircraft. The master and several members of his 
crew were placed aboard by the USS Joaquin 
County on November 16, 1977. The vessel was 
riding easily, and no fire was observed. The USS 
Cree, a U.S. Navy salvage tug, arrived on No- 
vember 1 7 and towed the San Jose to Apra Har- 
bor, Guam. 

Discharging of the San Jose's refrigerated 
cargo was begun immediately, so as to salvage 
as much as possible. The unloading proceeded 
without incident until no. 2 lower hold was 
opened. At that time fire, which had been smol- 
dering undetected behind insulation, broke out 
anew. It was extinguished by flooding the lower 
hold with water. 


1. The fire was caused by an unsafe but 
common practice. The second assistant 
engineer on the San Jose failed to close 
the ullage opening in the port settling 
tank after taking his initial ullage meas- 
urement. As a result, the oil in the topped- 
up tank overflowed through the open 
ullage pipe. The overflowing oil struck an 
uninsulated superheated steam line, flange 
or fitting and quickly flashed into fire. 

2. A contributing cause was a malfunction 
in the operation of the pneumercator for 
the port settling tank. It failed to indicate 
the true level of the oil in the tank. 

3. A further contributing cause was the fail- 
ure of the junior engineer to realize fully 
that the lighter "Navy special" would 
pump faster than bunker C oil, and to 
closely observe the pneumercator and 
transfer pump. 

4. The fire in the boiler room continued to 
burn after the fixed CO2 system was ac- 
tivated. This was due primarily to the fact 
that the source of fuel for the fire was 
approximately 12 feet above the CO2 dis- 
charge outlets in the boiler room. In addi- 
tion, oxygen was available through the 
space between the inner and outer stacks. 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


5. Because of the intensity and location of 
the fire, water could not be used effec- 
tively. The releasing of CO2 from the 
fixed system by the chief engineer was 
warranted and proper under the existing 

6. Except for portable fire extinguishers, the 
San Jose lost its firefighting capability 
with the loss of the turbine generators and 
the activation of the fixed CO2 system. 

7. The high-level alarm for the port settling 
tank did not sound a warning. This could 
have been due to a malfunction in the 
sensing element in the tank. If so, the 
malfunction would not necessarily have 
been revealed by periodically testing the 
alarm with the test switch on the panel. 

8. Only the approach of typhoon Gilda 
necessitated the abandoning of the San 
Jose by her crew. 

9. All the required firefighting and lifesaving 
equipment on the San Jose operated sat- 
isfactorily and as intended. 

10. The crew was not properly indoctrinated 
on the limitations of CO2 as an extinguish- 
ing agent, or the fire extinguishing ability 
of water streams from the fog nozzles and 
applicators provided in the engineering 


Early Saturday afternoon, March 30, 1968, the 
MV San Francisco Maru entered New York har- 
bor and tied up to the Mitsui O.S.K. Line pier in 
Brooklyn. The vessel, launched in Japan only 
9Vi months earlier had an overall length of 511 
feet, a beam of 71 feet, net tonnage of 5794, gross 
tonnage of 10,087, diesel engines and one pro- 
peller. There were 34 Japanese crewmen man- 
ning the vessel. 

At 1508, as crewmen were working in hold 
no. 5 preparing cargo for offloading, they de- 
tected smoke in the hold. The alarm was given 
to alert the master and crew. The ship was 
equipped with a smoke detecting and CO2 ex- 
tinguishing system, with the monitoring cabinet 
on the bridge. Unfortunately, when the ship was 
in port and moored to a pier, the bridge was un- 


The smoke condition was investigated, and heat 
and heavy smoke were found in the lower hold. 
Crewmen were ordered out of the hold, hatches 

were closed by 1520 and a decision was made to 
call the local fire department and to use the ship's 
CO2 extinguishing system. At 1536 the CO2 ex- 
tinguishing system was activated, and CO2 was 
discharged into lower hold no. 5. 

When the professional firefighters came aboard, 
they requested the stowage plan for holds 4 and 
5 and the general arrangement plan for the ves- 
sel. These were provided by the master and 
studied by the fire officers and ship's officers. 

At the same time, fire department personnel 
checked the main deck hatch covers and venti- 
lators, to ensure a tight seal, preventing the en- 
trance of air and the escape of CO2. The MV 
San Francisco Maru was a new vessel, so the four 
hydraulically operated hatch covers over hold no. 
5 were rather tight. Crewmen had shut down ven- 
tilating fans, closed dampers, covered ventilators 
and dogged hatch covers. Owing to the excellent 
condition of the hatch covers, it did not appear 
necessary to fill or cover the joints, but they were 
examined for escaping smoke or CO2. 

The master and a fire chief inspected the CO2 
room and discussed the initial discharge of CO2 
into lower hold no. 5. The instructions for the 
CO2 system were in Japanese; and, although they 
were set up so that a person unfamiliar with the 
language could determine how CO2 was to be 
applied initially and periodically to the various 
protected spaces, it was determined that CO2 was 
not being applied in accordance with the instruc- 
tions. Therefore, it was advisable to start anew. 
The fire department requested that the master 
order more CO2. It had to be ordered as soon as 
possible, so that the supplier would have time to 
make the delivery before the ship's supply was 

Crewmen and firefighters worked together to 
attach four thermometers to bulkheads in hold 
no. 4, as follows: 

1 . Lower hold aft 

2. Lower 'tween deck aft 

3. Upper 'tween deck aft 

4. Lower hold forward. 

The exterior of the hull on the port and star- 
board sides was examined and watched for dis- 
coloration and blistering. One location at the 
lower hold level, where heat and discoloration 
were detected, was marked with white chalk. The 
forward bulkhead of the engine room, immedi- 
ately aft of hold no. 5, was also examined and 
watched for discoloration and blistering, espe- 
cially at the lower hold level. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

At about 1600, a chart (similar to that in Fig. 
10.16) was started. The time of day and the tem- 
perature reading of each thermometer were re- 
corded, along with the atmospheric temperature 
and the number of 100-pound CO2 cylinders dis- 
charged into the lower hold. 

Examination of the bulkheads and hull plates 
surrounding hold no. 4 and the temperatures ob- 
tained from the thermometers soon confirmed 
that the seat of the fire was in the lower hold. 
Moreover, the temperature was not rising. By 
2100, thermometers 1, 2 and 3 showed a decline 
in temperature. This indicated that CO2 was be- 
ing discharged into the correct level of the hold; 
the oxygen content was being reduced below 
10% thereby inhibiting combustion. 

Examination of the stowage plan revealed that 
the lower hold contained cardboard, wood, plas- 
tics, rubber, fabrics and other combustible items. 
These were ordinary combustible materials, not 
extremely hazardous, as was to be expected in a 
lower hold. Firefighters advanced two hoselines 
to holds 4 and 5, and both lines were charged to 
the nozzle. This was a precautionary measure; 
there was little expectation that they would be 

Several hours after the master ordered the ad- 
ditional CO2, the supplier's truck arrived with a 
large number of 100-pound cylinders. It also 
contained the equipment and tools needed to dis- 
charge CO2 from the cylinders on the pier di- 
rectly into the ship's system. No attempt was 
made to replace the empty cylinders in the CO2 
room; that could be done after the fire was ex- 
tinguished. Now it was essential to maintain the 
tight seal on hold no. 5; continue the periodic 
discharge of CO2 into the lower hold; keep chart- 
ing the temperatures obtained from the four 
thermometers; continue to examine the hull and 
engine room bulkhead for signs of heating; and, 
most important, exercise patience. 

The temperatures indicated by thermometers 
1 , 2 and 3 had dropped sharply by 0900 on Sun- 
day, March 31. However, they were still higher 
than the outside temperature. Therefore, the mas- 
ter and his staff, Mitsui's port captain, and the 
fire chief and his officers held a conference to 
plan for the opening of hold no. 5. If it were 
opened too soon, the fire might rekindle when 
fresh air reached an area that was not completely 
extinguished. That would require a repeat of the 
entire CO2 extinguishing procedure. 

It was decided to open the hold on Monday, 
April 1, at 0900, after the stevedores had re- 
ported for work and firefighting personnel had 
been changed. When that time arrived, the tem- 

perature was about 60 °F on all thermometers — 
a very favorable condition. 

Before the hatch was opened, a company of 
firefighters was sent into the hold. They wore self- 
contained breathing apparatus, used a lifeline, 
and carried flashlights, portable hand radios, and 
an oxygen meter. Their objective was to reach 
the lower hold if cargo stowage permitted, to de- 
termine if there was any fire, smoke or heat in 
the vicinity of the fire. The fire officer reported 
by radio and then in person on the main deck 
that no fire, smoke or heat was found. The oxy- 
gen meter registered approximately 6 % oxygen — 
too low for the combustion of ordinary materials. 

The forward port section of the hydraulic 
hatch cover over hold no. 5 was opened at 1011. 
No forced ventilation was employed. Firefighters 
wearing breathing apparatus and carrying an 
oxygen meter entered to the upper 'tween deck, to 
offload containers that were on the upper 'tween 
deck hatch cover. When the oxygen content of 
the atmosphere was 21% the firefighters were 
able to work without the breathing apparatus. 
After the hatch cover was clear of cargo, it was 
time to open that cover. 

Firefighting personnel were rotated from the 
hold to the main deck and vice versa. The fire- 
fighters donned their breathing apparatus when 
the hatch cover was opened. The atmosphere in 
the lower 'tween space was tested and found to 
be about 6% oxygen. The procedure employed 
in the upper 'tween space was repeated in the 
lower 'tween space. When cargo was removed 
from the lower 'tween hatch cover, the discolora- 
tion and warping of the hatch cover and deck 
plates readily revealed that the fire had been in 
the hold below. 

Two charged hoselines were lowered into the 
hold, in case water was needed to extinguish any 
remaining fire or to reduce heat in the fire area, 
but not one drop of water was needed. When the 
lower 'tween deck hatch cover was opened, it ex- 
posed a large area of charred cargo but no fire, 
smoke or heat. It was 1145, and the fire was 
definitely extinguished. 

Extensive investigation and legal action could 
not determine the cause of the fire. Though sev- 
eral possible causes were discussed, there was not 
sufficient evidence to support any one of them. 


This general cargo hold fire was successfully ex- 
tinguished with CO2, without the use of water. 
The method can be used on other vessels equipped 
with CO2 extinguishing systems and manned by 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


well-trained crews. Certain factors, including the 
following, should be remembered: 

1. Crewmen must be thoroughly trained in 
the use of CO2 for extinguishing fire, so 
that they have confidence in the fire pro- 
tection equipment and their own capa- 

2. Early detection of smoke and/ or fire is 
vital. Therefore, the automatic smoke de- 
tection system must be monitored at all 

3. Frequent drills must be conducted with the 
CO2 extinguishing system, to avoid errors 
when an actual fire occurs. Errors such as 
discharging the incorrect amount of CO2 
or discharging it into the wrong space have 
been made in the past. 

4. CO2 is the safest and most efficient ex- 
tinguishing agent for hold fires. Water is 
not as effective as CO2, may create a sta- 
bility problem and could seriously damage 
cargo. CO2 will not damage cargo. 

5. A temperature chart showing the extin- 
guishing process is helpful at the time of 
the fire, for the record and later for drill 

6. In port the CO2 supply can be replenished, 
so more CO2 can be used in the periodic 
applications. At sea, the fire can be con- 
tained and extinguished with a very tight 
seal on the involved space, the correct ini- 
tial application and smaller periodic appli- 
cations. However, the space may have to 
remain sealed for a longer period of time. 

7. Premature opening of the hold, and a re- 
sulting rekindling of the fire, can be dis- 
astrous. Crewmen may lose confidence in 
the CO2 extinguishing method and resort 

to water hoselines — a more dangerous and 
less effective method of extinguishment. 

8. Thermometer 4 should have been placed 
on the forward bulkhead in the engine room 
at the lower hold level. The temperature of 
the forward bulkhead of hold no. 4 was 
not important in this case. 

9. Patience is extremely important when CO2 
flooding is used to extinguish a hold fire. 


On the morning of March 16, 1968, at about 
0340, the dry-cargo vessel SS African Star col- 
lided in a meeting situation with the tank barge 
Intercity no. 77 in the lower Mississippi River, in 
the vicinity of mile 46 Above Head of Passes 
(AHP). The African Star's bow penetrated the 
Intercity no. 11 on the after port side, at an angle 
of 45°. The motor towing vessel Midwest Cities 
was pushing two tank barges, Intercity no. 11 
and Intercity no. 14 (the forward barge). The ves- 
sels are described in Table 3.1. The two tank 
barges were identical. 

A few minutes before the collision, the African 
Star was making about 16 knots on a 140° true 
course; the Midwest Cities was making 6 knots 
on a 320° true course with a relative closing speed 
of 22 knots (Fig. 3.5). Visibility was good and 
each vessel had been advised of the other vessel's 
movements on its own radio frequency. Because 
of the lack of a common radiotelephone frequency, 
direct communication between the vessels was 
not possible. 

Both vessels were equipped with marine radar 
units. Both units were in operation prior to and 
at the time of the casualty, but neither unit was 
being continuously observed by watch personnel. 
The pilot of each vessel sighted the navigation 

Table 3.1. Descriptions 

of the Vessels. 

African Star 

Midwest Cities 

Intercity nos. 77 and 14 


Freight vessel 


Tank barge 

Gross tons 




Net tons 





468.6 ft 

83.2 ft 

264 ft 


69.6 ft 

24 ft 

50 ft 


29.2 ft 

7.2 ft 

11.1 ft 









Farrell Lines, Inc. 

Natural Marine 

Intercity Barge Co. Inc. 




Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 






I 16 Knots 



Adrift After 

Combustible v. 



Mile 45.8 (AHP) 

,/V, BARGE 11 


Grounded and Sank 

\ ♦ 



6 Knots 





Escaped With Minor Damage 


Figure 3.5. A. The situation before and during the collision between the African Star and Intercity no. 77. B. The results 
of the collision. 

lights of the other vessel at about 1 Vi miles, and 
later sighted the other vessel on radar. 

Witnesses in passing vessels reported that they 
could easily see the navigation lights on the Mid- 
west Cities, Intercity no. 14 and African Star. 
The movements of the vessels were not materially 
affected by wind or current. The steering gear 
and machinery of both vessels were in good op- 
erating order. 

The African Star had a licensed pilot, but the 
Midwest Cities had an unlicensed pilot; however, 
both pilots had extensive experience on the Mis- 
sissippi River. There was a lookout on the bow 
of the African Star, but none on the Midwest 

Cities. The master, third mate and helmsman 
were also on the bridge of the African Star. 

The Collision 

Different versions of the maneuvers were given by 
personnel on each of the two vessels. 

Midwest Cities Version. The Midwest Cities 
was running parallel to the side of the river, about 
250 feet from the east bank. The pilot considered 
it to be a head-and-head meeting situation, and 
the pilot sounded the appropriate one-blast 
whistle signal for a port-to-port passing. The 
African Star responded with one blast. He as- 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


sumed a safe passage until the African Star 
sounded two blasts when her bow was abeam the 
lead barge. He saw the African Star's green side- 
light and responded with one blast. He then blew 
four blasts on the whistle, backed full astern from 
full ahead and put the rudder hard right. How- 
ever, it was too late to avert a collision between 
the African Star and barge Intercity no. 11. 

African Star Version. The pilot of the African 
Star stated that his vessel was slightly west of mid- 
river when he sighted the Midwest Cities' two 
white tow lights and green sidelights on his star- 
board bow. The tow appeared to be favoring the 
west bank and running parallel to it. It appeared 
to him to be a normal starboard-to-starboard 
meeting situation, not a head-and-head meeting. 
When the Midwest Cities tow was V2 to 3 A mile 
ahead, he sounded two short blasts on the whistle, 
but no reply was heard. As the pilot headed for 
the radar, the third mate called his attention to 
the tow crossing his starboard bow showing red 
sidelights. This was about 2 minutes after the 
two-blast signal was sounded. Hard right rudder, 
one blast and then emergency full astern were 
ordered and executed. By this time, the situation 
was beyond the point of corrective action — a col- 
lision was unavoidable. Full astern was in effect 
a minute before the collision. 

In his analysis of the incident, the commandant 
of the U.S. Coast Guard concluded that the wit- 
nesses gave such conflicting testimony that it was 
impossible to reconstruct the events leading up 
to the collision. 

The Fire 

Intercity no. 11 was loaded to a draft of about 
9 feet 6 inches, corresponding to approximately 
19,000 barrels of crude oil. An analysis of the 
Louisiana "sweet" crude it carried revealed a 
30.6° API a flash point (Pensky Martens) of 
80.0°F, and a Reid vapor pressure of 3.2 psia, 
which categorized the product as a grade C flam- 
mable liquid. 

When the collision occurred, the general alarm 
was sounded on the order of the master of the 
African Star. At this time, the oncoming watch 
personnel were in varying degrees of readiness 
and, except for those on watch, all crew members 
and passengers were asleep or resting in their 

In less than a minute, fire broke out and sev- 
eral explosions occurred. The most likely source 
of ignition was high heat due to metal-to-metal 
friction or sparks, produced when the barge was 
sheared by the bow of the African Star. Another 

possible source of ignition was sparks generated 
by the severing of the electrical cable leading to 
the navigation lights on Intercity no. 14. 

When fire broke out on the barge and in the 
surrounding water, the pilot of the Midwest Cities 
backed full to break the port wire and to clear 
the intense fire. He estimated it took about a min- 
ute to get free; his vessel was backing toward the 
west bank. Intercity no. 11 grounded and sank 
near the west bank at mile 45.7 (AHP). The Mid- 
west Cities was downwind of the point of collision 
and escaped with only minor damage. 

The southeasterly wind carried flammable 
vapors over the African Star from bow to stern 
(because of the vessel's position relative to the 
wind direction). The flammable vapors ignited, 
engulfing the vessel in flames. The pilot backed 
clear and intentionally grounded the vessel on the 
west bank at mile 45.8 (AHP). The tarpaulins 
had been ignited, and there were fires in holds 2, 
4 and 5. Containers and other deck cargo were 
burning, as was the paint on the ship. Dense 
smoke filled the engine room and accommoda- 
tion spaces. 

Firefighting and Rescue 

Problems were encountered in lowering the life- 
boat and launching the inflatable life raft; the 
boat cover and man ropes had burned, and the 
plastic cover of the life raft had ignited. The in- 
tense fire, heat and smoke in the quarters gutted 
the passageways, and a number of passengers and 
crew members were trapped. Several people tried 
to escape through portholes when they found that 
the passageways outside their quarters were im- 
passable. Others were burned when their life 
preservers and clothing ignited. 

For a while the fire and heat on the port side 
were too intense to endure. There was some minor 
confusion during the first few minutes after the 
alarm was sounded. However, this was quickly 
dispelled under the leadership of the master and 
his officers. After the African Star was grounded, 
the master went to the cabin deck to see to the 
safety of the passengers and crew. During this 
time, he became seriously burned about the feet, 
face and hands. As a result, he was immobilized 
and had to be carried back to the bridge by the 

At first, burning oil on the water surrounding 
the vessel prevented personnel from jumping 
overboard to get away from the burning vessel. 
The second mate gathered a number of passen- 
gers and crew into a small room on the African 
Star for refuge until the fire subsided. He then 
supervised the extinguishment of small fires in 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

and around no. 1 lifeboat. By this time, the cur- 
rent and the movement of the African Star had 
separated the vessel from the oil burning on the 
water, the lifeboat was lowered to the edge of the 
deck and the injured crew members and pas- 
sengers were assisted into the boat and lowered 
to the water's edge. Other crewmen and passen- 
gers were able to climb or jump into the water 
and swim ashore. 

The second mate observed large fires burning 
aft on the main deck. He organized a firefighting 
team that advanced hoselines to the area. They 
were successful in confining the deck fires and 
cooling the flammable-liquid cargo. 

An oiler in the engine room was forced to leave 
because of difficulty breathing in the smoke. How- 
ever, the chief engineer, third assistant engineer, 
and fireman/ watertender continued to maintain 
the engine room plant in full operation. Power 
was maintained to keep the vessel aground, the 
lights on and the fire and bilge pumps in opera- 

Rescue operations had commenced swiftly fol- 
lowing the Midwest Cities request for immediate 
assistance via the marine operator in New Or- 
leans. Badly burned victims were quickly evacu- 
ated by U.S. Coast Guard helicopters. This 
operation is credited with saving the lives of a 
number of people injured on the African Star. 
The Midwest Cities, a New Orleans fireboat and 
a local ferry with fire apparatus on board assisted 
Coast Guard boats in fighting the fire. 

Firefighting was complicated by inaccessibility 
to the cargo manifest of hazardous materials lo- 
cated in the chief mate's room. In addition, a 
number of deck fire hoses had been burned. The 
combustibles on deck and in the holds continued 
to burn after the vapor and oil spray fires had 

Firefighting by the African Star crew controlled 
the fire until the U.S. Coast Guard vessels and 
other help arrived. The fire in hold no. 5 was con- 
tained by use of the ship's C0 2 extinguishing 

At about 0530, the fires on board the African 
Star had been brought under control, and the 
Midwest Cities departed to retrieve Intercity no. 
14, adrift in the river. Intercity no. 14 was un- 


The many fatalities and injuries sustained on 
board the African Star were due to the rapid 
spread of fire, the heat and smoke in living spaces 
and the burning oil on the water surrounding the 
vessel, which kept most personnel from imme- 
diately jumping overboard. Of a total of 1 1 pas- 

sengers and 52 crewmen on the freighter, 2 pas- 
sengers were killed and 9 were injured; 15 crew 
members were killed, 4 were missing and pre- 
sumed dead, 31 were injured, and 2 escaped in- 
jury. Many more lives would have been lost, but 
for the gallant efforts and bravery of African Star 
crewmen and others involved in the rescue and 
firefighting operations. 

A collision and fire of this magnitude must 
point up both weaknesses (i.e., areas where sea- 
men can learn from the mistakes of others) and 
strengths (i.e., examples of leadership, teamwork 
and heroism). Some of the more important les- 
sons to be learned include the following: 

1 . Whistle signals are not of themselves a re- 
liable means of communicating a vessel's 
passing or turning intentions. Bridge-to- 
bridge radiotelephone communication on 
a single frequency would probably have 
prevented this tragedy. It is now required 
by law. 

2. Uncertainties and difficulties are experi- 
enced in applying the inland rules of the 
road to arrange a safe passing. Passing 
requires the use of visual and verbal com- 
munication in both directions, plus good 

3. A properly equipped vessel can withstand 
a serious collision and fire. A disciplined 
and well-trained crew can keep the vessel 
afloat, maintain control of the wheelhouse 
and engine room and successfully combat 
the fire. 

4. Leadership, courage and discipline are 
essential traits for officers and crewmen in 
the merchant marine. The value of these 
traits becomes most evident in an emer- 
gency situation such as a serious fire. 


At approximately 0730 on September 7, 1966, 
while the German passenger vessel SS Hanseatic 
was docked at Pier 84, North River, New York, 
a fire started in the diesel generator room on B 
deck level. Fuel from a leaking line on No. 4 
diesel generator ignited and burned. The fire then 
extended up an intake ventilator through seven 
decks and was finally brought under control by 
the New York City Fire Department at approxi- 
mately 1430 the same day. There were no report- 
able personal injuries, but as a result of the fire, 
the vessel suffered damage estimated at one mil- 
lion dollars. 

The SS Hanseatic was a passenger vessel 674 
feet in length, 48.6 feet in depth and 30,300 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


gross tons. The vessel, a twin-screw turbine owned 
by the Hamburg- Atlantic Lines, was built in 1930 
at Glasgow, Scotland. The weather was clear and 
fair and was not a factor in the casualty. The SS 
Hanseatic underwent alterations and renovations 
in the passenger areas upon her transfer to the 
German flag in 1958. At the time the fire oc- 
curred, the vessel was maintained in class with 
the American Bureau of Shipping and German 
Lloyds. Her last quarterly inspection completed 
on August 11, 1966, at New York, indicated 
that the vessel was in compliance with the safety 
certificate required by the International Conven- 
tion for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS 60). 

The vessel was constructed with 1 1 watertight 
bulkheads and 6 main vertical fire zones. Her 
machinery spaces included boiler room no. 1, 
boiler room no. 2, the diesel generator room and 
the main engine (turbine) room. There were four 
generators in the diesel generator room, located 
forward of the turbine room. The vessel also was 
equipped with two steam-driven turbogenerators, 
one on either side of the turbine room. The two 
turbogenerators were capable of carrying the 
ship's electrical load; however, it was normal op- 
erating practice to split the load between the two 
turbogenerators and two diesel generators. 

The four diesel generators were supplied with 
air by mechanical means. Vent ducts starting on 
either side of the after funnel passed straight 
down through all the decks and terminated in 
branches over each diesel engine. The blower 
motors were located on the navigating deck. Each 
duct was fitted with balancing dampers where it 
branched over the diesel engines and with a posi- 
tive closing damper at the navigating deck level. 
The ducts measured approximately 4 X 4Vi ft 
in cross section. From the A deck to a location 
between the upper and promenade decks, they 
passed up the outboard after corners of an escape 
trunk, measuring 10 X 20 ft, located abaft the 
bulkhead at frame 100. At the upper deck level 
the escape trunk passed forward of frame 100 
into the fiddley, but the vent ducts continued 
straight up to the navigating deck. From A deck 
to the upper deck, the escape trunk was insulated 
with sheet asbestos except on its forward bulk- 
head, which was common to the boiler casing. 
The insulated areas included the inboard and for- 
ward sides of the vent ducts. The outboard and 
after sides of the vent ducts faced the passenger 
areas and were not insulated. 

The Fire 

The SS Hanseatic had arrived in New York at 
1200 on September 6, 1966. She was scheduled 

to sail at 1 1 30 on September 7, with embarkation 
of passengers to commence at 0800. The watch- 
standing fourth engineer was in charge of the 
watch in the turbine and diesel generator rooms. 
At 0730 he heard a knock in the no. 4 diesel 
generator, located on the starboard side of the 
diesel generator room. At this time the no. 1 and 
no. 4 diesel generators were on the line with the 
turbogenerators. He told the two engineer cadets 
then on watch to shut down the no. 4 diesel gen- 
erator. He called the switchboard room and told 
the watch electrician to take no. 4 diesel generator 
off the line. He then proceeded immediately to 
the diesel generator room and saw that, although 
the cadet had attempted to shut down the diesel 
engine, it continued to run. Diesel fuel was spurt- 
ing from the low-pressure gravity-feed fuel line 
above no. 5 cylinder onto the no. 4 diesel gen- 
erator and igniting. The fourth engineer sounded 
the engineer's alarm, and all three men attempted 
to extinguish the flames with the portable dry 
chemical and foam fire extinguishers immedi- 
ately available in the area. 

The engineer's alarm sounded in the engineer's 
office and quarters located on the sun deck. The 
staff chief engineer proceeded below and observed 
the fire from the turbine room doors aft of the 
diesel generator room. He then went forward 
through the diesel generator room to the door to 
boiler room no. 2. From this position, he and 
other crew members attempted to extinguish the 
fire with semiportable foam extinguishers ob- 
tained from the two boiler rooms. When he started 
using this portable equipment, the fire was con- 
centrated at the upper level; the foam was di- 
rected onto the flames from the lower level, 
through the gratings at the engine head level. 
However, the fire continued to spread. The staff 
chief engineer then proceeded to A deck. With 
the chief engineer, he began to shut off the diesel 
fuel and bunker oil tanks at the remote stations 
located in the port and starboard passageways. 

At approximately 0745, while the staff chief en- 
gineer was in the process of shutting off the fuel 
tanks, all power was suddenly lost on the vessel. 
The staff chief engineer proceeded to the emer- 
gency generator room located aft on the main 
deck, leaving the chief engineer to finish closing 
the remote shutoffs. Although the emergency gen- 
erators were in operation within 5 minutes, the 
emergency lighting was not energized in the ma- 
chinery spaces or any other areas forward of the 
diesel generator room. Sometime during the 
morning, the vessel's boilers were secured be- 
cause of heavy smoke entering the ventilation 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

The fire was reported to the bridge by tele- 
phone approximately 10 minutes after it started. 
The quartermaster on watch called the first offi- 
cer, who in turn notified the staff captain and the 
master. The first officer and the staff captain pro- 
ceeded to the scene of the fire by different routes. 
The first officer started into boiler room no. 2 
and was proceeding toward the door of the diesel 
generator room when the power failure occurred. 
He retraced his steps and met the staff captain in 
the A deck port passage, outside the switchboard 
room. The staff captain ordered the first officer 
to sound the fire alarm and notify the shoreside 
fire department. Following the sounding of the 
alarm on the vessel's whistle, the crew reported to 
their fire stations, securing ventilation and closing 
fire doors. The crew did not attempt to charge 
the ship's firemain by means of the emergency 
bilge and fire pump, because the fire department 
preferred to use its own hose equipment. How- 
ever, the emergency bilge and fire pump ener- 
gized by the emergency diesel generator were 
used later to pump out the machinery space 

Fire Department Operations 

The New York City Fire Department received 
the first alarm at 0746; fire apparatus and fire- 
fighters arrived on the pier at about 0750. By this 
time the heat was increasing in the vent ducts and 
in the escape trunk. The paint on the two unin- 
sulated vent duct faces in the passenger spaces 
on all decks began to smolder. Fire department 
personnel were led to the scene of the fire and 
were assisted by crewmen who were familiar with 
the arrangement of the vessel. As soon as the 
nature of the fire was known to the fire depart- 
ment, it was evident that quantities of foam would 
be required. They immediately arranged to bring 
the necessary equipment to the scene. 

Sometime during the first hour, after additional 
firefighting help responded, they became aware 
that the diesel generator room was equipped with 
a fixed CO2 extinguishing system. However, that 
system had not yet been utilized. All doors to the 
diesel generator room were then closed, after per- 
sonnel were evacuated. At approximately 0940, 
the CO2 system was activated. It failed to ex- 
tinguish the fire. 

Up to this time, the primary fire was contained 
within the machinery spaces by the steel bulk- 
heads of the escape trunk and the vent ducts. 
However, secondary fires had started in the pas- 
senger and service areas on all decks, by direct 
conduction of heat through the steel bulkheads. 
Smoke was generated on all decks and became 

so dense that breathing apparatus had to be used. 
As noted earlier, the vent ducts at frame 100 
passed through all the decks; they were not in- 
sulated on the two sides that faced the passenger 
spaces. The joiner construction consisted of wood 
furring bolted directly to the bare steel of the 
bulkhead. Plywood and pressed-wood paneling 
was attached to the furring to provide the interior 
decor. Similarly a plywood false ceiling was at- 
tached to wood furring suspended below the steel 
overhead. There was direct communication be- 
tween the concealed spaces behind the bulkhead 
paneling and the hanging ceiling. 

The furring strips began to smolder where they 
butted against the uninsulated faces of the vent 
ducts. On R deck, in way of the vent duct at 
frame 97, the crackling of fire was heard behind 
the plywood panels. The paneling in this area 
was removed from the bulkhead and the over- 
head. Water was directed on the burning wood to 
extinguish the fire. This was the most serious out- 
break of fire reported outside the machinery 
space. By this time conditions on all other decks 
were generally the same: heavy smoke, smolder- 
ing furring strips and blistering paint. On each 
deck a number of firefighters were removing the 
combustible ceiling and linings. 

Although a sprinkler system was installed 
throughout the accommodation and service areas, 
it was activated only in the starboard passageway 
on A deck, frames 90 to 100. The sprinkler dis- 
charge ceased when the gravity storage tank was 
exhausted and the automatic pump did not start 
because of the power failure. 

The fire department had three foam lines in 
service in an attempt to smother the fire in the 
diesel generator room. With sufficient personnel 
on all decks to cool the hot bulkheads, fire depart- 
ment personnel in the turbine room advanced 
their foam lines closer to the seat of the fire. By 
1430 the fire was extinguished, although the 
residual heat on all decks and in the diesel gen- 
erator room remained intense. 

The use of water was generally limited to cool- 
ing hot bulkheads and extinguishing small blazes 
and smoldering woodwork. As a consequence, 
firefighting water did not rise above the door sills 
in the upper decks in the fire area, or above the 
floor plates in the machinery spaces. During the 
course of the fire there was no appreciable change 
in the vessel's draft or trim, and the list never 
exceeded V-W2 . 

Postfire Analysis 

The vessel's fixed CO2 system consisted of a cen- 
tral supply of about 3300 pounds of CO2 gas and 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


the piping connecting this supply to the forward 
holds, no. 1 boiler room, no. 2 boiler room, the 
diesel generator room and the after holds. Valves 
located in three manifolds on A deck controlled 
the distribution of all or part of the supply to any 
of these spaces. The CO2 room was located on 
the sun deck. Two manually operated release 
mechanisms were provided, either of which could 
activate the system. One was located on a bulk- 
head directly outside the CO2 room; the other 
was located at one of the distribution manifolds. 
The system was not used in the initial firefighting 
effort because it was believed to be a bilge flood- 
ing system, and the seat of the fire was several 
feet above the bilge. Later the cylinders were 
triggered by pulling the release cable within the 
CO2 room instead of at one of the release stations. 
Subsequent examination of the system indicated 
that all 50 cylinders had not been discharged. It 
was also determined that about half the available 
CO2 would have been sufficient for total flooding 
of the diesel generator room. 

Following the casualty, examination of the 
electrical circuits revealed the following: The 
main feed cable from the starboard turbogenera- 
tor passed straight up to A deck and then forward 
into the switchboard room, located immediately 
over the diesel generator room. The main feed 
cable from the port turbogenerator passed across 
the turbine room to the vessel's centerline. It then 
passed forward to a point over the forward end 
of no. 3 diesel generator, and then vertically 
through the deck into the switchboard room. The 
fire had originated approximately 10 feet away 
from the point where the cables passed through 
the deck. Apparently, the heat had melted these 
cables within 15 minutes after the fire started. 
This caused a dead short in the port turbogen- 
erator. The loss of this generator, and of no. 1 
and no. 4 diesel generators after their fuel was 
shut off, overloaded the starboard generator, trip- 
ping it and causing the power failure. Further 
investigation revealed that some of the circuits 
from the emergency generator passed through 
the diesel generator room enroute to the main 
switchboard; these were also destroyed. 

All mechanical and electrical equipment in the 
diesel generator room was exposed to extreme 
heat and flame and suffered considerable damage. 
In addition, the steel bulkhead between boiler 
room no. 2 and the escape trunk was buckled at 
the A deck and restaurant deck levels. Fire dam- 
age in the accommodation and service areas on 
all decks was limited to an area within a few feet 
of the ventilation ducts to the diesel generator 
room and consisted primarily of charred and 

burned furring strips and plywood. Firefighting 
efforts caused additional damage to the ceilings 
and linings on all decks, broken glass in windows 
and port lights, and general damage due to smoke 
and water. 

Some conclusions may be drawn from fire- 
fighters' and crew members' experience with this 

1. The fire originated in the vicinity of the 
no. 5 cylinder-head pump on the no. 4 
diesel generator when a low-pressure feed 
pipe failed. Diesel oil was sprayed di- 
rectly onto the engine head and exhaust 

2. Due to subsequent fire damage, the cause 
of the failure of the fuel line could not be 
determined. However, the probable cause 
was one or both of the following: 

a. A malfunction in no. 4 diesel gen- 
erator had created excessive vibration, 
which caused the fuel line to fail. 

b. A rubber fuel line in the diesel gen- 
erator room failed owning to deteri- 
oration and/or embrittlement. 

3. The flames and heat of the initial fire 
cracked the gauge glasses on the diesel 
oil tanks located immediately forward and 
above the diesel generators. This leaking 
oil fed the fire with approximately 5Vi 
tons of liquid fuel, causing the fire to 
spread throughout the bilges of the diesel 
generator room and to continue to burn 
until this fuel supply was consumed. 

4. The primary fire passed vertically through 
the ship from the bilges to the navigation 
deck. However, it was contained within 
the steel bulkheads forming the bound- 
aries of the vent ducts and the escape 
trunk extending above the diesel genera- 
tor room. 

5. Secondary fires, smoke and fumes were 
generated on all decks by direct conduc- 
tion of the heat of the primary fire through 
the steel bulkheads of the vent ducts to 
the wood furring and linings which were 
fitted to these bulkheads. 

6. The horizontal spread of the secondary 
fires was restricted to the immediate vi- 
cinity of the vent ducts on each deck by 
the following: 

a. The prompt efforts of firefighters in 
uncovering and combating the sec- 
ondary fires before they were able to 


Marine Fire Prevention, tire fighting and Fire Safety 

b. The action of firefighters in cooling 
down the hot steel bulkheads and re- 
moving all combustibles attached di- 
rectly to these bulkheads. 

c. The action of firefighters in directing 
the opening of the vent dampers and 
other closures on the navigation deck, 
directly above the primary fire, to vent 
the heat and smoke of the primary 

d. The fire resistive insulation fitted in 
certain areas of the escape trunk, 
which effectively prevented the con- 
duction of sufficient heat to cause fire 
or smoldering in the combustible ma- 
terials attached to the steel bulkheads 
in these locations. 

7. The primary fire produced sufficient heat 
to melt a section of the main power cables 
where they passed through the diesel gen- 
erator room. This disconnected all the 
generators from the main switchboard 
except for the starboard turbogenerator. 
The latter became overloaded and tripped 
out, resulting in a total power failure ap- 
proximately 15 minutes after the fire 

8. The power failure deenergized two of the 
vessel's three fire pumps. This resulted in 
a complete loss of pressure in the fire- 
main throughout the vessel. The vessel's 
emergency bilge and fire pump was ener- 
gized from the emergency generator. Be- 
cause the fire department supplied its own 
firefighting water, the pump was not 

9. The sprinkler system functioned initially, 
both by discharging in the involved area 
and by indicating the existence of the fire. 
However, due to the power failure, the 
sprinkler system did not continue to op- 
erate as it should. Because of the circum- 
stances, this did not contribute to the 
severity of the casualty because areas of 
fire extension were adequately protected 
by hoselines. 

10. The initial firefighting efforts of the crew 
were ineffective for the following reasons: 

a. The flammable liquid fire was not 
sufficiently confined to be brought 
under control with portable dry chem- 
ical extinguishers. 

b. The two portable foam extinguishers 
that were used could not distribute a 
cohesive blanket over the fire area be- 

cause the foam stream had to be di- 
rected onto the fire from underneath 
and through a deck grating. 

c. The vessel's CO2 system, which had 
sufficient capacity to totally flood the 
diesel generator room, was not used 
when the fire was first discovered. 

1 1 . Subsequent efforts of the vessel's crew in 
assisting the fire department were orderly, 
efficient and well directed. Their perform- 
ance contributed materially to the suc- 
cessful extinguishment of the fire. 

12. It was the opinion of the Marine Board 
of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard, that 
the vessel's crew could not have success- 
fully combated the fire had it occurred 
while the vessel was at sea. The intense 
heat of the primary fire, the effect of the 
power failure on the vessel's firefighting 
capability, and the combustible interior 
paneling in the accommodation and serv- 
ice areas would have made extinguish- 
ment extremely difficult. 

13. The delay of 10 minutes in reporting the 
fire to the master and the delay in notify- 
ing the local fire department were evi- 
dence of a weakness in the firefighting 
training of the crew. 

14. If the crew had been alerted earlier, si- 
multaneous firefighting operations could 
have been instituted. While the fire was 
being attacked with portable fire ex- 
tinguishers, other crewmen could have 
run out hoselines with fog nozzles and/or 
applicators. Other members of the fire 
party could have prepared to activate the 
CO2 system and shut down ventilation 
promptly in the event the direct attack 
was not successful. 

Comparative Study 

A detailed comparison of the structural and equip- 
ment standards that were applicable to the SS 
Hanseatic with those applicable to large ocean- 
going passenger vessels of the United States was 
conducted by the Technical Division of the Office 
of Merchant Marine Safety. This comparison was 
limited to the locations involved in or affected by 
the fire. It was undertaken to find ways in which 
United States flag vessels could be improved. The 
most critical items were felt to be the following: 

1 . Materials within accommodation and serv- 
ice spaces 

2. Ventilation ducts 

Case Histories of Shipboard Fires 


3. Automatic sprinkler systems 

4. CO2 extinguishing systems 

5 . Tubing used in fuel lines 

6. Gauge glasses on diesel oil tanks 

7. Routing of main turbogenerator cables 

8. Emergency power and lighting systems. 

The following are some of the results of the 

1. The Hanseatic was constructed and reno- 
vated in accordance with method II fire 
protection as described in the International 
Convention for Safety of Life at Sea 
(SOLAS 1948), which permitted extensive 
use of combustible materials. United States 
vessels are, and have been since 1936, con- 
structed essentially in accordance with 
method I fire protection. Method I protec- 
tion severely limits the use of combustible 
materials and requires internal divisional 
bulkheading capable of preventing the pas- 
sage of flame for extended periods. 

2. The primary fire in the Hanseatic passed 
vertically from the diesel generator room 
via the ventilation ducts. Apparently there 
were no automatic fusible-link dampers in 
these ducts, nor was insulation fitted to the 
ducts where they faced passenger spaces. 
A U.S. vessel of the same vintage and his- 
tory would probably have ducts from ma- 
chinery spaces insulated with fire resistive 
insulation, and automatic fire dampers 
would likely be fitted. 

3. The Hanseatic was equipped with an auto- 
matic sprinkler system for the protection 
of passenger accommodation and service 
spaces in accordance with construction 
standards under method II of the 1948 
SOLAS convention. A similar U.S. vessel 
would have employed method I standards, 
relying on containment by incombustible 
fire barriers; an automatic sprinkler system 
would not have been fitted. 

4. The quantity of CO2 protecting the aux- 
iliary machinery space was sufficient to 
totally flood the space. However, to be ef- 
fective, this system had to be activated as 
soon as the fire was discovered. The delay 
of more than 2 hours in actuating the sys- 
tem was critical and rendered the system 
ineffective. It is doubtful that systems pres- 

ently installed on U.S. vessels would be 
capable of extinguishing a fire of such mag- 
nitude after a similar delay. 

5. The tubing used in the fuel line that failed 
was evidently a short length of rubber. 
Rubber tubing is not permitted on U.S. 
vessels for this type of service. Where short 
lengths of flexible nonmetallic hose are per- 
mitted, they must be wire reinforced and 
have a fire resistive cover. 

6. There was no testimony as to whether or 
not the gauge glasses on the diesel oil tanks 
were constructed of heat resistant glass or 
were equipped with automatic closure de- 
vices. In light of what was observed after 
the fire, it would appear that they had 
neither. Both heat resistant materials and 
automatic closure devices, to protect 
against spillage if the gauge glass ruptures, 
are required on U.S. vessels. 

7. The failure of normal power was evidently 
due to the routing of the main turbogen- 
erator cables through the forward diesel 
generator room, where the fire originated, 
and then vertically through the deck to the 
switchboard room. The SOLAS and U.S. 
Coast Guard regulations governing the 
relative positions of main generators, cable 
runs and switchboards are minimal. Ar- 
rangements similar to those on the Han- 
seatic may possibly be found in U.S. pas- 
senger vessels. 

8. After the power failure, which occurred 
within 15 minutes of the start of the fire, 
the emergency generators came into op- 
eration satisfactorily. However, emergency 
power and lighting did not come on in the 
machinery spaces or other areas forward 
of the diesel generator room at frame 100. 
Cables running forward from the emer- 
gency switchboard must have been routed 
through the diesel generator room to the 
boiler room so that they were destroyed by 
the fire. Moreover, it was necessary to en- 
ergize the emergency lighting and power 
system manually. Manual systems are per- 
missible on older U.S. passenger vessels. 
However, those contracted for since No- 
vember 19, 1952, are equipped with a self- 
contained power source with automatic 
transfer equipment, or diesel generators 
with automatic starting and transfer equip- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 


SS San Jose: Report, Officer in Charge, USCG, Ma- 
rine Inspection, San Francisco, Calif. 94126, 

28 January 1968. 
SS Hanseatic: Report, Commander, 3rd Coast Guard 

District, U.S. Custom House, New York, N.Y. 

10004, 22 September 1966. 
MV Rio Jackal: WNYF Magazine, Fire Department 

City of New York, 1st Issue 1963. Fire Report, 

MV Alva Cape and SS Texaco Massachusetts: 

WNYF Magazine, Fire Department, City of New 

York, Fire Report, NYFD. 
SS African Star: Report, Officer in Charge USCG, 

New Orleans, La. 
Barnaby KC: Mono Castle: Some Ship Disasters 

and their Causes. 

Great Ship Disasters, by A. A. Hoehling. 

Fire Aboard, by Frank Rushbrook. 
Barnaby KC: <SS Lakonia: Some Ship Disasters and 

their Causes. 

Great Ship Disasters by A. A. Hoehling. 

SS Yarmouth Castle: Report, Commander, 7th Coast 
Guard District, Miami, Florida, 23 February 
Great Ship Disasters by A. A. Hoehling. 

MV San Francisco Maru: Fire Reports, Fire Depart- 
ment City of New York, March 30, 1968 and 
April 1, 1968. 

SS Normandie: Investigation Committee Report, US 

Some Ship Disasters and their Causes by K.C. 

Great Ship Disasters by A. A. Hoehling. 
Fire Aboard, Frank Rushbrook. 

Other Valuable Sources of Information: 

Proceedings of the Marine Safety Council (U.S. 
Coast Guard) 

Marine Casualty Reports (U.S. Coast Guard) 

National Transportation Safety Board Reports 

firefighting p Qf j 

// the first part of this book makes only one point, it is this: The surest way to 
protect a ship and its crew from fire is to prevent shipboard fires. At sea or in 
port, ship fire of any size will result in damage to the ship, its cargo or both. 
If the fire has gained headway and is difficult to control, it may also cause 
injuries or deaths. An uncontrolled fire may mean loss of the vessel and a life- 
or-death situation for the crew and passengers. In port, such a fire could spread 
to land installations. 

In Part I, Chapters 1 and 2 discuss this first line of defense against fires — 
prevention — and Chapter 3 shows that shipboard fires do occur. Fires start 
small but grow quickly. Damage and the danger of injuries and deaths can 
be minimized by early detection, control and extinguishment, all of which 
will be discussed in Part II. 

To fight fire effectively, it is important to know the enemy. Chapter 4, the 
first chapter in this part, is a discussion of what fire is and how it destroys. 
Chapter 5 covers the four classes, or types, of fires. Fires are classified accord- 
ing to the properties of the materials involved and, thus, according to the 
most effective means of control and extinguishment. 

The earlier a fire is discovered, the less chance it has to spread, and the 
sooner the crew can begin to fight it. Several different types of fire detection 
systems are used aboard ships. Chapter 6 covers these systems, from patrols 
to sophisticated automatic alarms. 

The next four chapters cover firefighting equipment and techniques once 
fire is discovered. Extinguishing agents are covered in Chapter 7; portable 
and semiportable equipment in Chapter 8; fixed, or built-in, equipment in 
Chapter 9; and crew firefighting operations in Chapter 10. The last two chap- 
ters deal with specialized firefighting problems. Chapter 11 covers tugboats 
and towboats, and Chapter 12 covers offshore installations. 

The information contained in Part II represents the work and the experience 
of many people, including shipbuilders, equipment manufacturers, seamen, 
engineers, professional firefighters and scientists. Yet the information alone 
is almost useless in the event of a shipboard fire. It must be combined with a 
knowledge of the ship's construction features, firefighting equipment and 
cargo if it is to be used effectively. In other words, the success of a firefighting 
operation — and perhaps survival — will depend on how well the crew has been 
trained, and how well they know and maintain their vessel and its firefighting 



Once a fire starts, it will continue to burn as long 
as there is something to burn. But what causes 
a fire to start, and how does it burn? Why are 
some substances more or less flammable than 
others? Those questions are answered in this 
chapter. In addition, we look at how fires spread 
and how they can be kept from spreading. 


Oxidation is a chemical process in which a sub- 
stance combines with oxygen. During this proc- 
ess, energy is given off, usually in the form of 
heat. The rusting of iron and the rotting of wood 
are common examples of slow oxidation. Fire, or 
combustion, is rapid oxidation; the burning sub- 
stance combines with oxygen at a very high rate. 
Energy is given off in the form of heat and light. 
Because this energy production is so rapid, we 
can feel the heat and see the light as flames. 

The Start of a Fire 

All matter exists in one of three states — solid, 
liquid or gas (vapor). The atoms or molecules of 
a solid are packed closely together, and those of 
a liquid are packed loosely. The molecules of a 
vapor are not packed together at all; they are 
free to move about. In order for a substance to 
oxidize, its molecules must be pretty well sur- 

rounded by oxygen molecules. The molecules of 
solids and liquids are too tightly packed to be 
surrounded. Thus, only vapors can burn. 

However, when a solid or liquid is heated, its 
molecules move about rapidly. If enough heat is 
applied, some molecules break away from the 
surface to form a vapor just above the surface. 
This vapor can now mix with oxygen. If there is 
enough heat to raise the vapor to its ignition 
temperature, and if there is enough oxygen pres- 
ent, the vapor will oxidize rapidly — it will start 
to burn. 


What we call burning is the rapid oxidation of 
millions of vapor molecules. The molecules oxi- 
dize by breaking apart into individual atoms and 
recombining with oxygen into new molecules. It 
is during the breaking-recombining process that 
energy is released as heat and light. 

The heat that is released is radiant heat, which 
is pure energy. It is the same sort of energy that 
the sun radiates and that we feel as heat. It radi- 
ates, or travels, in all directions. Thus, part of it 
moves back to the seat of the fire, to the "burn- 
ing" solid or liquid (the fuel). 

The heat that radiates back to the fuel is called 
radiation feedback (Fig. 4.1). Part of this heat 

Outward Radiation 


Radiation Feedback 

Figure 4.1. Radiation feedback is heat that travels back to the fuel from the flames. It releases vapor from the fuel, then 
ignites it. 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 



Increased Molecule 
Chain Reaction 

o o 
o o 

E^* 9 "^cPtfcP 

o j. o o" o 

^ -~_ oo o g> o lJC ^ 

Figure 4.2. The chain reaction of combustion. A. Vapor from heated fuel rises, mixes with air and burns. It produces 
enough heat to release more vapor and to draw in air to burn that vapor. B. As more vapor burns, flame production in- 
creases. More heat is produced, more vapor released, more air drawn into the flames and more vapor burns. The chain 
reaction keeps increasing the size of the fire. 

releases more vapor, and part of it raises the 
vapor to the ignition temperature. At the same 
time, air is drawn into the area where the flames 
and vapor meet. The result is that the newly 
formed vapor begins to burn. The flames increase. 

The Chain Reaction 

This is the start of a chain reaction: The burning 
vapor produces heat which releases and ignites 
more vapor. The additional vapor burns, pro- 
ducing more heat, which releases and ignites still 
more vapor. This produces still more heat, vapor 
and combustion. And so on (Fig. 4.2). As long as 
there is plenty of fuel available, the fire continues 
to grow, and more flame is produced. 

After a time, the amount of vapor released 
from the fuel reaches a maximum rate and begins 
to level off producing a steady rate of burning. 
This usually continues until most of the fuel has 
been consumed. Then there is less vapor to 
oxidize, and less heat is produced. Now the proc- 
ess begins to break down. Still less vapor is re- 
leased, there is less heat and flame, and the fire 
begins to die out. A solid fuel may leave an ash 
residue and continue to smolder for some time. 
A liquid fuel usually burns up completely. 

Although we have discussed only solid and 
liquid fuels, there are, of course, flammable gases. 
Gases burn more intensely than solids or liquids, 
because they are already in the vapor state. All 
the radiation feedback goes into igniting the 
vapor, so it is more fully ignited. Gases burn with- 
out smoldering or leaving residues. The size and 
intensity of a gas fire depend on the amount of 
fuel available — usually as a flow from a gas pipe 
or bottle. 


From the preceding section, it is obvious that 
three things are required for combustion: fuel 
(to vaporize and burn), oxygen (to combine with 
fuel vapor), and heat (to raise the temperature of 
the fuel vapor to its ignition temperature). The 
fire triangle (Fig. 4.3) illustrates these require- 
ments. It also illustrates two facts of importance 
in preventing and extinguishing fires: 

1 . If any side of the fire triangle is missing, a 
fire cannot start. 

2. If any side of the fire triangle is removed, 
the fire will go out (Fig. 4.4). 

Solid Fuels 

The most obvious solid fuels are wood, paper and 
cloth. These are found aboard ship as cordage, 


All Sources of 
Ignition Aboard 


All Flammable Materials Aboard 
Ship Including the Ship Itself 

Figure 4.3. The fire triangle: fuel, oxygen and heat are 
necessary for combustion. 



Figure 4.4. Fire cannot occur (or exist) if any part of the 
fire triangle is missing or has been removed. 

canvas, dunnage, furniture, plywood, wiping rags 
and mattresses. The paint on bulkheads is also 
a solid fuel. Vessels may carry a wide variety of 
solid fuels as cargo, from baled materials to goods 
in cartons, and loose materials such as grain. 
Metals such as magnesium, sodium and titanium 
are also solid fuels that may be carried as cargo. 

Pyrolysis. Before solid fuel will burn, it must 
be changed to the vapor state. In a fire situation, 
this change usually results from the initial appli- 
cation of heat. The process is known as pyrolysis, 
which is generally defined as "chemical decom- 
position by the action of heat." In this case, the 
decomposition causes a change from the solid 
state to the vapor state (Fig. 4.5). If the vapor 




Figure 4.5. Pyrolysis: The conversion of solid fuel to flam- 
mable vapor by heat. 

mixes sufficiently with air and is heated to a high 
enough temperature (by a flame, spark, hot motor, 
etc.), combustion results. 

Burning Rate. The burning rate of a solid fuel 
depends on its configuration. Solid fuels in the 
form of dust or shavings will burn faster than 
bulky materials (that is, small wood chips will 
burn faster than a solid wooden beam). Finely 
divided fuels have a much larger surface area ex- 
posed to the heat. Therefore, heat is absorbed 
much faster, and vaporization is more rapid. 
More vapor is available for ignition, so it burns 
with great intensity and the fuel is quickly con- 
sumed. On the other hand, a bulky fuel will burn 
longer than a finely divided fuel. 

Dust clouds are made up of very small par- 
ticles. When a cloud of flammable dust (such as 
grain dust) is mixed well with air and ignited, it 
burns extremely quickly, often with explosive 
force. Such explosions have occurred on ships 
during the loading and discharging of grains and 
other finely divided materials. 

Ignition Temperature. The ignition tempera- 
ture of a substance (solid, liquid or gas) is the 
lowest temperature at which sustained combus- 
tion will occur without the application of a spark 
or flame. Ignition temperatures vary among sub- 
stances. For a given substance, the ignition tem- 
perature also varies with bulk, surface area and 
other factors. The ignition temperatures of com- 
mon combustible materials lie between 149°C 
(300°F) and 538°C (1000°F). 

Liquid Fuels 

The flammable liquids most commonly found 
aboard ship are bunker fuel, lubricating oil, diesel 
oil, kerosene, oil-base paints and their solvents. 
Cargos may include flammable liquids and lique- 
fied flammable gases. 

Vaporization. Flammable liquids release vapor 
in much the same way as solid fuels. The rate of 
vapor release is greater for liquids than solids, 
since liquids have less closely packed molecules. 
In addition, liquids can release vapor over a wide 
temperature range. Gasoline starts to give off 
vapor at — 43 °C (— 45 °F). This makes gasoline 
a continuous fire hazard; it produces flammable 
vapor at normal temperatures (Fig. 4. 6 A). Heat- 
ing increases the rate of vapor release. 

Heavier flammable liquids such as bunker oil 
and lubricating oil must be heated to release suffi- 
cient vapor for combustion. Lubricating oils can 
ignite at 204°C (400°F). A fire reaches this tem- 
perature rapidly, so that oils directly exposed to a 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Figure 4.6. Vaporization of a flammable liquid. A. Many flammable liquids produce vapor without being heated. When 
such a liquid is stored in an open container, it can easily be ignited. B. Once the vapor-air mixture is ignited, radiation feed- 
back causes a massive release of fuel vapor. 

fire will soon become involved. Once a light or 
heavy flammable liquid is burning, radiation feed- 
back and the chain reaction quickly increase 
flame production (Fig. 4.6B). 

The vapor produced by a flammable liquid is 
heavier than air. This makes the vapor very dan- 
gerous, because it will seek low places, dissipate 
slowly, and travel to a distant source of ignition. 
For example, vapor escaping from a container 
can travel along a deck and down deck openings 
until it contacts a source of ignition (such as a 
spark from an electric motor). If the vapor is 
properly mixed with air, it will ignite and carry 
fire back to the leaky container. The result can 
be a severe explosion and fire. 

Burning. Pound for pound, flammable liquids 
produce about 2.5 times more heat than wood. 
This heat is liberated 3 to 10 times faster from 
liquids than from wood. These ratios illustrate 
quite clearly why flammable liquid vapor burns 
with such intensity. When flammable liquids 
spill, they expose a very large surface area, re- 
lease a great amount of vapor and thus produce 
great amounts of heat when ignited. This is one 
reason why large open tank fires and liquid-spill 
fires burn so violently. 

Flash Point. The flash point of a liquid fuel is 
the temperature at which it gives off sufficient 
vapor to form an ignitable mixture near its sur- 
face. An ignitable mixture is a mixture of vapor 

and air that is capable of being ignited by an 
ignition source, but usually is not sufficient to 
sustain combustion. 

Sustained combustion takes place at a slightly 
higher temperature, referred to as the fire point 
of the liquid. The flash points and fire points 
(temperatures) of liquids are determined in con- 
trolled tests. 

Gaseous Fuels 

There are both natural and manufactured flam- 
mable gases. Those that may be found on board 
a vessel include acetylene, propane and butanes. 

Burning. Gaseous fuels are already in the re- 
quired vapor state. Only the proper intermix with 
oxygen and sufficient heat are needed for ignition. 
Gases, like flammable liquids, always produce a 
visible flame; they do not smolder. Radiation 
feedback is not necessary to vaporize the gas; 
however, some radiation feedback is still essen- 
tial to the burning process, to provide continuous 
reignition of the gas (Fig. 4.7). 

Explosive Range (Flammable Range). A flam- 
mable gas or the flammable vapor of a liquid 
must mix with air in the proper proportion to 
make an ignitable mixture. The smallest percent- 
age of a gas (or vapor) that will make an ignitable 
air-vapor mixture is called the lower explosive 
limit (LEL) of the gas (or vapor). If there is less 
gas in the mixture, it is too lean to burn. The 



u o 6> 


o o 

° o ° # . 
o „ o o. 


, °o 8 


o o oa 



Figure 4.7 Flammable gases are always in the ignitable 
state. Radiation feedback sustains the combustion. 

greatest percentage of a gas (or vapor) in an ig- 
nitable air-vapor mixture is called its upper ex- 
plosive limit (UEL). If a mixture contains more 
gas than the UEL, it is too rich to burn. The range 
of percentages between the lower and upper ex- 
plosive limits is called the explosive range of the 
gas or vapor. 

Table 4. 1 gives the LEL and UEL for a num- 
ber of substances. It shows, for example, that a 
mixture of from 1.4% to 7.6% gasoline vapor 
and from 98.6% to 92.4% air will ignite. How- 
ever, a mixture of 9% gasoline vapor and 91% 
air will not ignite, because it is too rich (above 
the UEL). Thus, a large volume of air must inter- 
mix with a small amount of gasoline vapor to 
form an ignitable mixture. 

Table 4.1. Typical upper and lower flammable limits.* 

Lower explosive 

Upper explosive 


limit (LEL) 

limit (UEL) 
















Ethylene Oxide 















Percent by volume in air. 

A mixture of a gas or vapor in air that is be- 
low the LEL may burn under some special cir- 
cumstances. This fact is the basis of certain 
devices that utilize a Wheatstone bridge to detect 
the presence of potentially hazardous concentra- 
tions of hazardous or explosive gases. Such de- 
vices as the combustible-gas indicator (Chapter 
16) make it unnecessary to memorize the explo- 
sive ranges of fuels. It is much more important 
to realize that certain ranges of vapor-air mix- 
tures can be ignited, and to use caution when 
working with these fuels. 

The explosive ranges of specific types of fuels 
are published in the NFPA Fire Protection Hand- 
book and the US Coast Guard Chemical Data 
Guide for Bulk Shipment by Water, CG388. 


The oxygen side of the fire triangle refers to the 
oxygen content of the surrounding air. Ordinarily, 
a minimum concentration of 16% oxygen in the 
air is needed to support flaming combustion. 
However, smoldering combustion can take place 
in about 3% oxygen. Air normally contains about 
21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen and 1% other gases, 
principally argon. 


Heat is the third side of the fire triangle. When 
sufficient heat, fuel and oxygen are available, the 
triangle is complete and fire can exist. Heat of 
ignition initiates the chemical reaction that is 
called combustion. It can come from the flame 
of a match, sparks caused by ferrous metals strik- 
ing together, heat generated by friction, lightning, 
an oxyacetylene torch cutting or welding metal, 
an electric short circuit, an electric arc between 
conductors, or the overheating of an electric con- 
ductor or motor. Sufficient heat may also be pro- 
duced internally, within the fuel, by a chemical 
reaction (see Spontaneous Ignition, Chapter 1). 


The fire triangle (Fig. 4.3) is a simple means of 
illustrating the three requirements for the exist- 
ence of fire. However, it does not explain the 
nature of fire. In particular, it does not include 
the chain reaction that results from chemical re- 
actions among the fuel, oxygen and heat. 

The fire tetrahedron (Fig. 4.8) is a better rep- 
resentation of the combustion process. (A tetra- 
hedron is a solid figure with four triangular faces. 
It is useful for illustrating and remembering the 
combustion process because it has room for the 
chain reaction and because each face touches 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefig filing and Fire Safety 

Figure 4.8. The fire tetrahedron. 

the other three faces.) The basic difference be- 
tween the fire triangle and the fire tetrahedron is 
this: The tetrahedron illustrates how flaming com- 
bustion is supported and sustained through the 
chain reaction. In a sense, the chain reaction face 
keeps the other three faces from falling apart. 
This is an important point, because the extin- 
guishing agents used in many modern portable 
fire extinguishers, automatic extinguishing sys- 
tems and explosion suppression systems directly 
attack and break down the chain reaction se- 


A fire can be extinguished by destroying the fire 
tetrahedron. If the fuel, oxygen or heat is re- 
moved, the fire will die out. If the chain reaction 
is broken, the resulting reduction in vapor and 
heat production will extinguish the fire. (However, 
additional cooling with water may be necessary 
where smoldering or reflash is a possibility.) 

Removing the Fuel 

One way to remove the fuel from a fire is to 
physically drag it away. In most instances, this is 
an impractical firefighting technique. However, it 
is often possible to move nearby fuels away from 
the immediate vicinity of a fire, so that the fire 
does not extend to these fuels. 

Sometimes the supply of liquid or gaseous fuel 
can be cut off from a fire. When a fire is being 
fed by a leaky gasoline or diesel line, it can be 
extinguished by closing the proper valve. If a 
pump is supplying liquid fuel to a fire in the en- 
gine room, the pump can be shut down to remove 
the fuel source and thereby extinguish the fire. 

Fire in a defective fuel-oil burner can be con- 
trolled and extinguished by closing the supply 
valve. Fire involving acetylene or propane can 
often be extinguished by shutting the valve on 
the cylinder. 

Removing the Oxygen 

A fire can be extinguished by removing its oxy- 
gen or by reducing the oxygen level in the air to 
below 16%. Many extinguishing agents (carbon 
dioxide and foam, for example) extinguish fire 
with a smothering action that deprives the fire 
of oxygen. 

This extinguishment method is difficult (but 
not impossible) to use in an open area. Gaseous 
smothering agents like carbon dioxide would be 
blown away from an open deck area, especially 
if the ship is under way. On the other hand, fire 
in a galley trash container can be snuffed out by 
placing a cover tightly over the container, block- 
ing the flow of air to the fire. As the fire consumes 
the oxygen in the container, it becomes starved 
for oxygen and is extinguished. 

Tank vessels that carry petroleum products 
are protected by foam systems with monitor noz- 
zles on deck. When used quickly and efficiently, 
the foam is capable of extinguishing a sizable 
deck fire. 

To extinguish a fire in an enclosed space such 
as a compartment, engine room or cargo hold, 
the space can be flooded with carbon dioxide. 
When the carbon dioxide enters the space and 
mixes with the atmosphere, the percentage of 
oxygen in the atmosphere is reduced below 16% , 
and extinguishment results. This method is used 
to combat fires in cargo holds. For the technique 
to be successful, the hold must be completely 
sealed to keep fresh air out. (For further discus- 
sion of this method of extinguishment, see Chap- 
ter 10.) 

Oxidizing Substances. An oxidizing substance 
is a material that releases oxygen when it is 
heated or, in some instances, when it comes in 
contact with water. Substances of this nature in- 
clude the hypochlorites, chlorates, perchlorates, 
nitrates, chromates, oxides and peroxides. All 
contain oxygen atoms that are loosely bonded 
into their molecular structure. That is, they carry 
their own supply of oxygen, enough to support 
combustion. This oxygen is released when the 
substances break down, as in a fire. For this rea- 
son, burning oxidizers cannot be extinguished by 
removing their oxygen. Instead, large amounts 
of water, limited by ship stability safety needs, 
are used to accomplish extinguishment. Oxidizers 

Fire fighting 


are hazardous materials and, as such, are regu- 
lated by the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Removing the Heat 

The most commonly used method of extinguish- 
ing fire is to remove the heat. The base of the fire 
is attacked with water to destroy the ability of 
the fire to sustain itself. Water is a very effective 
heat absorber. When properly applied, it absorbs 
heat from the fuel and absorbs much of the radi- 
ation feedback. As a result, the chain reaction is 
indirectly attacked both on the fuel surface and 
at the flames. The production of vapor and ra- 
diant heat is reduced. Continued application will 
control and extinguish the fire. 

When fire is attacked with a hoseline, water in 
the proper form must be directed onto the main 
body of fire to achieve the quickest heat reduc- 
tion. Water spray can be a highly efficient ex- 
tinguishing agent. For complete extinguishment, 
water must be applied to the seat of the fire. (See 
Chapter 10 for a discussion of the uses of water 
as an extinguishing agent.) 

Breaking the Chain Reaction 

Once the chain reaction sequence is broken, a 
fire can be extinguished rapidly. The extinguish- 
ing agents commonly used to attack the chain 
reaction and inhibit combustion are dry chemi- 
cals and Halons. These agents directly attack the 
molecular structure of compounds formed during 
the chain reaction sequence. The breakdown of 
these compounds adversely affects the flame- 
producing capability of the fire. The attack is 
extremely rapid; in some automatic systems the 
fire is extinguished in 50 to 60 milliseconds. Be- 
cause of their ultrafast action, Halons and dry 
chemicals are used in automatic explosion sup- 
pression systems. 

It should be borne in mind that these agents 
do not cool a smoldering fire or a liquid whose 
container has been heated above the liquid's ig- 
nition temperature. In these cases, the extinguish- 
ing agent must be maintained on the fire until the 
fuel has cooled down naturally. Otherwise, a 
cooling medium such as water must be used to 
cool the smoldering embers or the sides of the 
container. In most situations, it is best to use 
water for cooling along with extinguishing agents 
that attack the chain reaction only. 


If a fire is attacked early and efficiently, it can 
easily be confined to the area in which it started. 
If it is allowed to burn unchecked, it can gen- 

erate great amounts of heat that will travel away 
from the fire area, igniting additional fires wher- 
ever fuel and oxygen are available. And both are 
in plentiful supply throughout most ships. Steel 
bulkheads and decks and other fire barriers can 
stop or delay the passage of heat to some extent, 
but not completely. As the original fuel source is 
consumed, the heat, and thus the fire, will extend 
to new fuel sources. 

Heat from a fire is transferred by one or more 
of three methods: conduction, radiation and con- 


Conduction is the transfer of heat through a solid 
body. For example, on a hot stove, heat is con- 
ducted through the pot to its contents. Wood is 
ordinarily a poor conductor of heat, but metals 
are good conductors. Since most ships are con- 
structed of metal, heat transfer by conduction 
is a potential hazard. Fire can move from one 
hold to another, one deck to another, and one 
compartment to another via heat conduction 
(Fig. 4.9). 

In many cases the skillful application of water, 
particularly in the form of a spray, will retard or 
halt the transmission of heat by conduction. The 
water cools the affected structural members, bulk- 

Figure 4.9. Heat is 
being conducted 
from the fire to ad- 
joining spaces by the 
metal decks and 
bulkhead. The bulk- 
head paint is blister- 
ing because vapori- 
zation has already 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

heads and decks. A water spray pattern absorbs 
heat more efficiently than a solid stream, because 
the smaller water droplets present more surface 
to the heat source. At the same time, less water 
is used, so there is less of a water runoff problem 
and less danger of affecting the stability of the 


Heat radiation is the transfer of heat from a 
source across an intervening space; no material 
substance is involved. The heat travels outward 
from the fire in the same manner as light, that is, 
in straight lines. When it contacts a body, it is 
absorbed, reflected or transmitted. Absorbed heat 
increases the temperature of the absorbing body. 
For example, radiant heat that is absorbed by an 
overhead will increase the temperature of that 
overhead, perhaps enough to ignite its paint. 

Heat radiates in all directions unless it is 
blocked. Radiant heat extends fire by heating 
combustible substances in its path, causing them 
to produce vapor, and then igniting the vapor 
(Fig. 4.10). 

Within a ship, radiant heat will raise the tem- 
perature of combustible materials near the fire 
or, depending on the ship's design, at quite some 
distance from the fire. Intense radiated heat can 
make an approach to the fire extremely difficult. 
For this reason, protective clothing must be worn 
by firefighters, and the heat reduced through the 
use of a heat shield such as water spray or dry 


Convection is the transfer of heat through the 
motion of heated matter, i.e., through the motion 
of smoke, hot air, heated gases produced by the 
fire, and flying embers. 

When it is confined (as within a ship), con- 
vected heat moves in predictable patterns. The 
fire produces lighter-than-air gases that rise to- 
ward high parts of the ship. Heated air, which is 
lighter than cool air, also rises, as does the smoke 
produced by combustion. As these heated com- 
bustion products rise, cool air takes their place; 
the cool air is heated in turn and then also rises 
to the highest point it can reach (Fig. 4.11). As 
the hot air and gases rise from the fire, they begin 
to cool; as they do, they drop down to be re- 
heated and rise again. This is the convection 

Heat originating at a fire on a lower deck will 
travel horizontally along passageways, and then 
upward via ladder and hatch openings. It will 
ignite flammable materials in its path. To prevent 
fire spread, the heat, smoke and gases should be 
released into the atmosphere. However, the struc- 
tural design of a ship makes it next to impossible 
to rapidly cut openings through decks, bulkheads 
or the ship's hull for ventilation. Thus, it is im- 
perative that the fire be confined to the smallest 
possible area. For this purpose, doors and hatch- 
ways should be kept closed when they are not in 
use. If a fire is discovered, attempts should be 
made to close off all openings to the fire area 
until firefighting personnel and equipment can be 
brought into position to fight the fire. 


Fire produces flames, heat, gases and smoke. 
Each of these combustion products can cause 
serious injuries or death. 


Direct contact with flames can result in totally 
or partially disabling skin burns and serious dam- 

Figure 4.10. Radiated heat travels in straight lines to combustible materials, igniting them and spreading the fire. 





Figure 4.11. Convection carries heated air, gases and smoke upward through the ship. When vertical passage is blocked, they 
move horizontally. 

age to the respiratory tract. To prevent skin burns 
during a fire attack, crewmen should maintain a 
safe distance from the fire unless they are prop- 
erly protected and equipped for the attack. Pro- 
tective clothing (Chapter 15) should be worn 
when combating a serious fire. 

Respiratory tract damage can be prevented by 
wearing breathing apparatus. However, firefight- 
ing personnel must remember that breathing ap- 
paratus does not protect the body from the 
extreme heat of a fire. 


Fire generates temperatures in excess of 93 °C 
(200°F) very rapidly, and the temperature can 
build up to over 427 °C (800°F) in an enclosed 
area. Temperatures above 50°C (122°F) are haz- 
ardous to humans, even if they are wearing pro- 
tective clothing and breathing apparatus. The 
dangerous effects of heat range from minor in- 
jury to death. Direct exposure to heated air may 
cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, burns and 
blockage of the respiratory tract by fluids. Heat 
also causes an increased heart rate. A firefighter 
exposed to excessive heat over an extended period 

of time could develop hyperthermia, a danger- 
ously high fever that can damage nerve centers. 
{See Chapter 14 for a detailed discussion of burns 
and methods of treatment.) 


The particular gases produced by a fire depend 
mainly on the fuel. The most common hazardous 
gases are carbon dioxide (C0 2 ), the product of 
complete combustion, and carbon monoxide 
(CO), the product of incomplete combustion. 

Carbon monoxide is the more dangerous of 
the two. When air mixed with carbon monoxide 
is inhaled, the blood absorbs the CO before it 
will absorb oxygen. The result is an oxygen de- 
ficiency in the brain and body. Exposure to a 
1.3% concentration of CO will cause uncon- 
sciousness in two or three breaths, and death in 
a few minutes. 

Carbon dioxide works on the respiratory sys- 
tem. Above normal C0 2 concentrations in the air 
reduce the amount of oxygen that is absorbed in 
the lungs. The body responds with rapid and 
deep breathing — a signal that the respiratory sys- 
tem is not receiving sufficient oxygen. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

When the oxygen content of air drops from its 
normal level of 21 % to about 15% , human mus- 
cular control is reduced. At 10% to 14% oxygen 
in air, judgment is impaired and fatigue sets 
in. Unconsciousness usually results from oxygen 
concentrations below 10%. During periods of 
exertion, such as firefighting operations, the body 
requires more oxygen; these symptoms may then 
appear at higher oxygen percentages. 

Several other gases generated by a fire are of 
equal concern to firefighters. Therefore, anyone 
entering a fire must wear an appropriate breath- 
ing apparatus. {See Chapter 15.) 


Smoke is a visible product of fire that adds to the 
problem of breathing. It is made up of carbon 

and other unburned substances in the form of 
suspended particles. It also carries the vapors of 
water, acids and other chemicals, which can be 
poisonous or irritating when inhaled. 

Smoke greatly reduces visibility in and above 
the fire area. It irritates the eyes, nose, throat 
and lungs. Either breathing a low concentration 
for an extended period of time or a heavy con- 
centration for a short time can cause great dis- 
comfort to a firefighter. Firefighters who do not 
wear breathing apparatus in the fire area will 
eventually have to retreat to fresh air or be over- 
come by smoke. 


Fire Chief's Handbook 

CG-329 Fire Fighting for Tank Vessels 

NFPA Handbook 14th Ed. 

Engine Company Fireground Operations 
Richman, R. J. Brady Co. 

Basic Fireman's Training Course, Md. Fire 

& Rescue Inst. Univ. of Md. College Park, Md. 1969 

Classification of f\c€$ 

Title 46 CFR requires the master of a vessel to 
post a station bill outlining the duties and duty 
station of each crew member during various 
emergencies. The master also is required to con- 
duct drills and give instructions to ensure that all 
hands are familiar with their emergency duties. 
One of these emergencies is fire aboard ship. 

To extinguish a fire successfully, it is necessary 
to use the most suitable type of extinguishing 
agent — one that will accomplish the task in the 
least amount of time, cause the least damage and 
result in the least danger to crew members. The 
job of selecting the proper extinguishing agent 
has been made easier by the classification of fires 
into four types, or classes, lettered A through D. 
Within each class are all fires involving materials 
with similar burning properties and requiring 
similar extinguishing agents. Thus, knowledge of 
these classes is essential to efficient firefighting 


operations, as well as familiarity with the burning 
characteristics of materials that may be found 
aboard ship. 


The fire classification scheme used by the U.S. 
Coast Guard was originally devised by the Na- 
tional Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In 
this scheme, fires are classed according to the 
fuel and the most effective extinguishing agents, 
as follows: 

• Class A fires: Fires involving common (ash- 
producing) combustible materials, which 
can be extinguished by the use of water or 
water solutions. Materials in this category 
include wood and wood-based materials, 
cloth, paper, rubber and certain plastics 
(Fig. 5.1). 


Figure 5.1. Class A fires are those involving common combustible materials. 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 



Figure 5.2. Class B fires are those involving flammable liquids, gases and petroleum products. 

Class B fires: Fires involving flammable or 
combustible liquids, flammable gases, 
greases and similar products (Fig. 5.2). Ex- 
tinguishment is accomplished by cutting off 
the supply of oxygen to the fire or by pre- 
venting flammable vapors from being given 

Class C fires: Fires involving energized elec- 
trical equipment, conductors or appliances 
(Fig. 5.3). Nonconducting extinguishing 
agents must be used for the protection of 
crew members. 

Class D fires: Fires involving combustible 
metals, e.g., sodium, potassium, magnesium, 

titanium and aluminum (Fig. 5.4). Extin- 
guishment is effected through the use of 
heat-absorbing extinguishing agents such as 
certain dry powders that do not react with 
the burning metals. 

The main objective of this classification scheme 
is to aid crew members in selecting the appro- 
priate extinguishing agent. However, it is not 
enough to know that water is best for putting out 
a class A fire because it cools, or that dry chemi- 
cal works well in knocking down the flames of a 
burning liquid. The extinguishing agent must be 
applied properly, and sound firefighting tech- 
niques must be used. 

Figure 5.3. Class C fires are those involving energized electrical equipment and wiring. 

Classification of Fires 










Figure 5.4. Class D fires are those involving combustible 

In the remainder of this chapter, the fuels 
within each fire class are discussed in some de- 
tail. Further information regarding extinguishing 
agents and firefighting techniques may be found 
in Chapters 7-10. 


The materials whose involvement leads to class 
A fires may be placed in three broad groups: 
1) wood and wood-based materials, 2) textiles 
and fibers, and 3) plastics and rubber. We shall 
discuss each of these groups of fuels individually. 

Wood and Wood-based Materials 

Wood is very often involved in fire, mainly be- 
cause of its many uses. Marine uses include deck- 
ing and the interior finish of bulkheads (on small 
boats only), dunnage and staging, among many 
others. Wood-based materials are those that con- 


v v:: 81 

- — y. 

v V"" 

x --. 

Figure 5.5. Flashover. A. Radiant heat or heat conducted 
through the bulkhead causes the wood paneling to produce 
combustible vapor. B. Once the vapor is properly mixed 
with air, any ignition source will ignite the entire vapor-air 

tain processed wood or wood fibers. They include 
some types of insulation, ceiling tiles, plywood 
and paneling, paper, cardboard and pressboard. 

The properties of wood and wood-based ma- 
terials depend on the particular type involved. 
For example, seasoned, air-dried maple (a hard- 
wood) produces greater heat on burning than does 
pine (a softwood) that has been seasoned and 
dried similarly. However, all these materials are 
combustible; they will char, smolder, ignite and 
burn under certain heat conditions. Normally 
self-ignition does not occur. A source of ignition 
such as a spark, open flame, contact with a hot 
surface or exposure to heat radiation is usually 
necessary. However, wood can be pyrolyzed to 
charcoal, which has a lower ignition temperature. 

Wood is composed mainly of carbon, hydro- 
gen and oxygen, with smaller amounts of nitrogen 
and other elements. In the dry state, most of its 
weight consists of cellulose. Some other ingre- 
dients found in dry wood are sugars, resins, gums, 
esters of alcohol and mineral matter (from which 
ash is formed when wood burns). 

Burning Characteristics. The ignition tempera- 
ture of wood depends on many factors, such as 
size, shape, moisture content, and type. Gen- 
erally, the ignition temperature of wood is about 
204°C (400°F). However, it is believed that 
100°C (212°F) is the maximum temperature to 
which wood can be subjected over a long period 
of time without self-ignition taking place. 

The rate of combustion of wood and wood- 
based materials depends heavily on the physical 
form of the material, the amount of air available, 
the moisture content and other such factors. How- 
ever, the wood must be vaporized by heat before 
complete combustion can proceed. 

A slowly developing fire or a source of radiant 
heat may gradually transmit enough energy to 
begin the pyrolysis of wood products at bulkhead 
or overhead surfaces. The combustible vapor that 
is released will mix with the surrounding air. 
When this mixture is within the flammable range, 
any source of ignition may ignite the entire mass 
almost instantly. This condition is called flash- 
over (Fig. 5.5). Crewmen must guard against 
flashover while fighting fires involving such com- 
bustible solids as wood-paneled walls and furni- 
ture in the confined spaces of older ships. In mod- 
ern ships, noncombustible materials are used in 
cabins, passageways and other confined spaces. 

Flames move slowly across most combustible 
solids. Before the flame can spread, flammable 
vapor must be released by the solid fuel. Then 
the vapor must be mixed in the proper proportion 
with air. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Thick Bulky Fuels Burn Slowly 

Large Surface Areas Burn Rapidly 

Finely Divided Fuels Burn Extre 
Sometimes With Explosive 




Figure 5.6. The burning rate increases with the surface area of the fuel. 

Bulky solids with a small surface area (for 
example, a heavy wood beam) burn more slowly 
than thinner solids with a large surface area (for 
example, a sheet of plywood). Solids in chip, 
shaving or dust form (wood, metal shavings, saw- 
dust, grains and pulverized coal) burn most rap- 
idly, since the surfaces of the individual particles 
add up to a very large total area (Fig. 5.6). In 
general, the thicker the fuel is, the more time it 
requires to release vapor into the air. Therefore 
it will burn longer. The larger the surface area, 
the more rapidly the fuel burns: The larger sur- 
face allows combustible vapor to be released at 
a greater rate and to mix more quickly with air. 
(This is also true of flammable liquids. A shallow 
liquid spill with a large area will burn off more 
rapidly than the same volume of liquid in a deep 
tank with a small surface area.) 

Products of Combustion. Burning wood and 
wood-based materials produce water vapor, heat, 
carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as dis- 
cussed in Chapter 4. The reduced oxygen levels 
and the carbon monoxide present the primary 
hazard to crew members. In addition, wood and 
wood-based materials produce a wide range of 
aldehydes, acids and other gases when they burn. 
By themselves or in combination with the water 
vapor, these substances can cause severe irritation 
at least. Because of the toxicity of most of these 
gases, the use of breathing apparatus should be 
mandatory in and near the fire area (Fig. 5.7). 

Burns can be caused by direct contact with 
flames, or by heat radiated from the fire. Flames 
are rarely separated from the burning material 
by any appreciable distance. However, in certain 
types of smoldering fires, heat, smoke and gas can 

.*.. 'W*A 

Figure 5.7. The products of combustion subject firefighters to burns, oxygen depletion, heat exhaustion and dehydration, 
respiratory tract irritation, and poisoning. 

Classification of Fires 


develop without visible flames. Air currents can 
carry them far in advance of the fire. 

As is true of many organic substances, wood 
and related materials can produce large quantities 
of smoke in the beginning stages of fire. In some 
very special circumstances, materials can burn 
without producing visible combustion products; 
however, smoke generally accompanies fire and, 
like flame, is visible evidence of fire. 

Smoke frequently provides the early warning 
of fire. At the same time, its blinding and irritat- 
ing effects can contribute to panic. 

Textiles and Fibers 

Textiles in the form of clothing, furniture, car- 
pets, canvas, burlap, ropes and bedding are used 
extensively in the marine environment; others are 
carried as cargo. Almost all textile fibers are com- 
bustible. These two facts explain the frequency 
of textile-related fires and the many deaths and 
injuries that result. 

Natural-Fiber Textiles. Vegetable fibers con- 
sist largely of cellulose. They include cotton, 
jute, hemp, flax and sisal. Cotton and the other 
plant fibers are combustible (the ignition tem- 
perature of cotton fiber is 400°C (752°F)). Burn- 
ing vegetable fibers produce heat and smoke, 
carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and water. 
They do not melt. The ease of ignition, rate of 
flame spread, and amount of heat produced de- 
pend on the construction and finish of the tex- 
tile and on the design of the finished product. 

Animal fibers such as wool and silk are solid 
and are chemically different from cotton. They 
do not burn as freely, and they tend to smolder. 
For example, wool is basically protein. It is more 
difficult to ignite than cotton (the ignition tem- 
perature of wool fiber is 600°C (1 1 12°F)), burns 
more slowly, and is easier to extinguish. 

Synthetic Textiles. Synthetic textiles are fabrics 
woven wholly or mainly of synthetic fibers. Such 
fibers include rayon, acetate, nylon, polyester, 
acrylic and plastic wrap. The fire hazards involved 
with synthetic textiles are sometimes difficult to 
evaluate, owing to the tendency of some of them 
to shrink, melt or drip when heated. Rayon and 
acetate resemble plant fibers chemically, whereas 
most other synthetic fibers do not. Most are com- 
bustible to varying degrees but differ in ignition 
temperature, burning rate and other combustion 

Burning Characteristics. Many variables affect 
the way in which a textile burns. The most im- 
portant are the chemical composition of the tex- 

tile fiber, the finish on the fabric, the fabric weight, 
the tightness of weave and any flame retardant 

Vegetable fibers ignite easily and burn readily, 
giving off large amounts of heavy smoke. Par- 
tially burned vegetable fibers may present a fire 
risk, even after they have been extinguished. 
Half-burned fibers should always be removed 
from the fire area to a location where reignition 
of the material would not create an additional 
problem. Most baled vegetable fibers absorb 
water readily. The bales will swell and increase 
in weight when large quantities of water are used 
to extinguish fires in which they are involved. 

Wool is difficult to ignite; it tends to smolder 
and char rather than to burn freely unless it is 
subjected to considerable external heat. It will, 
however, contribute toward a fierce fire. Wool 
can absorb a large amount of water — a fact that 
must be considered during prolonged firefighting 

Silk is the least dangerous fiber. It is difficult to 
ignite, and it burns sluggishly. Combustion usu- 
ally must be supported by an external source of 
heat. Once set on fire, silk retains heat longer 
than any other fiber. In addition, it can absorb 
a great amount of water. Spontaneous ignition is 
possible in wet silk. There may be no external 
evidence that a bale of silk has ignited, until the 
fire burns through to the outside. 

The burning characteristics of synthetic fibers 
vary according to the materials used in their 
manufacture. The characteristics of some of the 
more common synthetics are given in Table 5.1. 

Table 5.1. Burning Characteristics of Some Common 
Synthetic Fibers. 







Plastic wrap 

Burns and melts ahead of the flame; 
ignition about the same as cotton. 

Burns and melts; ignition temperature 
560°C (1040°F); softens at 235-330°C 
(455-626° F). 

Supports combustion with difficulty; 
melts and drips; melting point, 160- 
260°C (320-500°F); ignition tempera- 
ture 425°C (797°F) and above. 

Burns readily; ignition temperature, 
450-485 °C (842-905 °F); softens at 
256-292°C (493-558°F) and drips. 

Does not support combustion. Melts. 

Burns about the same as cotton. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

These characteristics are based on small-scale 
tests and may be misleading. Some synthetic 
fabrics appear to be flame retardant when tested 
with a small flame source, such as a match. How- 
ever, when the same fabrics are subjected to a 
larger flame or a full-scale test, they may burst 
into flames and burn completely while generating 
quantities of black smoke. 

Products of Combustion. As noted above and 
in Chapter 4, all burning materials produce hot 
gases (called fire gases), flame, heat and smoke, 
resulting in decreased oxygen levels. The pre- 
dominant fire gases are carbon monoxide, carbon 
dioxide and water vapor. Burning vegetable fibers 
such as cotton, jute, flax, hemp and sisal give 
off large amounts of dense smoke. Jute smoke is 
particularly acrid. 

Burning wool gives off dense, grayish-brown 
smoke. Another product of the combustion of 
wool is hydrogen cyanide, a highly toxic gas. 
Charring wool forms a sticky, black, tarlike sub- 

Burning silk produces a large amount of 
spongy charcoal mixed with ash, which will con- 
tinue to glow or burn only in a strong draft. It 
emits quantities of thin gray smoke, somewhat 
acrid in character. Silk may produce hydrogen 
cyanide gas under certain burning conditions. 

Plastics and Rubber 

A wide variety of organic substances are used in 
manufacturing plastics. These include phenol, 
cresol, benzene, methyl alcohol, ammonia, for- 
maldehyde, urea and acetylene. The cellulose- 
based plastics are largely composed of cotton 
products; however, wood flour, wood pulp, paper 
and cloth also play a large part in the manufac- 
ture of many types of plastic. 

Natural rubber is obtained from rubber latex, 
which is the juice of the rubber tree. It is com- 
bined with such substances as carbon black, oils 
and sulphur to make commercial rubber. Syn- 
thetic rubbers are similar to natural rubber in 
certain characteristics. Acrylic, butadiene and 
neoprene rubbers are some of the synthetic types. 

Burning Characteristics. The burning charac- 
teristics of plastics vary widely. They depend to 
a significant extent on the form of the product — 
solid sections, films and sheets, foams, molded 
shapes, synthetic fibers, pellets or powders. The 
fire behavior of plastic materials also depends on 
their shape, their end use, the manner in which 
they are exposed to ignition and their chemical 
makeup. All the major plastic materials are com- 
bustible, and, in a major fire, all contribute fuel. 

Plastics may be divided roughly into three 
groups as regards burning rates: 

1 . Materials that either will not burn at all or 
will cease to burn if the source of ignition 
is removed. This group includes asbestos- 
filled phenolics, some polyvinyl chlorides, 
nylon and the fluorocarbons. 

2. Materials that are combustible, burn rela- 
tively slowly, but may or may not cease to 
burn when the source of ignition is re- 
moved. These plastics include the wood- 
filled formaldehydes (urea or phenol) and 
some vinyl derivatives. 

3. Materials that burn without difficulty and 
can continue to burn after the source of 
ignition is removed. Included in this group 
are polystyrene, the acrylics, some cellu- 
lose acetates and polyethylene. 

In a class of its own is the oldest well-known 
form of plastic, celluloid, or cellulose nitrate 
plastic. It is the most dangerous of the plastics. 
Celluloid decomposes at temperatures of 121 °C 
(250°F) and above with great rapidity, and with- 
out the addition of oxygen from the air. Flam- 
mable vapor is produced by the decomposition. 
If this vapor is allowed to accumulate and is then 
ignited, it can explode violently. It will burn vig- 
orously and is difficult to extinguish. 

The caloric value of rubber is roughly twice 
that of other common combustible materials. For 
example, rubber has a heating value of 17.9 X 
10 6 kilojoules (17,000 BTU/lb); pine wood, a 
value of 8.6 X 10° (8200 BTU/lb). Most types 
of rubber soften and run when burning and may 
thus contribute to rapid fire spread. Natural rub- 
ber decomposes slowly when first heated. At about 
232°C (450°F) or above, it begins to decompose 
rapidly, giving off gaseous products that may re- 
sult in an explosion. The ignition temperature of 
these gases is approximately 260°C (500°F). 

Synthetic rubbers behave similarly, though the 
temperature at which decomposition becomes 
rapid may be somewhat higher. This temperature 
ranges upward from 349 °C (660°F) for most 
synthetics, depending on the ingredients. Latex 
is a water-based emulsion and so does not present 
fire hazard. 

Products of Combustion. Burning plastic and 
rubber produce the fire gases, heat, flame and 
smoke described in Chapter 4. These materials 
may also contain chemicals that yield additional 
combustion products of a toxic or lethal nature. 
The type and amount of smoke generated by 
a burning plastic material depend on the nature 

Classification of Fires 87 

of the plastic, the additives present, whether the 
fire is flaming or smoldering and what ventilation 
is available. Most plastics decompose when 
heated, yielding dense to very dense smoke. Ven- 
tilation tends to clear the smoke, but usually not 
enough for good visibility. Those plastics that 
burn cleanly yield less dense smoke under condi- 
tions of heat and flame. When exposed to flam- 
ing or nonflaming heat, urethane foams generally 
yield dense smoke; in almost all cases, visibility is 
lost in a fraction of a minute. 

Hydrogen chloride is a product of combustion 
of chlorine-containing plastics such as polyvinyl 
chloride, a plastic used for insulating most elec- 
trical wiring. Hydrogen chloride is a deadly gas, 
but it has a pungent and irritating odor. No one 
would be likely to inhale it voluntarily. 

Burning rubber produces dense, black, oily 
smoke that has some toxic qualities. Two of the 
noxious gases produced in the combustion of rub- 
ber are hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide. Both 
are dangerous and can be lethal under certain 

Usual Locations of Class A Materials 
Aboard Ship 

Although vessels are constructed of metal and 
may appear incombustible, there are many flam- 
mable products aboard. As noted in Chapter 1, 
practically every type of material (class A and 
otherwise) is carried as cargo. It may be located 
in the cargo holds or on deck, stowed in con- 
tainers or in bulk stowage (Figs. 5.8 and 5.9). In 
addition, class A materials are used for many 
purposes throughout the ship. 

According to Coast Guard regulations, bulk- 
heads, linings and overheads within a room, ex- 
cluding corridors and hidden spaces, may have a 
combustible veneer not exceeding 0.18 cm 
(2/28 in.) in thickness. These veneers are usu- 
ally constructed of some type of plastic material 
with a backing of wood-based materials. In addi- 
tion, the furnishings found in passenger, crew 
and officer accommodations are usually made of 
class A materials. Lounges and recreation rooms 
may contain couches, chairs, tables, bars, tele- 
vision sets, books and other items constructed 
wholly or partly of class A materials. 

Combustible veneers, trim, or decoration may 
not be used in corridors or hidden spaces, accord- 
ing to Coast Guard regulations. However, deck 
coverings not exceeding 0.95 cm (¥s in.) are not 
restricted. It is probable that tiles used for deck 
covering would be affected by fire. Title 46 CFR 
164.006, Subchapter Q, contains Coast Guard 

Figure 5.8. Cargo holds contain a wealth of fuel for al 
classes of fires. 

requirements for deck coverings for U.S. mer- 
chant vessels. 

Other areas in which class A materials may be 
located include the following: 

• The bridge contains wooden desks, charts, 
almanacs and other such combustibles. 

• Wood in many forms may be found in the 
carpenter shop. 

• Various types of cordage are stowed in the 
boatswain's locker (Fig. 5.10). 

• The emergency locker on the bridge wing 
contains rockets and/ or explosives for the 
line throwing gun. 

• The undersides of metal cargo containers 
are usually constructed of wood or wood- 
based materials. 

• Lumber for dunnage, staging and other uses 
may be stored below decks. 

• Large numbers of filled laundry bags are 
sometimes left in passageways, awaiting 
movement to and from the laundry room. 

• Rubber and plastics are used extensively for 
the insulation on electrical wiring. 

Extinguishment of Class A Fires 

It is a fortunate coincidence that the materials 
most often involved in fire, class A materials, 
may best be extinguished by the most available 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

Figure 5.9. Containers also may be filled with a variety of 

extinguishing agent, water. U.S. Coast Guard 
regulations specify a system whereby water will 
be available for firefighting purposes by requiring 
that a firemain system be installed on self-pro- 
pelled vessels. Firemain systems and other fixed 
systems are described in Chapter 9. The use of 
water and other extinguishing agents in fighting 
class A fires is discussed in Chapters 7, 8 and 10. 


The materials whose involvement leads to class 
B fires may be grouped as flammable and com- 
bustible liquids, paints and varnishes, and flam- 
mable gases. Again we shall discuss each group 

Flammable and Combustible Liquids 

Flammable liquids as defined by Title 46 CFR 
(30.10-22) are those that give off flammable 
vapors at or below 26.7 °C (80°F) and having a 
Reid vapor pressure not exceeding 40 pounds 
per square inch absolute (psia) at 37.8°C (100°F). 
There are three grades of flammable liquids; their 
definitions are given in Chapter 1. Examples of 
common flammable liquids are ethyl ether, gaso- 
line, acetone and alcohol. All flash at or below 

Combustible liquids are those with a flash point 
above 26.7°C (80°F). There are two grades of 
combustible liquids; their definitions are given in 
Chapter 1 . The heavier petroleum products, such 
as kerosene, diesel oil and fuel oil, are considered 
to be combustible liquids; their flash points range 
from 26.7°C (80°F) to 65.5°C (150°F). Some 
other combustible liquids are acids, vegetable oils 
and lubricating oils, all of which have flash points 
above 65.5°C (150°F). 

Burning Characteristics. As noted in Chapter 4, 
it is the vapor of a flammable or combustible 
liquid, rather than the liquid itself, that burns or 
explodes when mixed with air and ignited. These 
liquids will vaporize when exposed to air — and 
at an increased rate when heated. They should 
be stored in the proper type of closed containers 
to minimize the fire hazard; even in use they 
should be exposed to air as little as possible. 
Flammable vapor explosions most frequently 

Figure 5.10. The boatswain's locker contains rope and many other class A materials. 

Classification of Fires 


occur within a confined space such as a container, 
tank, room or structure. The violence of a flam- 
mable vapor explosion depends upon 

• The concentration and nature of the vapor 

• The quantity of vapor-air mixture present 

• The type of enclosure in which the mixture 
is confined. 

The flash point is the commonly accepted and 
most important factor determining the relative 
hazard of a flammable or combustible liquid. 
However, it is not the only factor involved. The 
ignition temperature, flammable range, rate of 
evaporation, reactivity when contaminated or ex- 
posed to heat, density and rate of diffusion of the 
vapor also determine how dangerous the liquid 
is. However, once a flammable or combustible 
liquid has been burning for a short time, these 
factors have little effect on its burning charac- 

The burning rates of flammable liquids vary 
somewhat, as do their rates of flame travel. The 
burning rate of gasoline is 15.2-30.5 cm (6-12 
in.) of depth per hour; for kerosene, the rate is 
12.7-20.3 cm (5-8 in.) of depth per hour. For 
example, a pool of gasoline 1.27 cm i}A in.) 
deep could be expected to burn itself out in 2.5 
to 5 minutes. 

Products of Combustion. In addition to the 
usual combustion products, there are some that 
are peculiar to flammable and combustible 
liquids. Liquid hydrocarbons normally burn with 
an orange flame and give off dense clouds of 
black smoke. Alcohols normally burn with a clean 
blue flame and very little smoke. Certain terpenes 
and ethers burn with considerable ebullition 
(boiling) of the liquid surface and are difficult to 

extinguish. Acrolein (acrylic aldehyde) is a highly 
irritating and toxic gas produced during the com- 
bustion of petroleum products, fats, oils and 
many other common materials. 

Usual Locations Aboard Ship. Flammable and 
combustible liquids of all types are carried as 
cargo by tank vessels. In addition to this bulk 
stowage, these liquids are transported in portable 
tanks that, according to U.S. Coast Guard regu- 
lations, can be "barrels, drums or other packages" 
having a maximum capacity of 416 liters (110 
U.S. gallons). Flammable and combustible liquids 
in smaller packages may be found in holds and 
in large shipping containers. 

Large quantities of combustible liquids, in the 
form of fuel and diesel oil, are also stowed aboard 
ship, for use in propelling and generating elec- 
tricity. The hazards involved in stowing and 
transferring these fuels are covered in Chapter 1 . 
Figures 5.1 1-5.13 show typical stowage locations. 

Fuel and diesel oil are most hazardous when 
they have been heated prior to feeding into the 
burners. Cracks in the piping will then allow the 
oil to leak out, exposing it to ignition sources. If 
the resultant spill is large, an extensive, hot fire 
will result. 

Other locations where combustible liquids 
may be found include the galley (hot cooking oils) 
and the various shops and spaces where lubricat- 
ing oils are used and stored. Fuel and diesel oil 
may also be found as residues and films on and 
under oil burners and equipment in the engine 

Extinguishment. U.S. Coast Guard regulations 
provide for the installation of firemains and fixed 
fire-extinguishing systems using foam, carbon 

I 1 I I I I I I I I M I I I 

Fuel Tanks 

Double Bottom Tanks Deep Tanks 

Figure 5.11. Location stowage of combustible liquid aboard break bulk cargo vessel for shipboard use. 


Marine Fire Prevention. Firefighting and Fire Safely 



Space | Hold No. 4 

Hold No 3 

Double Bottom Tanks' Deep Tanks Settling Tanks 




Hold No 1 

Hold No 2 

Double Bottom Tanks 

Deep Tanks 
I Fuel Oil 
I Cargo Oil 

Figure 5.12. Location of liquid cargo and bunker tanks aboard 

dioxide, steam and water spray in appropriate 
locations. In addition, foam, dry chemical, car- 
bon dioxide and water extinguishers of various 
size and portability must be placed in specified 
areas throughout the ship. These appliances are 
discussed in Chapters 8 and 9. 

The source of the flammable or combustible 
liquid involved in fire should be cut off as soon 
as possible (and if possible). This will halt the 
supply of fuel feeding the fire, and allow fire- 
fighters to employ the following general methods 
of extinguishment: 

• Cooling. Using water from the firemain sys- 
tem, in spray or solid-stream form, to cool 
tanks and exposed areas. 

• Smothering. Using foam to blanket the 
liquid and thus shut off the supply of oxygen 
to the fire; discharging steam or carbon 
dioxide into burning areas; eliminating oxy- 
gen by sealing off the ventilation to the fire. 

• Inhibiting flame propagation. Applying dry 
chemicals above the burning surfaces. 

It is difficult to establish rigid procedures for 
extinguishing specific types of fires, since no two 

dry cargo vessel. 

fires are alike. However, the following general 
guidelines apply for fires involving flammable 
and combustible liquids: 

• Minor spills: Use dry chemical or foam ex- 
tinguishers, or water fog. 

• Large spills: Use large dry chemical extin- 
guishers, backed up by foam or fog lines. 
Use water streams to protect objects that are 
exposed to fire. 

• Spills on water: If contained, use foam to 
smother fire. Otherwise use large-volume 
fog stream. 

• Sighting or ullage ports: Apply foam, dry 
chemical or high- or low-velocity water fog 
horizontally across the opening until it can 
be closed. 

• Cargo tanks: Use the deck foam system 
and/or carbon dioxide or steam smothering 
system, if so equipped. Water fog may be 
used for heavy oils. 

• Ship's galley: Use carbon dioxide or dry 
chemical extinguishers. 

• Oil-burning equipment: Use foam or water 

Double Bottom Deep Tanks 

Pump Room 

I Fuel Oil Tanks 

I I Oil Storage Tanks 

Figure 5.13. Location of liquid cargo and bunker tanks aboard tanker vessel. 

Classification of hires 


Additional information is given in Chapters 7-10. 

Paints and Varnishes 

Most paints, varnishes, lacquers and enamels, 
except those with a water base, present a high 
fire risk in storage or in use. The oils in oil-base 
paints are not themselves very flammable (linseed 
oil, for example, has a flash point of over 204°C 
(400 °F)). However, the solvents commonly used 
in these paints are flammable and may have flash 
points as low as 32°C (90°F). The same is true 
for enamels and oil varnishes. And, normally, all 
the other ingredients of most paints and varnishes 
are combustible. 

Most paints and varnishes are still combustible 
after they have dried, though their flammability 
is much reduced when the solvent has evaporated. 
In practice, the flammability of dry paint depends 
on the flammability of its base. Thus, the usual 
oil-base paints are not very flammable. 

Burning Characteristics and Products of Com- 
bustion. Liquid paint burns fiercely and gives 
off much heavy black smoke. It also, obviously, 
can flow, so that a paint fire resembles an oil fire 
in many ways. Because of the dense smoke and 
the toxic fumes given off by liquid paint and var- 
nish, breathing apparatus should always be used 
by crewmen fighting a paint fire in an enclosed 

Explosions are another hazard of liquid paint 
fires. Since paint is normally stored in tightly 
sealed cans or drums (of up to 150-190 liters 
(40-50 gal.) capacity), fire in any paint storage 
area may easily heat up the drums and burst 
them. The contents are likely to ignite instantly 
and with explosive force on exposure to air. 

Usual Locations Aboard Ship. Paints, varnishes, 
enamels, lacquers and their solvents are stored in 

paint lockers. These are usually located either 
fore or aft, in compartments below the main deck. 
U.S. Coast Guard regulations require that paint 
lockers be constructed of steel or wholly lined 
with metal. Such spaces must also be serviced by 
a fixed carbon dioxide extinguishing system or 
other approved system. (As indicated previously, 
paint is still combustible after drying, and it will 
burn in a fire.) 

Extinguishment. Because liquid paints contain 
low-flash-point solvents, water is not a suitable 
extinguishing agent. Foam must be used if any 
substantial quantity of paint is involved. Sur- 
rounding materials may have to be cooled with 
water. On small quantities of paint or varnish, 
a carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguisher 
may be used in place of a foam extinguisher. 
Water is the proper extinguishing agent for dry 
paint (Fig. 5.14). 

Flammable Gases 

In the gaseous state, the molecules of a substance 
are not held together, but are free to move about. 
As a result, a gas has no shape of its own, but 
rather takes the shape of its container. Most 
solids and liquids can be vaporized (become 
gases) when their temperature is increased suffi- 
ciently. However, we shall use the term gas to 
mean a substance that is in the gaseous state at 
so-called normal temperature and pressuie 
(NTP) conditions. These are approximately 21°C 
(70°F) and 101.4 kilopascals (14.7 psia). 

Any gas that will burn in the normal concen- 
trations of oxygen in air is a flammable gas. As 
with other gases or vapors, a flammable gas will 
burn only when its concentration in air is within 
its combustible range and the mixture is heated 
to its ignition temperature. 

Figure 5.14. Extinguishment of paint and varnish fires. A. Apply foam to large fires. B. Carbon dioxide or dry chemical may 
be used on small fires. C. Dry paint is a class A material; water is the primary extinguishing agent. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Flammable gases are usually stored and trans- 
ported aboard vessels (Fig. 5.15) in one of three 

• Compressed. A compressed gas is one that, 
at normal temperatures, is entirely in the 
gaseous state under pressure in its container. 

• Liquefied. A liquefied flammable gas is one 
that, at 100°F has a Reid vapor pressure of 
at least 40 psia. At normal temperatures it 
is partly in the liquid state and partly in the 
gaseous state under pressure in its con- 

• Cryogenic. A cryogenic gas is one that is 
liquefied in its container at a temperature 
far below normal temperatures, and at low 
to moderate pressures. 

Basic Hazards. The hazards presented by a gas 
that is confined in its container are different from 
those presented when the gas escapes from its 
container. We shall discuss them separately, even 
though these hazards may be present simultane- 
ously, in a single incident. 

Hazards of confinement. When a confined gas 
is heated, its pressure increases. If enough heat 
is applied, the pressure can increase sufficiently 
to cause a gas leak or a container failure. In addi- 
tion, contact with flames can reduce the strength 
of the container material, possibly resulting in 
container failure. 

To prevent explosions of compressed gases, 
pressure relief valves and fusible plugs are in- 
stalled in tanks and cylinders. When gas expands 
in its container, it forces the relief valve open 
allowing gas to flow out of the container, thereby 
reducing the internal pressure. A spring loaded 
device closes the valve when the pressure is re- 

duced to a safe level. A plug of fusible metal that 
will melt at a fixed temperature is also used. The 
plug seals an opening in the body of the container, 
usually near the top. Heat from a fire, threaten- 
ing the tank or cylinder, causes the metal plug to 
melt allowing the gas to escape through the open- 
ing. Explosive pressure within the tank is pre- 
vented. However, the opening cannot be closed, 
therefore, the gas will continue to escape until 
the container is empty. 

Explosions can occur when these safety devices 
are not installed or should they fail to operate. 
Another cause of explosion is a very rapid build- 
up of pressure in a container. The pressure can- 
not be relieved through the safety valve opening 
fast enough to prevent pressure buildup of ex- 
plosive force. Tanks and cylinders are also sub- 
ject to explosion when flame impinges on their 
surface causing the metal to lose its strength. 
Flame impingement above the liquid level is more 
dangerous than impingement on the container 
surface area that is in contact with the liquid. 
Heat from flames above the liquid line is absorbed 
by the metal itself; below the liquid line most of 
the heat is absorbed by the liquid. This is not to 
be construed as a safe condition because absorp- 
tion of heat by the liquid also causes a dangerous, 
although less rapid, pressure increase. Spraying 
the surface of the container with water can help 
keep the pressure from building up to explosive 
force. Cooling with water is not a guarantee an 
explosion can be averted, especially when flame 
impingement is occurring. 

Container failures. Compressed or liquefied gas 
represents a great deal of energy held in check 
by its container. When the container fails, this 
energy is released — often very rapidly and vio- 







/ (NTP) 

/ (NTP) 


\ GAS 

\ GAS 

/ Ll 





— - — 

Figure 5.15. The differences among compressed, liquefied and cryogenic gases. 

Classification of Fires 


lently. The gas escapes and the container or con- 
tainer pieces are thrown about. 

Failures of liquefied flammable gas containers 
from fire exposure are not rare. This type of fail- 
ure is called boiling liquid-expanding vapor ex- 
plosion, or BLEVE (pronounced "blevey"). In 
most BLEVEs, the container fails at the top, 
where it is in contact with gas (see Fig. 5.16). 
The metal stretches, thins out, and tears length- 
wise, until it finally gives way. 

The magnitude of the explosion (BLEVE) de- 
pends mainly on how much liquid vaporizes when 
the container fails and on the weight of the con- 
tainer pieces. Most BLEVEs occur when con- 
tainers are from slightly less than half full to about 
three-fourths full of liquid. A small, uninsulated 
container can experience a BLEVE in a very few 
minutes, and a very large container in a few hours, 
in the absence of water cooling. 

Uninsulated liquefied gas containers that are 
exposed to fire can be protected from BLEVEs 
by applying water. A film of water should be 
maintained on the upper portion of the container, 
the portion that is in the internal contact with 

Hazards of gases released from confinement. 
The hazards of a gas that has been released from 
its container depend on the properties of the gas 
and where it is released. All gases except oxygen 
and air are hazardous if they displace breathing 
air. Odorless and colorless gases such as nitrogen 
and helium are particularly hazardous, as they 
give no warning of their presence. 

Toxic, or poisonous, gases are obviously haz- 
ardous to life. When released in the vicinity of a 
fire, they will prevent access by firefighters or 
force firefighters to use breathing apparatus. 

Oxygen and other oxidizing gases are nonflam- 
mable. However, these gases can cause com- 
bustible substances to ignite at lower than usual 

Contact with liquefied gas can cause frostbite, 
which can be severe if the exposure is prolonged. 
In addition, many structural materials can be- 
come brittle and fail when exposed to low tem- 
peratures. Carbon steel and plastics are affected 
in this way. 

Released flammable gases present the danger 
of explosion or fire or both. A released flammable 
gas will explode when enough gas has collected 
and mixed with air in a confined space before it 
is ignited. It will burn without exploding if a suffi- 
cient quantity of gas-air mixture has not accu- 
mulated — either because it ignited too quickly 
or because it is not confined and can dissipate. 
Thus, when a flammable gas escapes into open 

deck positions, the result is usually fire. However, 
if a massive release occurs, the surrounding air 
or the ship's superstructure can confine the gas 
sufficiently to cause an explosion. This type of 
explosion is known as an open air explosion or 
space explosion. Liquefied noncryogenic gases, 
hydrogen and ethylene are subject to these open 
air explosions. 

Properties of Some Common Gases. The im- 
portant properties of a number of flammable 
gases are discussed in the following pages. These 
properties lead to varying degrees and combina- 
tions of hazards when the gases are confined or 

Acetylene. Acetylene is composed of carbon 
and hydrogen. It is used primarily in chemical 
processing and as a fuel for oxyacetylene cutting 
and welding equipment. It is nontoxic and has 
been used as an anesthetic. Pure acetylene is 
odorless, but the acetylene in general use has an 
odor due to minor impurities mixed in with the 

Acetylene is shipped and stored mainly in cyl- 
inders. For safety acetylene cylinders are filled 
with a porous packing material usually diatoma- 
ceous earth containing very small pores or cellu- 
lar spaces. In addition, the packing material is 
saturated with acetone, a flammable liquid in 
which acetylene dissolves easily. Thus acetylene 
cylinders contain much less of the gas than they 
appear to hold. A number of safety fuse plugs 
are installed in the top and bottom of the cylin- 
der. The plugs release the gas to the atmosphere 
in case of a dangerously high temperature or pres- 
sure within the container. 

Acetylene is subject to explosion and fire when 
released from its container. It is easier to ignite 
than most flammable gases, and it burns more 
rapidly. This increases the severity of explosions 
and the difficulty of venting to prevent explosion. 
Acetylene is only slightly lighter than air, which 
means it will mix well with air upon leaving its 

Anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia is 
composed of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is used 
primarily as fertilizer, as a refrigerant, and as a 
source of hydrogen for the special atmospheres 
needed to heat-treat metals. It is a relatively toxic 
gas, but its sharp odor and irritating properties 
serve as warnings. However, large clouds of an- 
hydrous ammonia, produced by large liquid leaks, 
have trapped and killed people before they could 
evacuate the area. 

Anhydrous ammonia is shipped in cylinders, 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

cargo trucks, railroad tank cars and barges. It is 
stored in cylinders, tanks, and in cryogenic form 
in insulated tanks. BLEVEs of uninsulated anhy- 
drous ammonia containers are rare, mainly be- 
cause of the limited flammability of the gas. 
Where BLEVEs have occurred, they have resulted 
from exposure to fires involving other combus- 

Anhydrous ammonia is subject to explosion 
and fire (and presents a toxicity hazard) when re- 
leased from its container. However, its high LEL 
and low heat of combustion tend to minimize 
these hazards. In unusually tight locations such 
as refrigerated process or storage areas, the re- 
lease of the liquid or a large quantity of gas can 
result in an explosion. 

Ethylene. Ethylene is composed of carbon and 
hydrogen. It is used principally in chemical proc- 
essing, for example the manufacture of poly- 
ethylene plastic; smaller amounts are used to 
ripen fruit. It has a wide flammable range and 
burns quickly. While nontoxic, ethylene is an 
anesthetic and asphyxiant. 

Ethylene is shipped as a compressed gas in 
cylinders and as a cryogenic gas in insulated 
cargo trucks and railroad tank cars. Most 
ethylene cylinders are protected against overpres- 
sure by frangible (bursting) discs. (Medical cylin- 
ders may have fusible plugs or combination safety 
devices.) Tanks are protected by safety relief 
valves. Cylinders are subject to failure from fire 
exposure but not BLEVEs, as they do not con- 
tain liquid. 

Ethylene is subject to explosion and fire when 
released from its container. Its wide flammable 
range and high burning rate accentuate these haz- 
ards. In a number of cases involving rather large 
outdoor releases, open air explosions have oc- 

Liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG is a mixture 
of materials, all composed of carbon and hydro- 
gen. The principal component is methane, with 
smaller amounts of ethane, propane and butane. 
LNG is nontoxic but is an asphyxiant. It is used 
as a fuel. 

LNG is shipped as a cryogenic gas in insulated 
cargo trucks by Department of Transportation 
(DOT) permit, and in tank vessels under U.S. 
Coast Guard authorization. It is stored in insu- 
lated tanks, protected against overpressure by 
safety relief valves. 

LNG is subject to explosion and fire when re- 
leased from its container into an enclosed space, 
such as inside a hatch. Test data and experience 

indicate that escaping LNG is not subject to 
open air explosions. 

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). LPG is a 
mixture of materials, all composed of carbon 
and hydrogen. Commercial LPG is mostly either 
propane or normal butane, or a mixture of these 
with small amounts of other gases. It is nontoxic 
but is an asphyxiant. It is used principally as a 
fuel and, in domestic and recreational applica- 
tions, sometimes known as "bottled gas." 

LPG is shipped as a liquefied gas in uninsu- 
lated cylinders and tanks and in cargo trucks, 
railroad tank cars and vessels. It is also shipped 
in cryogenic form in insulated marine vessels. 
It is stored in cylinders and insulated tanks. LPG 
containers are generally protected against over- 
pressure by safety relief valves. Some cylinders 
are protected by fusible plugs and, occasionally, 
by a combination of these (Fig. 5.16). Most con- 
tainers are subject to BLEVEs. 

LPG is subject to explosion and fire when re- 
leased from its container. As most LPG is used 
indoors, explosions are more frequent than fires. 
The explosion hazard is accentuated by the fact 
that 3.8 liters (1 gal) of liquid propane or butane 
produces 74.7-83.8 cubic meters (245-275 cubic 
ft) of gas. Large releases of liquid-phase LPG 
outdoors have led to open air explosions. 

Usual Locations Aboard Ship. Liquefied flam- 
mable gases such as LPG and LNG are trans- 
ported in bulk on tankers. Flammable gases in 
cylinders may be carried only on deck on cargo 
vessels. Additionally, such flammable gases as 
acetylene will be found stored in cylinders for 
use on board. 

The Department of Transportation regulates 
the shipment of hazardous materials on cargo 
vessels, and flammable gases are in this category. 
According to Coast Guard regulations, flam- 
mable gas cylinders may be stowed on deck or 
under deck (meaning in a compartment or hold), 
depending on how hazardous the gas is. Acety- 
lene, for example, can only be stowed on deck, 
and it must be shaded from radiant heat. Anhy- 
drous ammonia, on the other hand, is classified 
as a nonflammable gas and may be stowed on 
deck or under deck. Ethylene and LPG are flam- 
mable and can also be stowed on deck or under 
deck. LNG, however, may be shipped only after 
a thorough case review and authorization by the 
Department of Transportation. 

Extinguishment. Flammable gas fires can be 
extinguished with dry chemicals. Carbon dioxide 

Classification of Fires 95 


Pressure Relief Valve 

Figure 5.16. A. When a fusible disc or plug melts, it cannot be 
will burn if ignited. Water should be applied to cool the conta 
the container should be cooled with water. This will reduce the 
close automatically. 

and vaporizing liquids may extinguish certain gas 
fires. However, these fires present a severe radiant 
heat hazard to firefighting forces. Additionally, 
there is the danger of the gas continuing to escape 
after the fire is extinguished, thus creating an- 
other fire and explosion problem. Dry chemical 
and water spray offer good heat shields from the 
radiant heat of gas fires while CO2 and vaporizing 
liquid do not. 

The standard procedure for control is to allow 
the gas to burn until the flow can be shut off at 
the source. Extinguishment should not be at- 
tempted unless such extinguishment leads to 
shutting off the fuel flow. Until the flow of gas 
supplying the fire has been stopped, firefighting 
efforts should be directed toward protecting ex- 
posures. {Exposures are combustible materials 
that may be ignited by flames or radiated heat 
from the fire. Water in the form of straight streams 
and fog patterns is usually used to protect ex- 
posures.) When the gas is no longer escaping 
from its container, the gas flames should go out. 
However, where the fire was extinguished before 
shutting off the gas flow, firefighters must be care- 
ful to prevent the ignition of gas that is being 

Fires involving liquefied flammable gases (such 
as LPG and LNG) can be controlled, and often 
extinguished, by maintaining a thick blanket of 
foam over the surface area of the spilled fuel. 



Electrical equipment involved in fire, or in the 
vicinity of a fire, may cause electric shock or 

closed. The entire contents of the container will escape and 
iner and prevent explosion. B. When a relief valve opens, 
pressure within the container, allowing the relief valve to 

burn to firefighters. In this section we discuss 
some electrical installations found aboard ship, 
their hazards and the extinguishment of fires in- 
volving electrical equipment. 

Types of Equipment 

Generators. Generators are machines that pro- 
duce electrical power. These machines are usu- 
ally driven by machines which utilize steam as 
produced in an oil-fired boiler or internal com- 
bustion engine burning a fuel in its cylinders. 
The electrical wiring in the generator is insulated 
with a combustible material. Any fire involving 
the generator or its prime mover will involve a 
high risk of electrical shock to the firefighter. 

Panelboards. A panelboard has fuses and auto- 
matic devices for the control and protection of 
lighting and power circuits. The switches, fuses, 
circuit breakers and terminals within a panel- 
board all have electrical contacts. These contacts 
may develop considerable heat, causing danger- 
ously high temperatures and unnecessary opera- 
tion of overcurrent devices, unless they are main- 
tained in good condition. Overcurrent devices 
are provided for the protection of conductors 
and electrical equipment. They open a circuit if 
the current in that circuit produces an excessively 
high temperature. 

Switches. Switches are required for the control 
of lights and appliances and for disconnecting 
motors and their controllers. They are also used 
to isolate high voltage circuit breakers for main- 
tenance operations. Switches may be of either the 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

air-break or the oil-break type. In the oil-break 
type, the device that interrupts the circuit is im- 
mersed in oil. 

The chief hazard is the arcing produced when 
the switch is opened. In this regard, oil-break 
switches are the more hazardous of the two types. 
The hazard increases when a switch is operated 
much beyond its rated capacity, when its oil is 
in poor condition or when the oil level is low. 
Then the arc may vaporize the remaining oil, 
rupture the case and cause a fire. However, if 
properly used and maintained, these switches 
present no hazard. 

Electric Motors. Many fires are caused by elec- 
tric motors. Sparks or arcs, from short circuiting 
motor windings or improperly operating brushes, 
may ignite the motor insulation or nearby com- 
bustible material. Other causes of fires in motors 
include overheating of bearings due to poor 
lubrication and grimy insulation on conductors 
preventing the normal dissipation of heat. 

Electrical Faults that May Cause Fires 

Short Circuits. If the insulation separating two 
electrical conductors breaks down, a short circuit 
occurs. Instead of following its normal path, the 
current flows from one conductor to the other. 
Because the electrical resistance is low, a heavy 
current flows and causes intense local heating. 
The conductors become overloaded electrically, 
and they may become dangerously overheated un- 
less the circuit is broken. If the fuse or circuit 
breaker fails to operate, or is unduly delayed, 
fire can result and spread to nearby combustible 

Overloading of Conductors. When too large an 
electrical load is placed on a circuit, an excessive 
amount of current flows and the wiring overheats. 
The temperature may become high enough to 
ignite the insulation. The fuses and circuit break- 
ers that are installed in electric circuits will pre- 
vent this condition. However, if these safety de- 
vices are not maintained properly, their failure 
may result in a fire. 

Arcing. An arc is pure electricity jumping 
across a gap in a circuit. The gap may be caused 
intentionally (as by opening a switch) or acci- 
dentally (as when a contact at a terminal becomes 
loose). In either case, there is intense heating at 
the arc. The electrical strength of the arc and 
amount of heat produced depend on the current 
and voltage carried by the circuit. The tempera- 
ture may easily be high enough to ignite any com- 

bustible material near the arc, including insula- 
tion. The arc may also fuse the metal of the con- 
ductor. Then, hot sparks and hot metal may be 
thrown about, and set fire to other combustibles. 

Hazards of Electrical Fires 

Electric Shock. Electric shock may result from 
contact with live electrical circuits. It is not neces- 
sary to touch one of the conductors of a circuit 
to receive a shock; any conducting material that 
is electrified through contact with a live circuit 
will suffice. Thus, firefighters are endangered in 
two ways: First, they may touch a live conductor 
or some other electrified object while groping 
about in the dark or in smoke. Second, a stream 
of water or foam can conduct electricity to fire- 
fighters from live electrical equipment. Moreover, 
when firefighters are standing in water, both the 
chances of electric shock and the severity of 
shocks are greatly increased. 

Burns. Many of the injuries suffered during 
electrical fires are due to burns alone. Burns may 
result from direct contact with hot conductors or 
equipment, or from sparks thrown off by these 
devices. Electric arcs can also cause burns. Even 
persons at a distance from the arc may receive 
eye burns. 

Toxic Fumes from Burning Insulation. The in- 
sulation on electrical conductors is usually made 
of rubber or plastic. The toxic fumes given off 
by burning plastics and rubber have been dis- 
cussed previously. One plastic deserves special 
attention because of its widespread use as elec- 
trical insulation and its toxic combustion prod- 
ucts. This is polyvinyl chloride, also known as 
PVC. This plastic releases hydrogen chloride, 
which attacks the lungs with serious conse- 
quences. It is also believed that PVC contributes 
to the severity and hazards of fires. 

Usual Locations of Electrical Equipment 
Aboard Ship 

Electric power is essential to the operation of a 
modern vessel. The equipment that generates, 
controls and delivers this power is found through- 
out the ship. Some of this equipment, such as 
lighting devices, switches and wiring, is common 
and easily recognized. The locations of some of 
the less familiar and more hazardous electrical 
equipment are covered here. 

Engine Room. The source of the ship's electric 
power is its generators. Two generators are lo- 

Classification of hires 


cated in the engine room. One is always in use, 
and the other is available in case the first is shut 
down. The generators supply power to the main 
electrical panelboard, which is in the same area 
as the generators in the engine room. The main 
panelboard houses the generator control panel 
and the distribution panels. If fire breaks out in 
the vicinity of the generator switches or the main 
panelboard, the ship's engineer can stop the gen- 
erator by mechanical means. This will deenergize 
the panelboard and switches. Also nearby is the 
engine room console, which contains controls for 
the fire pumps, ventilating fans, engineer's signal 
alarm panel, temperature scanner system and 
other engine room equipment. 

Emergency Generator Room. An emergency 
generator and switchboard are available for use 
on most ships in case the main generator fails. 
It will provide power for emergency lighting and 
equipment only. They are located in the emer- 
gency generator room, which is always at some 
distance from the engine room. In case of fire 
this generator shuts down automatically when 
carbon dioxide from the total flooding extinguish- 
ment system is released into the room. 

Passageways. Electrical control lockers are sit- 
uated at the ends of some passageways. (Controls 
shall be outside the space protected.) Electrical 
distribution panels for the ventilation system and 
for boat and ladder winches are placed in these 
lockers. Lighting panelboards are located along 
passageway bulkheads. Much of the ship's elec- 
trical wiring is placed in the passageway over- 
heads. Access panels are provided in these over- 
heads to allow work on the wiring; these panels 
can be removed to check the area for fire exten- 

Other Locations. The bridge contains much 
electrical equipment, including the radar appa- 
ratus, bridge console, smoke detector indicating 
panel and lighting panelboards. Below decks, in 
the bow and stern, are electrical control panels 
for the capstan and winch motors. A power 
panelboard in the machine shop controls the 
electric-arc welding machine, buffer and grinder, 
drill press and lathe. There is still much more 
electrical equipment located throughout every 
vessel. The important point is that the hazards of 
live electrical equipment must be considered 
whenever a shipboard fire is being fought. 

Extinguishment of Class C Fires 

"When any type of electrical equipment is in- 
volved with fire, its circuit should be deenergized. 

However, whether the circuit is deenergized or 
not, the fire must be extinguished using a non- 
conducting agent, such as dry chemical, CO2 or 
Halon. Firefighters should always consider an 
electrical circuit to be energized. The use of water 
in any form is not permitted. Firefighters must 
wear appropriate breathing devices when enter- 
ing spaces where electrical equipment has been 
burning since toxic gases are given off by burning 
electrical insulation. 

Crew members must remember two things 
when combating electrical fires: First, all elec- 
trical equipment in the fire area must be treated 
as "live" until it is known that the deenergizing 
process has been completed. Second, breathing 
apparatus must be worn because of the toxic 
gases given off by burning insulation and metal 


Metals are commonly considered to be nonflam- 
mable. However, they can contribute to fires and 
fire hazards in a number of ways. Sparks from 
the ferrous metals, iron and steel, can ignite 
nearby combustible materials. Finely divided 
metals are easily ignited at high temperatures. 
A number of metals, especially in finely divided 
form, are subject to self-heating under certain 
conditions; this process has caused fires. Alkali 
metals such as sodium, potassium and lithium 
react violently with water, liberating hydrogen; 
sufficient heat is generated in the process to ignite 
the hydrogen. Most metals in powder form can 
be ignited as a dust cloud; violent explosions have 
resulted. In addition to all this, metals can injure 
firefighters through burning, structural collapse 
and toxic fumes. 

Many metals, such as cadmium, give off nox- 
ious gases when subjected to the high tempera- 
tures of a fire. Some metallic vapors are more 
toxic than others; however, breathing apparatus 
should be used whenever fires involving metals are 

Hazards and Characteristics of 
Some Specific Metals 

Aluminum. Aluminum is a light metal with 
good electrical conductivity. In its usual forms 
it does not present a problem in most fires. How- 
ever, its melting point of 660°C (1220°F) is low 
enough to cause the collapse of unprotected 
aluminum structural members. Aluminum chips 
and shavings have been involved in fire, and 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

aluminum dust is a severe explosion hazard. Alu- 
minum does not ignite spontaneously and is not 
considered to be toxic. 

Iron and Steel. Iron and steel are not considered 
combustible. In the larger forms, such as struc- 
tural steel, they do not burn in ordinary fires. 
However, fine steel wool or dust may be ignited, 
and iron dust is a fire and explosion hazard when 
exposed to heat or flame. Iron melts at 1535°C 
(2795 °F), and ordinary structural steel at 1430°C 

Magnesium. Magnesium is a brilliant white 
metal that is soft, ductile and malleable. It is 
used as a base metal in light alloys for strength 
and toughness. Its melting point is 648. 8 °C 
(1200°F). Dust or flakes of magnesium are easily 
ignited, but in solid form it must be heated above 
its melting point before it will burn. It then burns 
fiercely with a brilliant white light. When heated, 
it reacts violently with water and all moisture. 

Titanium. Titanium is a strong white metal, 
lighter than steel, that melts at 2000°C (3632°F). 
It is mixed with steel in alloys to give high work- 
ing temperatures. It is easily ignited in smaller 
forms (titanium dust is very explosive), though 
larger pieces offer little fire hazard. Titanium is 
not considered toxic. 

Usual Locations of Class D Materials 
Aboard Ship 

The metal principally used in the construction of 
vessels is steel. However, aluminum, its alloys 
and other lighter metals are used to build the 
superstructures of some ships. The advantage of 
aluminum lies in the reduction of weight. A dis- 
advantage, from the firefighting viewpoint, is the 

comparatively low melting point of aluminum as 
compared to that of steel. 

In addition to the material used for the ship 
itself, metals are carried in most forms as cargo. 
Generally, there are no stowage restrictions re- 
garding metals in solid form. On the other hand, 
the metallic powders of titanium, aluminum and 
magnesium must be kept in dry, segregated areas. 
The same rules apply to the metals potassium and 

It should be noted here that the large containers 
used for shipping cargo are usually made of alu- 
minum. The metal shells of these containers have 
melted and split under fire conditions, exposing 
their contents to the fire. 

Extinguishment of Class D Fires 

Fires involving most metals present an extinguish- 
ment problem to firefighters. Frequently there is 
a violent reaction with water, which may result 
in the spreading of the fire and/or explosion. If 
only a small amount of metal is involved and the 
fire is confined, it may be advisable to allow the 
fire to burn itself out. Exposures should, of 
course, be protected with water or another suit- 
able extinguishing agent. 

Some synthetic liquids have been employed in 
extinguishing metal fires, but these are not usu- 
ally found aboard ship. The ABC or multipur- 
pose dry chemical extinguisher has been used 
with some success on fires involving metals. Such 
extinguishers may be available to shipboard fire- 

Sand, graphite, various other powder extin- 
guishing agents and salts of different types have 
been applied to metallic fires with varying suc- 
cess. No one method of extinguishment has proven 
effective for all fires involving metals. 

Classification of Fires 



Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Opera- 
tions, 6th Ed. Chicago, National Safety Council, 

Coast Guard Rules and Regulations for Cargo and 
Miscellaneous Vessels. Department of Transpor- 
tation, Washington, D.C., 1973. 

Coast Guard Rules and Regulations for Tank Ves- 
sels, 1973. 

Coast Guard Rules and Regulations, Subchapter J, 
Electrical Engineering, 1977. 

Eyres, D. J.: Ship Construction. London, England, 
Heinemann, 1974. 

Fire Protection Handbook, 14th Ed. Boston, Na- 
tional Fire Protection Association, 1976. 

Guides for Fighting Fires in and Around Petroleum 
Storage Tanks. Washington, D. C, American Pe- 
troleum Institute, 1974. 

Haessler, Walter M.: The Extinguishment of Fire, 
Boston, Mass., National Fire Protection Associa- 
tion, 1974. 

Hazardous Materials Regulations. Department of 
Transportation, Materials Transportation Bureau, 
Federal Register, 1976. 

Ifshin, Sidney, Deputy Chief, New York Fire De- 
partment: Symposium: Products of Combustion 
of (Plastics) Building Materials. Lancaster, Pa., 
Armstrong Cork Company Research and Devel- 
opment Center, 1973. 

International Oil Tanker and Terminal Safety Guide, 
2nd Ed. Oil Companies International Marine 
Forum. New York, Halsted Press, John Wiley 
and Sons, 1974. (17) pp. 177-178. 

Manual of Firemanship, Part 6-C. London, England, 
Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1964. 

Rushbrook, Frank: Fire Aboard. New York, Sim- 
mons — Boardman, 1961. 

fire Detection Sqstems 

A fire detector is a device that gives a warning 
when fire occurs in the area protected by the de- 
vice. The fire detection system, including one or 
more detectors, relays the alarm to those endan- 
gered by the fire and/ or those responsible for 
firefighting operations. Ashore, a fire detector 
sounds an alarm so that occupants can leave a 
burning building promptly, and the fire depart- 
ment can be summoned. The detection system 
can also activate fire extinguishing equipment. 
At sea, however, there are no fire escapes, and 
no professional fire department to call. A ship- 
board fire detection system alerts the ship's crew, 
who must cope with the emergency using the re- 
sources they have on board. 

Early discovery of fire is essential. The fire 
must be confined, controlled and extinguished in 
its early stages, before it gets out of control and 
endangers the ship and the lives of those on 
board. A well designed fire detection system, 
properly installed and maintained, and under- 
stood by those who must interpret its signals, will 
give early warning of a fire in the area it protects 
and its location. 

Fire detection systems on board a ship are so 
arranged that in case of a fire, both a visible and 
audible alarm is received in the pilothouse or fire 
control station (normally the bridge) and for ves- 
sels of over 150 feet in length there should be an 
audible alarm in the engine room. The receiving 
equipment (or consoles) indicates both the oc- 
currence of a fire and its location aboard the ship. 
Consoles are located on the bridge and in the 
C0 2 room. The CO2 room is the space that con- 
tains the fire extinguishing mechanisms. Only a 
bell is required in the engine room to alert the 
engineer to an emergency outside the machinery 

Upon hearing a fire alarm, the watch officer 
on the bridge sounds the general alarm to call 

the crew to their fire and emergency stations as 
listed on the station bill. However, in all cases 
the master must be alerted immediately and the 
cause of the alarm must be investigated. If the 
alarm was for an actual fire, action should be 
taken to confine, control and extinguish it. The 
crew must respond as per the station bill, under 
the direction of the master. If it was a false alarm, 
its cause should be investigated and corrected, if 
possible. In either event the fire detection system 
should be checked and the system put back in 
service after the proper action is taken. Losses 
have occurred when a system was not reactivated 
after an alarm, and hence did not send a signal 
when a subsequent real fire or reflash occurred. 
The types of fire protective systems approved 
for use aboard ship include the following: 

1 . Automatic fire detection systems 

2. Manual fire alarm systems 

3. Smoke detection systems 

4. Watchmen's supervisory system 

5. Combinations of the above. 

Coast Guard regulations (title 46 CFR) require 
that certain types of detecting equipment be used 
in specified spaces aboard certain ships. The 
USCG permits other types of systems where the 
equivalent protection is demonstrated. They may 
also allow the installation of systems that are not 
actually required by law or regulation. Approved 
types of fire protective systems are carried in the 
Coast Guard Equipment Lists (CGI 90). If any 
doubt exists as to whether any item of fire protec- 
tion equipment may be installed or carried aboard 
ship, inquiries can be made at a Coast Guard 
marine inspection or marine safety office. These 
offices should be consulted for clarification or 
permission to install unlisted equipment. 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Automatic fire detection systems consist of nor- 
mal and emergency power supplies, a fire detec- 
tion control unit, fire detectors and vibrating bells. 

Normal Power Supply 

The normal power may be supplied either by a 
separate branch circuit from the ship's main 
switchboard or by storage batteries. When the 
power is supplied by storage batteries, they must 
be used only for the fire alarm and fire detection 
systems. The storage batteries must be in pairs, 
with one of each pair in use, and the other being 
charged. Otherwise, single batteries, connected 
to a charging panel, may be used. 

Emergency Power Supply 

Emergency power may be supplied by a separate 
branch circuit taken from the temporary emer- 
gency lighting and power system switchboard or 
by storage batteries. If duplicate storage batteries 
supply the normal power, the battery being 
charged may serve as the emergency power 

Fire Detection Control Unit 

The fire detection control unit consists of a drip- 
proof enclosed panel containing the fire alarm 
signaling, trouble-alarm and power-failure alarm 
devices. These devices must register both a visual 
and an audible signal. The visible signals are 

• A red light indicates fire or smoke. 

• A blue light indicates trouble in the system. 

• A white light indicates that the power is on 
in the system. 

The control unit also contains a power supply 
transfer switch to engage the emergency power 
supply if the normal power supply fails. Over- 
current protection devices are incorporated into 
the system to prevent damage in the event of an 
electrical malfunction. If battery charging equip- 
ment is employed, it may be located in the con- 
trol unit. 

Fire Detectors 

Fire detectors sense (and initiate a signal in re- 
sponse to) heat, smoke, flame or some other indi- 
cation of fire. Not all types of detectors are used 
aboard ship — some are not practicable, and some 
are not necessary. The types of detectors that are 
in common use aboard vessels are discussed in 
the next few sections. 

Vibrating Bells 

Vibrating bells are, like the red lights on the con- 
trol unit, fire alarm signals. The operation of any 
automatic fire detection system (or manual fire 
alarm in a manual fire alarm system) must auto- 
matically cause the sounding of 

1. A vibrating-type fire bell with a gong 
diameter not smaller than 15.24 cm (6 in.) 
on the control panel 

2. A vibrating-type fire bell with a gong 
diameter not smaller than 20.32 cm (8 in.) 
located in the engine room. 

These signals must be sounded in addition to the 
red light on the control panel and an indication 
of the fire detection zone from which the signal 

Light and Bell Signals 

When fire is detected, the alarm lights stay on 
and the bells keep ringing until a resetting device 
is operated manually. A shutoff device may be 
used to silence the bells. However shutting off 
the bells will not extinguish the alarm lights. The 
alarm lights can be shut off only with the manual 
resetting device. Like the modern fire alarm boxes 
on land, shipboard fire alarms are noninterfering; 
any number of alarms can be received simul- 
taneously. An alarm that is being received on one 
circuit will not prevent an alarm from being 
received on another circuit. 

Power Failure 

A power failure in the system is announced by 
the ringing of a bell, which is reserved for this 
purpose in the control panel. The emergency 
power source provides the power to actuate the 
bell. The power failure bell can be shut off by 
switching its signal to a visible lighted indicator. 
An open circuit in the wiring from the control 
unit to the detectors or in the wiring from the 
normal source of power is indicated in two ways: 
A blue signal light comes on in the control unit 
and the trouble bell rings. In some cases, an open 
circuit may result in a fire alarm. Such a false 
alarm can be received when there is a break in a 
circuit of a system that uses closed circuit series- 
connected detectors. 


As their name implies, heat-actuated fire detec- 
tors sense (and are activated by) the heat of a 
fire. The main classes of heat-actuated devices 
are fixed-temperature detectors and rate-of-rise 
detectors. Some devices are combinations of both. 

Fire Detection Systems 


Fixed-Temperature Detectors 

A fixed-temperature detector initiates a fire alarm 
when the temperature of the device reaches a 
preset value. Note that the device operates only 
when the detector itself, not the surrounding air, 
reaches the preset temperature. The difference 
between these two temperatures, that of the sur- 
rounding air and that necessary to actuate the 
detector, is called the thermal lag. It results be- 
cause heat must be transferred from the surround- 
ing air to the detector, to bring the detector up 
to its operating temperature. This heat transfer 
takes time; it is never so perfect that the air and 
the detector are at the same temperature. Thus, 
when a fixed-temperature detector is actuated, 
the surrounding air is always hotter than the de- 
tector. The thermal lag, or delay, is proportional 
to the speed at which the temperature is rising 
in the area. 

Temperature Classifications. Title 46 CFR 
161.002-1 1(c) classifies fixed-temperature detec- 
tors according to use as follows: 

1 . Ordinary degree, for use where the normal 
temperature at the device does not exceed 

2. Intermediate degree, for use where the nor- 
mal temperature at the devices exceeds 
38°C (100°F) but not 66°C (150°F). 

3. Hard degree. For use where the normal 
temperature at the device exceeds 66°C 
(150°F) but not 107°C (225°F). 

Note that the temperatures listed are not the tem- 
peratures that will actuate the detectors, but rather 

the expected normal temperatures of the area in 
which the detectors are placed. 

These fixed-temperature detectors should be 
actuated within the temperature limits given in 
Table 6.1. 

By comparing their normal and actuating tem- 
peratures, it can be seen that fixed-temperature 
detectors are designed to operate when there is 
a substantial increase of temperature over the nor- 
mal temperature in the protected area. This is 
exactly what takes place when a fire occurs. 

Types of Fixed-Temperature Detectors. Fixed- 
temperature detectors differ in their design and 
how they function. More specifically, they differ 
in how their sensing elements detect and react to 
heat. The common types are bi-metallic, electric 
(resistance- or cable-type), fusible metal and 
liquid expansion. Some authorities may include 
the bi-metallic with the electric type, while others 
may consider fusible metal and liquid expansion 
detectors as a single type. 

Bi-metallic Strip Detector. In a bi-metallic strip 
heat detector, the sensing element is made up of 
two strips of different metals, welded together. 

Table 6.1. Limits of Rated Temperature of Operation, 
°C (°F). 







107°C (225°F) 
149°C (300°F) 




Power Source 


Alarm Panel 

Circuit Open 

Metal With a Low Coefficient of Expansion 
Metal With a High Coefficient of Expansion 

Figure 6.1A. The bi-metallic strip heat detector. At normal temperatures, the strip is straight. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Power Source 


t§ ©OO 

Alarm Panel 

Circuit Closed 

leat Frbm Fire 

Figure 6.1B. As temperature rises, the strip bends upward, be 
temperatures within its activating range, the strip bends enou 

The two metals have differing coefficients of ex- 
pansion — one expands faster than the other when 

At normal temperatures, the strip is straight 
(Fig. 6.1 A). When the temperature increases, the 
bi-metallic strip bends because one metal expands 
faster than the other. This bending causes the 
metal strip to touch a contact point, closing an 
electric circuit and transmitting an alarm 
(Fig. 6. IB.) 

An advantage of the bi-metallic strip is that it 
returns to its original shape after the heat is re- 
moved. If it is not destroyed by fire, it can remain 
in place and be used again. A disadvantage of 
this type element is that it is prone to false alarms. 
When the strip is close to the contact, but the 
temperature is less than the minimum fire alarm 
rating, ship vibrations or a physical shock to the 

To Alarm 

Circuit Open 

Bimetallic Strip 

cause the lower metal expands more than the upper metal. At 
gh to touch the contact and complete the alarm circuit. 

detector housing could cause the circuit to close 
and there is no permanent indication of which 
detector operated. 

Snap-Action Bi-metallic Disk. Like the bi- 
metallic strip, the snap-action disk changes its 
shape when it is heated sufficiently. However, it 
does so with a surer, more positive movement. 
Instead of slowly approaching the electrical con- 
tact, the disk snaps against the contact at its ac- 
tivating temperature. 

In Figure 6.2A, the disk is at its normal tem- 
perature and is concave upward. The circuit is 
open. In Figure 6.2B, the temperature has in- 
creased to the detector's actuating temperature. 
The disk has snapped so it is convex upward, 
closing the contacts and completing the alarm 

Figure 6.2A. The snap action bi-metallic disk. The disk at 
normal temperatures. 

Figure 6.2B. The activated disk closes the circuit to initiate 
the alarm. 

Fire Detection Systems 


Circuit to Source of Energy 




Circuit to Alarm 



Figure 6.3. The thermostatic cable. The top wire is electrically energized; the bottom wire is not. At the activating tempera- 
ture, the insulating material melts, allowing the two wires to touch and complete the alarm circuit. 

circuit. The snap-action disk returns to its origi- 
nal shape when the temperature is reduced. 

Bi-metallic strips and disks are spot detectors, 
in that each device senses the temperature at a 
single location. A number of detectors housed in 
small cases are placed in the protected area and 
wired to the control unit. 

Thermostatic Cable. The thermostatic cable is 
an electrical heat-actuated detector. It consists 
of two wires, enclosed in a protective cover, with 
an insulating material between them. One wire 
is electrically energized; the other is not. At a 
preset temperature the insulating material melts; 
the energized wire then contacts the second wire, 
completing an electrical circuit (Fig. 6.3). 

The thermostatic cable is a /me-type detector. 
A single length of cable, enough to protect an 
entire area, is strung through that area. The full 
length of the cable acts as the detecting element. 
This type of detector must be replaced if it is 
actuated since the actuated portion of the cable 
is destroyed in the process. 

Metallic Cable. Another electrical line-type de- 
tector is composed of a metallic cable enclosing 
a nickel wire. The cable and wire are separated 
by a heat-sensitive salt. When the temperature 
increases to the detector's actuating range, the 
resistance of the salt decreases enough to allow a 

Figure 6.4A. The fusible metal link. At normal tempera- 
tures, the link keeps the spring-loaded movable contact 
from moving to the right. 

current to flow from the outer cable to the nickel 
wire. The current in the nickel wire initiates an 
alarm at the control unit. If it is not damaged by 
fire, this detector automatically readjusts itself 
when the temperature decreases to the normal 

Fusible Metal. A fusible metal is one that melts 
at some preset temperature. In a fire detector, a 
fusible metal part is used to hold back a movable 
switch contact (Fig. 6.4A). When the fusible part 
melts, the contact moves to close the circuit and 
sound the alarm (Fig. 6.4B). 

Fusible metals are also used in sprinkler heads. 
When the metal melts, the water is released and 
an alarm is activated. Fusible metal devices must 
be replaced when the fire detection system is put 
back in service. 

Liquid Expansion. Liquid expansion devices 
are similar in operation to fusible metal devices. 
They are used to restrain something — the water 
in a sprinkler head or a movable contact in an 
electric switch. A frangible (breakable) glass bulb 
is partly filled with a liquid. An air bubble is left 
above the liquid (Fig. 6.5A). As the temperature 
rises, the liquid expands. If the temperature con- 
tinues to rise, the liquid expands further. At a 
preset temperature, the bulb bursts, allowing 
whatever action it had been holding back (Fig. 

Figure 6.4B. When the link melts, the movable contact is 
free to complete the alarm circuit. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safet v 

Figure 6.5A. The liquid expansion bulb. At normal tempera- 
tures, the bulb holds back the spring-loaded plunger. 

6.5B). The bulb must be replaced when the sys- 
tem is put back in service. 

Rate-of-Rise Detectors 

Rate-of-rise detectors sense temperature changes 
rather than the temperature itself. They are ac- 
tuated when the temperature increases faster than 
a preset value. For example, suppose a detector 
is set for a rate of increase of 8.3 °C (15°F) per 
minute. If the temperature of the detector were 
to rise from 38°C to 46°C (100°F to 115°F) in 
1 minute, the alarm would be sounded. However, 
if the temperature rose from 41°C to 46°C 
(105°F to 1 15°F) in a minute, this detector would 
not be actuated. The temperature rate of rise that 
actuates this type of detector depends on its de- 
sign, which in turn depends on where it is being 
used. For instance, the pneumatic detectors ap- 
proved for passenger and cargo vessels are set 
to actuate when the temperature rises at approxi- 
mately 22 °C (40°F) per minute at the center of 
the circuit. 

Advantages. Among the advantages of the rate- 
of-rise detector are the following: 

1. Slow rises in temperature will not activate 
the device. 

2. It can be used in low-temperature areas 
(refrigerated spaces) as well as in high-tem- 
perature areas (boiler rooms). 

3. It usually responds more quickly than 
fixed-temperature devices. 

4. Unless destroyed by fire, it quickly adjusts 
for reuse. 

Disadvantages. The disadvantages of the rate- 
of-rise detector include these: 

1. It may sound a false alarm when a rapid 
increase in temperature is not the result of 
fire. This may happen when a heating ele- 
ment is turned on, or welding or burning 
operations in the immediate area cause a 
rapid rise in temperature. 

Figure 6.5B. At a preset temperature, liquid in the bulb 
has expanded enough to break the bulb. The plunger drops 
to complete the alarm circuit. 

2. It may not be activated by a smoldering fire 
that increases the air temperature slowly, 
such as in baled cotton or other tightly 
packed cargo. 

Types of Rate-of-Rise Detectors. Two types of 
rate-of-rise detectors, pneumatic and thermo- 
electric, are in common use. 

Pneumatic. The pneumatic-type detector op- 
erates on the principle that an increase in tem- 
perature causes an increase in the pressure of a 
confined gas. There are two forms of pneumatic 
detectors, line and spot. In the line type, a small 
diameter copper tube is strung high in the com- 
partment to be protected. An increase in the tem- 
perature of the tube raises the pressure of air 
within the tube. A small vent allows some of this 
air to escape (Fig. 6.6), reducing the pressure in 
the tube. But if the temperature of the device 
rises at or faster than a preset rate, the pressure 
builds up faster than the vent can reduce it. This 
stretches a diaphragm that closes a pair of con- 
tacts to trigger the alarm. 

The spot detector is usually employed in small 
spaces or rooms. Increased air pressure in the 
spot detector may be conveyed by a tube to a 
remote control point. Otherwise, the pressure 
actuates a switch close by or in the detector, 
which in turn sends an electric signal to the con- 
trol point. 

Thermoelectric. When heat is applied to the 
junction of two dissimilar metals, the rise in tem- 
perature produces a small but measurable electric 
current. Thermoelectric detectors are based on 
this fact. The thermoelectric spot detector ac- 
tually contains two sets of junctions; one set is 
exposed, and the other is insulated against heat 
(Fig. 6.7). When the temperature rises, the ex- 
posed set is heated while the other set remains 
cool. As a result, different currents flow in the 
two sets of junctions. The difference between the 
currents is monitored. If it increases at a preset 
rate or above it, an alarm is actuated. 

Fire Detection Systems 


Expanded Diaphragm 

Alarm Circuit 

Line- Type Pneumatic Detector 

Continuous Loop of Copper Tubing 


Alarm Circuits 
to the Bridge 
and Engine Room 

Alarm Circuit 


Figure 6.6. Pneumatic rate-of-rise detectors. Heat expands the air inside the tube or bulb, increasing its pressure. If the 
expansion is slow, the vent releases enough of the pressure to keep the detector from being actuated. If the expansion is fast, 
pressure builds up enough to stretch the diaphragm and complete the alarm circuit. 

Line-type thermoelectric detectors are also 
available. Two pairs of wires are enclosed in a 


Clear Plastic 

Exposed Junctions 

Figure 6.7. Thermoelectric spot rate-of-rise detector, with 
its two sets of junctions of dissimilar metal wires. 

sheath (to protect them from physical damage). 
One of each pair has a high coefficient of heat 
resistance, and the other has a low coefficient of 
heat resistance. Two wires with the same coeffi- 
cient of heat resistance (one from each pair) are 
insulated against heat. The other two wires are 
open to temperature changes in the protected 
space. The wires are connected to a device that 
measures the resistance of the wires. An increase 
in temperature in the protected space shows up 
as an unbalance in the resistance of the wires. A 
high enough rate of unbalancing causes the alarm 
to be activated. 

The Combined Fixed-Temperature and 
Rate-of-Rise Detector 

The combined-type detector contains both a fixed- 
temperature device and a rate-of-rise device. It 
is activated when the temperature rises at, or 
faster than a preset rate. However, if the tem- 
perature rises slowly but continuously, the rate- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

Figure 6.8A. Combined heat-actuated detector. The rate- 
of-rise device is a diaphragm that is stretched upward to 
close the contacts, when heat increases the pressure in the 

Figure 6.8B. The fixed-temperature device is a spring that 
is released when a fusible metal melts. The spring pushes 
up on the diaphragm and the contacts to transmit the alarm. 

of-rise device may not be activated. Then the 
fixed-temperature device will eventually initiate 
an alarm. 

A combination spot-type detector is shown in 
Figure 6.8. Heat absorbed on the shell raises the 
temperature of the enclosed air. The air expands, 
as in a pneumatic detector. If the temperature 
increases at a high enough rate, the diaphragm 
stretches up. It pushes the contacts together to 
close the alarm circuit (Fig. 6.8A). The fixed- 
temperature feature comes into play as follows: 
One end of a piece of spring metal is permanently 
affixed to the shell. The other end is held against 
the opposite side of the shell by a fusible-metal 
seal. When the activating temperature is reached, 
the fusible metal melts and releases its end of the 
strip (Fig. 6.8B). The strip presses the diaphragm 
up, which again closes the contacts to complete 
the alarm circuit. 

The main advantage of the combined detector 
is the added protection: The fixed-temperature 
device responds to a slowly building fire that may 
not activate the rate-of-rise device. In addition, 
one combined detector could protect a space that 
might otherwise require both the fixed-tempera- 
ture and rate-of-rise types. 

The rate-of-rise device in the detector resets 
itself, but the fixed-temperature, fusible metal 
part does not. Thus, the only disadvantage is that 
the entire device must be replaced if the fixed-tem- 
perature part is activated. Some combination 
detectors utilize a bi-metallic strip as the fixed- 
temperature device, so that replacement is not 
necessary. However, these detectors are subject 
to false alarms, as noted above. 

Automatic Sprinkler Systems 

Automatic sprinkler systems are considered to be 

both fire detection and fire extinguishing systems 
because they fulfill both functions. The system 
piping is usually charged with water to the sprinkler 
heads. The water is held back by a fixed-tempera- 
ture seal in each head. The seal is either a piece of 
fusible metal or a liquid-expansion bulb. Either 
one will allow water to flow through the sprinkler 
head when the temperature reaches a preset value. 
Aboard ship, automatic sprinkler systems are 
arranged so that the release of water from a 
sprinkler head automatically activates visible and 
audible alarms in the pilot house or fire control 
station. On vessels over 45.7 m (150 ft) in length, 
there must also be an audible alarm in the engine 


A smoke detection system is a complete fire de- 
tection system. Aboard ship, smoke detection 
systems consist generally of a means for continu- 
ously exhausting air samples from the protected 
spaces; a means of testing the air for contamina- 
tion by smoke of all colors and particle sizes, and 
a visual (or visual and audible) means for indi- 
cating the presence of smoke. 

Smoke Sampler 

A smoke sampler can be used with any smoke 
detection device that draws samples of air out of 
the protected space. This sampled air usually 
moves through tubing to the detection device. A 
tee connection in the system leads part of the 
sampled air, through additional tubing, to the 
wheelhouse. At the wheelhouse, this tubing is 
normally uncovered. Thus, any smoke in the 
sampled air would be noted by the watch officer, 
as well as by the detection device. The wheel- 
house tubing has a cap. It can be placed over the 

tubing to keep heavy smoke from a fire out of 
the wheelhouse. 

Combinations of detectors and detection sys- 
tems are frequently used. The most common are 
photoelectric smoke detectors combined with a 
smoke sampler. 

Types of Smoke Detectors 

The smoke detector is the device that tests the 
air samples for smoke. The available types include 
photoelectric, ionization, smoke sampler, resist- 
ance bridge, and cloud chamber detectors. Of 
these, some lend themselves to shipboard use, 
while others are more suitable to large buildings 
on land. 

Photoelectric. Photoelectric smoke detectors are 
employed on ships and in land installations. In 
the beam-type photoelectric smoke detector, a 
light beam is usually reflected across the protected 
space. In some cases, air from the protected space 
is blown into a sampling chamber, and the light 
beam is reflected across the chamber. The beam 
of light shines on a photoelectric receiving sur- 
face. The receiving surface does not activate the 
alarm as long as it senses the light beam. How- 
ever, when smoke particles are present in the air, 
they obscure the path of the light beam. This 
reduces the amount of light falling on the receiv- 
ing surface, which then activates the alarm 
(Fig. 6.9). 

The refraction-type smoke detector contains a 
light source and a photoelectric receiving element 
that is not in the path of the light beam (Fig. 6. 10). 
If the air is clear, no light falls on the receiving 
surface; this is the normal condition. However, if 
particles of smoke pass in front of the light beam, 
they refract (deflect) light onto the receiving ele- 
ment. When the receiving element senses the 
light, it actuates the alarm. 

Ionization. Ionization smoke detectors are now 
approved for shipboard use. In operation, sam- 
pled air passes through the detector. As it does, 
a small amount of radioactive material at 
the inlet of the detector ionizes (adds or removes 

To Alarm 


=z~^z I3k 

Cell Receiver 

Light Source 

Figure 6.9. Beam-type photoelectric smoke detector. The 
receiving surface activates the alarm only when it senses a 
decrease in the intensity of the light beam. 

Fire Detection Systems 109 

electrons from) the air. This causes a small elec- 
tric current. Smoke in the air interferes with the 
flow of ionized particles and the current is de- 
creased; an alarm is triggered by this decrease in 
current. The minute amount of radioactive ma- 
terial used in the detector is not considered a 
health hazard. 

Resistance Bridge. Resistance-bridge smoke de- 
tectors are activated by an increase in smoke 
particles or in moisture. (Water vapor is given off 
during the early stages of a fire.) These detectors 
are more applicable to land installations than to 

Cloud Chamber. The use of a cloud chamber 
(sometimes called the Wilson cloud chamber) as 
a smoke detector is relatively new. This detector 
tests sampled air. If smoke particles are present, 
moisture causes them to form a cloud that is 
denser than normal air. A photoelectric device 
scans the sampled air. It sets off an alarm when 
the air is denser than some preset value. 

Federal Specifications 

Title 46 CFR 161.002-15 specifies that the type 
of smoke detection system be one of the follow- 

1. Visual detection, where the presence of 
smoke is detected visually and by sense of 

To Alarm 

Photoelectric Cell 

&;. Deflected Path of Light 

Normal Path of Light ./ c - ? Ma$J— 

• : 'V'd-v;v Smoke 

Figure 6.10. Refraction-type photoelectric smoke detector. 
Smoke in the air causes light to fall on the photoelectric 
sensor, which then activates the alarm. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

2. Audible detection, where the presence of 
smoke is detected visually and audibly and 
by sense of smell 

3. Visual or aural type combined with a car- 
bon dioxide extinguishing system 

4. Other types that may be developed and 


Flame detectors are designed to recognize cer- 
tain characteristics of flames — the light intensity, 
the flicker (pulsation) frequency or the radiant 
energy. While flame detectors are used in shore 
installations such as warehouses, piers and air- 
craft hangers, they are unlikely to be found 
aboard ships for a number of reasons. First, a 
flame must be directly in front of the detector to 
be recognized. If the flame is off to the side or 
obscured by smoke, the detector will not activate. 
Second, some flame detectors transmit a false 
alarm when subjected to radiant energy from a 
source other than a fire. Some activate when they 
sense flickering light reflections (for example, 
light reflected off the water surface) or arcs from 
welding operations. Third, some flame detectors 
respond to the flickering of flames. Electric lamp 
bulbs aboard vibrating ships could imitate this 
flickering closely enough to cause a false alarm. 


Manual fire alarm systems consist of normal and 
emergency power supplies, a fire control unit to 
receive the alarm and the necessary fire alarm 
boxes. The fire control unit is similar to the auto- 
matic fire detection control unit; it must contain 
means for receiving alarm signals and translating 
these signals into audible and visible alarms. It 
must also have provision for registering trouble 
signals. And, as with automatic systems, vibrating 
bells are required for engine room notification. 

Combined Manual and Automatic 

Where both manual and automatic alarm systems 
are installed on a ship, the U.S. Coast Guard may 
approve a single console capable of receiving 
the signals of both systems. In fact, manual alarm 
systems are usually combined with automatic de- 
tection systems. If the automatic system fails, a 
crewman who discovers a fire can promptly send 
an alarm via the manual alarm system. In addi- 
tion, the manual system is important even when 
the automatic system is functioning properly. If 
a manual alarm is received on the bridge shortly 
after an automatic alarm, the watch officer can be 

fairly certain that there is an actual fire and not 
a false alarm. 

Automatic extinguishing systems (see Chapter 
9) have provision for manual operation. With one 
exception, automatic extinguishing systems trans- 
mit an automatic alarm when they are operated 
manually. The one exception is the automatic 
sprinkler system. An automatic sprinkler system 
cannot operate until the heat of a fire activates a 
sprinkler head. The opening of the sprinkler head 
releases the water and, at the same time, activates 
the alarm. 

Manual fire alarm stations may be superim- 
posed on and connected as an integral part of 
the wiring of an automatic fire detection system. 
An electrical system using manually operated 
fire alarm boxes may also be employed. Here 
again, the U.S. Coast Guard could approve other 
arrangements that may be developed. 

Alarm Boxes 

There must be at least one manual fire alarm box 
in each fire zone on the vessel. Framed charts or 
diagrams in the wheelhouse and fire control sta- 
tion, adjacent to the fire alarm receiving equip- 
ment, should indicate the locations of the fire 
zones in which the alarm boxes are installed. 

Manual fire alarm boxes are usually located in 
main passageways, stairway enclosures, public 
spaces and similar areas. They should be readily 
available and easily seen in case of need. Manual 
alarm boxes must be placed so that any person 
evacuating a fire area will pass one on the way out. 

All new alarm boxes must be clearly marked: 
alarm boxes not so marked must be identified 
with the same instruction printed on an adjacent 
bulkhead in 1.27-cm (Vi-in.) letters. Every alarm 
box must be numbered to agree with the number 
of the fire zone in which it is located. The box 
must be painted red, with the operating instruc- 
tions printed in a contrasting color. 

Newer boxes are equipped with an operating 
lever. When the lever is pulled, the glass is broken 
and the alarm box mechanism transmits the 
alarm. Older boxes may not have a lever; instead, 
they may have a small hammer, attached with a 
chain, to be used in breaking the glass. Once the 
glass is broken, the lever must be operated to 
sound the alarm. 


The purpose of a supervised patrol is basically 
the same as that of a system — to guard against 

Fire Detection Systems 


fire and sound an alarm if fire is discovered. The 
difference between the two systems is the way in 
which the vigilance is maintained. The supervised 
patrol system is similar to a system of police offi- 
cers walking their beats. Each ship's patrolman 
follows a prescribed route, designed to ensure 
that he visits each station on his round. The 
watchman, on the other hand, is more of a fixed 
sentry. He is stationed in a specific area and 
remains in that area. 

Supervised Patrols 

Supervised patrol systems are required on pas- 
senger vessels whenever passengers are on board. 
Cargo vessels are not required to have super- 
vised patrol systems. However, if they are in- 
stalled, they must meet the requirements set down 
for passenger vessels. On these vessels, supervised 
patrols must be maintained between the hours 
of 10 pm and 6 am. Patrolmen must cover all 
parts of the vessel accessible to passengers and 
crew, except occupied sleeping accommodations 
and machinery and similar spaces where a regular 
watch is maintained. 

To verify that patrolmen make their appointed 
rounds, recording apparatus is installed in the 
zones that must be visited. Generally, the appa- 
ratus can be either of two types: 

1. A mechanical system consisting of a port- 
able spring-motor-driven recording clock 
and key stations located along each patrol. 

2. An electrical system consisting of a re- 
corder located at a central station and key 
stations along each patrol route. 

In the mechanical system, there is a key at each 
station along the patrolman's route. On reaching 
a key station, the patrolman inserts the key into 
his portable clock. This causes the time and the 
station to be recorded on a tape within the sealed 
clock. The entries on these tapes should be ex- 
amined regularly, to ensure that the prescribed 
visits were made at the proper times. The port- 
able clocks have antitampering devices that auto- 
matically register any unauthorized opening 
(Fig. 6.11). 

In the electrical system, each patrolman carries 
a key. When he reaches a key station, he inserts 
his key into the station mechanism. The placing 
of the key in the mechanism registers on a re- 
corder at the central station. When a signal is 
not received from a key station within a reason- 
able time, there may be a problem. The patrol- 
man may not be making his rounds, or he may 
have become ill or had an accident. An immedi- 
ate investigation should be made. 

Figure 6.11. A patrolman's portable clock for recording the 
stations visited and the times of the visits. 

When a ship is not equipped with an electrical 
recording apparatus, patrolman must report to 
the bridge at least once an hour. However, where 
there are two or more patrol routes, one patrol- 
man may contact the others and make a joint 

Watchmen's Systems 

Watchmen are used on vessels that are not re- 
quired to have supervised patrols. At night, a 
suitable number of watchmen must be stationed 
in the passenger accommodation areas on each 
deck. The watchmen are under the direct control 
of the master or watch officer and must report 
to that officer at fixed intervals not exceeding 
one hour. 

Duties of Patrolmen and Watchmen 

Patrolmen and watchmen should be given spe- 
cific instructions concerning their duties. They 
must be made aware that their primary duty is to 
transmit an alarm on discovering fire, or even on 
seeing or smelling smoke. Their first action should 
be to use the nearest manual fire alarm box. Val- 
uable time may be lost if a patrolman or watch- 
man suspects that an alarm is unnecessary and 
instead goes to the bridge to report his findings. 

After transmitting the alarm, the patrolman or 
watchman should take such action as is necessary: 
awaken passengers and crew in the area, use a 
fire extinguisher or simply report to the officer 
in charge of the emergency squad. 

The patrolman, watchman or other crew mem- 
ber who first discovers a fire is very important to 



Murine Fire Prevention. Firefighting and Fire Safety 

the investigation of the cause of the fire. He should 
be encouraged to write down what he knows 
about the fire as soon as possible while the facts 
are fresh in his mind. Important items include: 

• Time of discovery 

• Exact location where smoke or fire wa$ seen 

• What doors were open or closed 

• Who, if anyone, was in the area prior to the 

• The condition of any fire extinguisher he 

• Any other condition or circumstance that 
might have a bearing on the fire. 

It might be well to take statements from all wit- 
nesses on a recording device. 

The watchman's uniform is conspicuously dif- 
ferent from the clothing of other crewmen so 
that it can readily be identified. A rating badge 
marked "Watchman" should be worn on the left 
sleeve; the front of the hat should be marked sim- 
ilarly. Patrolmen may either wear a distinctive 
uniform or be identified by a distinctive badge. 
Both patrolmen and watchmen must carry flash- 
lights; notebooks could also be of use. 


Air Sampling Smoke Detection System 

An automatic air-sampling apparatus designed to 
sense the presence of smoke in protected cargo 


Repeater Cabinet 
and Odor 



Figure 6.12. Simplified schematic drawing of the automatic smoke-sampling system. The apparatus has detected smoke in 
an air sample from space 3. That number is indicated on the main cabinet and the repeater cabinet. The alarm is sounded 
at those cabinets and in the engine room. 

Fire Detection Systems 


areas is installed on most vessels. It is equipped 
with a photoelectric smoke detector and three 
visual smoke detectors. Air samples are continu- 
ally drawn from each protected space and con- 
veyed to the main cabinet through an individual 
1.9-cm ( 3 /4-in.) pipe. Since each protected space 
has its own sampling pipe, positive identification 
of the location generating smoke is ensured. 

A photoelectric smoke detector examines the 
air sample from each pipe individually and in 
sequence, for a period of 5 seconds, by means of 
an automatic selector valve. When smoke is 
sensed by the photoelectric detector, both visible 
(red light) and audible (gong) alarms are acti- 
vated, and a vibrating bell is sounded in the en- 
gine room. The selector valve stops and locks in 
on the code number identifying the space from 
which the smoke is coming (Fig. 6.12). 

Air samples from each pipe may be examined 
individually, at any time, by observation of the 
visible smoke detectors in the main cabinet. The 
three visual detectors allow simultaneous ob- 
servation of air drawn from three different spaces. 
Smoke that might be too weak to be noticed by 
a single detector becomes conspicious when con- 
trasted with smoke-free air from adjacent detec- 
tors. A translucent cylinder mounted on the 
selector valve rotor carries a series of numbers. 
When the visual detector switch is depressed, 
these numbers are illuminated by a lamp and 
made visible by three mirrors mounted inside the 
number cylinder. These numbers visually align 
below the smoke detector viewing field to desig- 
nate the space that is delivering air to the cor- 
responding detector. 

Power Switch 

Line Number Indicator 
Re-check Switch 

Cong Cut-off Switch 

Smoke Alarm Lamp 

Power Failure Lamp 

Power Failure Buzzer Control Switch 
Fault Lamp 

Fault Buzzer Control Switch 
Sync Fault Lamp 

Re-Sync Control Switch 
Blower Transfer Switch - 

The main cabinet, in which the receiving ap- 
paratus is housed, is usually remote from the 
wheelhouse. In most cases, it is located in the CO2 
room. A repeater cabinet (Fig. 6.13), wired from 
the main cabinet, is located in the wheelhouse. 
The mechanisms in this cabinet repeat the signals 
received in the main cabinet, activate the alarms 
signals and lock the selector on the same zone 
number registering on the main cabinet. Close to 
both the main cabinet and the repeater cabinet 
are framed charts under glass or a transparent 
laminate covering. They show the space asso- 
ciated with each code number. If a fire alarm 
signal is sounded in the wheelhouse, the watch 
officer notes the code number held stationary on 
the selector. By checking this code number on 
the chart, he determines the fire zone or space 
from which the smoke is coming. 

To ensure that a fire does exist and its location 
has been accurately determined, the detecting 
system may be reactivated by pushing the reset 
button. This causes the smoke detector to repeat 
the complete cycle of air sampling. If the original 
information was correct, the alarm should again 
sound, and the same code number should be indi- 
cated on the selector. 

The ability to visually examine air samples 
from various spaces is especially useful during a 
fire. For example, Figure 6.12 shows fire in hold 
no. 3. The detection system has indicated that 
there is fire in that zone. By monitoring air 
samples on the visual detectors, it could be deter- 
mined whether there was smoke in hold no. 4 or 
no. 2. Smoke in either of these two holds would 
indicate that the fire was extending or there was 

© e> 

".*.*!" S *.°*!. DETECT^ 

Figure 6.13. Repeater cabinet, located in the wheelhouse. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

seepage of smoke into an adjoining space. How- 
ever, the absence of smoke in either adjoining 
hold would be a fairly good indication that the 
fire was contained in hold no. 3. 

The equipment described is available in two 
sizes: one will monitor 32 zones, and the other 
48 zones. Each zone has at least one sampling 
pipe, although large zones may have more. In 
some installations, a pipe is run to the wheelhouse 
(or equivalent) to discharge a portion of the 
mixed air drawn from all protected spaces, per- 
mitting smoke detection by smell. In addition to 
the alarm signals at the main and repeater cabi- 
nets, some installations have additional signals, 
such as gongs, howlers or lights, located in par- 
ticular areas. 

A carbon dioxide extinguishing system (see 
Chapter 9) may be coupled into the smoke detec- 
tion system. In this arrangement, the pipes that 
transmit air samples to the main cabinet are also 
used to carry CO2 to the protected spaces. Carbon 
dioxide gas cylinders are stowed in the CO2 room 
and are connected to distribution lines leading 
to the protected spaces. When a fire is detected, its 
location determined, and CO2 is to be used to 
control the fire, a three-way valve located at the 
distribution manifold is operated. This closes the 
line to the main cabinet while connecting the 
burning space with the CO2 gas supply lines. A 
chart in the CO2 room indicates the number of 
CO2 cylinders to be discharged initially into the 
space to create an inert atmosphere. The chart 
also indicates the number of additional cylinders 
to be periodically discharged into the space to 
maintain this inert atmosphere. (The use of CO2 
in fighting cargo hold and engine room fires is 
detailed in chapter 10). 

Supervised Fire Alarm System 

Another system approved by the Coast Guard 
is designed to receive alarms of fire from manual 
fire alarm boxes and from automatic heat detec- 
tors. The system is a two-wire supervised system 
that operates from two banks of 24-V batteries. 
One set of batteries supplies power to the system 
while the other is being charged. The system 
includes a centrally located (usually in the wheel- 
house) control unit consisting of a main control 
panel and zone modules, along with audible and 
visible signals and control and test equipment. 
Each zone module is electrically connected to a 
particular fire zone. Within each zone are several 
thermostatic fire detecting sensors and at least 
one manually operated fire alarm box. The ther- 
mostats and alarm boxes are strategically placed 
about the zone. 

The zone modules are mounted in the control 
unit, beneath the main panel. One control unit 
can accommodate up to 40 zone modules. The 
components of each module are mounted on a 
bracket and consist of two lights, two lever 
switches, associated relays and a terminal bar. 
One light indicates red for fire alarms; the other 
indicates blue for trouble in its circuit. Below 
these lights are corresponding lever switches, 
with TEST and RESET positions. Each module 
is identified with its fire zone number. A chart 
showing the locations of all fire zones is kept near 
the control unit, readily visible, for quick refer- 

The main control panel (Fig. 6.14) is mounted 
above the zone modules. The panel consists of 
five lever switches, four indicator lights, a volt- 
meter and a rotary switch, with associated relay 
coils and terminal bars. Two of the lever switches 
are used to perform ground tests. A third switch 
is used to test and reset the engine room gong 
circuit. The remaining two switches are cutout 
switches. One is used to silence the trouble buz- 
zer and transfer to light indication. The other 
performs the same funcion for the power failure 
bell. Two of the four indicator lights are asso- 
ciated with the cutout switches. Another light is 
for the trouble bell in the engine room gong cir- 
cuit. The fourth light, designated "fire alarm off," 
is a warning light that indicates that the audible 
signal is not operative and the system is in a silent 
alarm condition. When the cover door of the unit 
is opened, a switch disconnects the fire alarm 
bell and energizes the warning light. The unit 
must never be left unattended in this condition. 

The voltmeter has a range of 30-0-30 v. It 
has two functions: First, it indicates the voltage 
of the batteries in use, and second, it is used to 

Figure 6.14. Main control panel of the supervised fire 
alarm system. The 40 individual zone modules are located 
below this panel. 

Fire Detection Systems 


perform ground tests of the positive and negative 
lines of each zone. The rotary switch is a two- 
position switch that is used to transfer the bat- 
teries from "in service" to "on charge," and vice 
versa. This also allows the voltage of each battery 
to be checked. 

The fire detectors used in the system are fixed- 
temperature detectors. The alarm boxes are the 
standard shipboard manual fire alarm boxes de- 
scribed earlier in this chapter. 


At each annual inspection, all fire detection (and 
extinguishing) systems, piping controls, valves and 
alarms must be checked to ensure that they are 
in operating condition. Smoke detection systems 
must be checked by introducing smoke into the 
accumulators. Fire detection and manual alarm 
systems must be checked by means of test sta- 
tions or by actuating detectors or pull boxes. 
Sprinkler systems must be checked by means of 
test stations or by opening heads. 

In addition to the annual or biannual inspec- 
tions required for the issuance of a certificate of 
inspection, fire detection systems must be tested 
at regular intervals. For instance, it is the duty 
of the master to see that the smoke detection sys- 
tem is checked at least once in each 3 months. 
Smoke inlets in cargo holds must be examined to 
determine if the inlets are obstructed by corrosion, 
paint, dust or other foreign matter. Smoke tests 
must be made in all holds; the system must be 
found operable or made operable. The date of the 
test and the conditions found must be entered in 
the log. Title 46 CFR 111.05-10 requires that 
fire detecting thermostats be tested at regular in- 
tervals. The intervals are not spelled out, but the 
regulations specify that 25% of the thermostats 
(heat sensitive detectors) be tested annually. The 
regulations further suggest how a thermostat may 
be tested: 

A portable handlight with an open end sheet metal 
shield (such as a No. 3 fruit can) replacing the 
usual guard and globe would serve as a source of 
heat to operate the thermostat without damage to 
paint work or the thermostat itself. Any thermo- 
stat requiring a time to operate materially different 
from the average when covered with the heating 
device should be suspected of being defective and 
forwarded to Coast Guard Headquarters for further 

The operating instructions issued by manufac- 
turers of detection systems usually contain in- 
structions for the periodic testing (monthly and 
weekly) of some components. Records of all tests 

must be maintained — if not in the log then in a 
record book kept in the vicinity of the main cabi- 
net. Title 46 CFR, part 76, Fire Protection Equip- 
ment, requires that an officer of the ship make 
the inspection and initial the entry in the record 


Two types of systems are used on ships to warn 
of dangerous concentrations of combustible gas. 
These are the catalytic detection system and the 
infrared gas monitor. While they are not fire de- 
tection systems as such, they do detect the pres- 
ence of situations that could lead to explosion and 
fire. The catalytic type requires an air-enriched 
atmosphere; the infrared monitor will operate 
within any atmosphere. Both systems can be man- 
ufactured and installed to monitor combustible 
gases at a single location or at several locations. 

Catalytic Combustible-Gas 
Detection System 

The catalytic system is designed to continuously 
sample the atmosphere of the protected space 
and to detect the presence of flammable gases or 
vapors up to the lower explosive limit (LEL). 
The components of the system are one or more 
detector heads, a control-indicating unit and 

How the System Works. The detector head con- 
tains two electrically heated elements; each ele- 
ment forms one half of a balanced electrical cir- 
cuit (a Wheatstone bridge). When a combustible- 
gas mixture is drawn across the circuit, it burns. 
This changes the resistance of the circuit and, 
therefore, its electrical output. The output is 
transmitted to the control-indicating unit, where 
it is calibrated and displayed on a meter. A read- 
ing on the meter between and 100% shows 
how closely the atmosphere being monitored ap- 
proaches the minimum concentration required for 
a flammable mixture. When dangerous gas con- 
centrations accumulate, warning lights, bells or 
horns are activated (Fig. 6.15). 

To operate properly, catalytic detectors require 
air that contains enough oxygen to support com- 
bustion. For this reason, the catalytic system is 
not used to detect the presence of combustible 
gases in inert atmospheres or steam-saturated 
spaces. The system is usually used in dead air, 
void spaces, bilges and pump rooms on tank ves- 
sels carrying LNG or other combustible gases. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Power In 

Signal Out 
(up to 5000 ft.) 


100 Volt Power Supply 

Indicating Meter 



Warning Lamp 



Recording (Optional) 

Figure 6.15. Schematic drawing of a catalytic combustible gas detection system. 

Infrared Combustible-Gas Leak Detector 
and Air-Monitoring System 

The infrared system automatically detects either 
toxic noncombustible gases or combustible gases. 
It may be used to monitor either inert or air- 
filled atmospheres. For instance, the system can 
be used to detect methane gas in an inert nitrogen 
atmosphere, such as that used to protect LNG 
tanks. As another example, it could be used to 
monitor the level of carbon monoxide in the air- 
filled hold of a roll on-roll off vessel. While the 
system is adaptable to many gases, it can only be 
set up to detect one particular gas at any given 
time. Moreover, it will not detect gases, such as 
nitrogen and oxygen, that do not absorb infrared 

A sample of the atmosphere of each protected 
space is pumped to a central station through its 
own sampling line. At the central station, a non- 
dispersive infrared gas analyzer screens the 
sample for abnormal gas concentrations. If it de- 
tects a dangerous level of gas, the system sounds 
an audible alarm and lights an indicator that 
shows which protected space is involved. 

How the System Works. Figure 6.16 is a block 
diagram of the infrared monitoring system. There 
is one sample line, or stream, for each point to 
be monitored. The stream is a tube through which 
a sample is drawn from the protected space. The 
filter on the end of each stream keeps dust from 
entering the system; it should be replaced periodi- 

The stream-selector manifold contains a set 
of electrically operated valves that are used to 
connect individual streams to the sample pump. 
The valves are controlled by the stream selector. 
The stream selector operates the valves so that 
the streams are connected to the sample pump in 
turn, at fixed intervals. After the last stream has 
been sampled, the cycle begins again with the 
first stream. The stream selector also identifies 
the particular stream that is being sampled at 
any time, through the alarm and indicator unit. 

The bypass pump maintains samples in all the 
streams, up to the stream-selector manifold valves. 
This reduces the time needed to draw each sample 
up to the infrared gas analyzer. It thus reduces the 
length of the complete sampling cycle. The sam- 
ple pump sends the selected sample to the gas- 
selector manifold. Normally, the sample passes 
immediately to the gas analyzer. (The zero gas 
and span gas shown in Fig. 6.16 are used to cali- 
brate the analyzer periodically. They do not enter 
into the sampling cycle.) 

In the infrared gas analyzer, an infrared beam 
is passed through the sample. The amount of in- 
frared radiation absorbed by the sample indicates 
the concentration of the toxic or combustible gas 
of interest. It is measured and shown on a meter 
on the analyzer (Fig. 6.17). The information is 
also transmitted to the alarm and indicator unit. 

The alarm and indicator unit visually displays 
the results of each sample analysis. It also sounds 
an audible alarm and flashes an indicator light 
if the concentration of gas in a sample is above 

Fire Detection Systems 


Vent Zero Gas Vent 

Span Gas i 




Sample Lines 







Gas- Selector 


Infrared Gas 



Span Gas 

Stream Selector 

Alarm and 
Indicator Unit 

Gas Flow 
Electrical Signal 

Figure 6.16. The main components of an infrared shipboard 
Mountainside, N.J.) 

a preset value; the light indicates which stream 
the sample was drawn from. The watch officer 
may push a button to silence the audible alarm. 
Once he notes which indicator is flashing, he may 
push a second button to stop the flashing (the 
indicator light simply remains lit). 

The watch officer then must take the neces- 
sary corrective action. This may include evacu- 
ating the area, shutting off valves in pipe lines 
running through the area, turning on exhaust fans 
and shutting down electrical equipment. If the 
problem is corrected, the indicator light auto 

Figure 6.17. Nondispersible infrared gas analyzer. The 
meter indicates the concentration of gas in each sample as it 
is being analyzed. 

gas-monitoring system. (Courtesy Beckman Instruments, Inc., 

matically shuts off the next time the atmosphere 
of the involved space is sampled. If the problem 
remains, the light remains on but the audible 
alarm does not sound. 

The alarm and indicator light can be set to 
respond to varying concentrations of the gas of 
interest. Usually, for safety, they are set for some 
fraction of the lower explosive level. The system 
also checks itself once during each cycle, as fol- 
lows: It analyzes a sample of gas whose concen- 
tration is high enough to cause an alarm. How- 
ever, in this case, the system sounds the alarm 
only if the high concentration goes undetected. 
That is, if the system is working correctly and 
detects the high concentration, no alarm is 
sounded. The stream selector simply selects the 
next sample. 

Maintenance. As with all safety devices, main- 
tenance is important to the proper operation of 
the infrared analyzer. Proper maintenance in- 

• Periodic calibration as detailed in the man- 
ufacturer's operating manual 

• Replacement of calibration-gas cylinders 
when their pressure falls below the minimum 

• Periodic checks of equipment operation, in- 
cluding light bulbs 

• Lubrication and cleaning of pumps 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

• Periodic replacement of stream filters 

• General cleaning of cabinets and other 
equipment and the areas occupied by this 


A pyrometer is an instrument for measuring tem- 
peratures too great for an ordinary thermometer. 
It is used to find the temperature of a fire. An 
important use of pyrometers is in checking the 
progress of a fire that cannot be seen, e.g., a fire 
that has been confined in a closed compartment 
or hold. By taking readings at the same location 
at various times, one can tell if the fire is gaining 
or lessening in intensity. By moving the pyro- 
meter to different locations along a bulkhead or 
deck, one may determine if the fire is extending 

Pyrometers are attached to, or embedded in, 
either of two types of bases. The usual type base 
may be placed on the deck over the fire space. 
The magnetic type can be "slapped" onto the out- 
side of a bulkhead of a burning space. A chain 
should be attached to the base of the pyrometer. 
It can be used to pull the instrument across a 
deck that is too hot for personnel. It is also useful 
in lowering the pyrometer into a hot area. 

A pyrometer can be useful in evaluating the 
success or lack of success when flooding a burn- 
ing compartment with carbon dioxide. It must 
be remembered that great patience is needed to 
successfully extinguish cargo hold fires with 
carbon dioxide. One cannot "take a peek" to see 
how things are going. Opening up would sig- 
nificantly dilute the extinguishing gas within the 
cargo compartment, thereby destroying its effec- 
tiveness. Using a pyrometer and checking the 
variations in temperature should give meaningful 
information. A rising temperature after carbon 
dioxide has been introduced would indicate two 
possibilities: 1) the amount of carbon dioxide 
introduced is insufficient and more is required, or 
2) the carbon dioxide is not reaching the fire (di- 
rected to the wrong fire zone, a control valve is 
closed or malfunction of the system). A steady 
lowering of the temperature would indicate that 
the carbon dioxide has either extinguished the 
fire or has it under control. However, though a 
steady lowering of the temperature is observed 
or even if the temperature reading is down to 
66°C (150°F) or less, these encouraging readings 
should not be interpreted as a signal to open the 
compartment for examination. At the risk of 
being repetitive, it is stated again that great pa- 
tience is needed with carbon dioxide. There 

should be no need to open a cargo hatch until 
port is reached. After all, the damage to the cargo 
has already been done by the fire; carbon dioxide 
can cause no further damage. 


Shipboard fire detection systems make use of 
people, devices or both to detect a fire before it 
does damage to people, the ship or both. The 
International Convention of Seafaring Nations 
(London, 1960) recognized the validity of this 
basic principle and embodied it in their regula- 
tions. The participating nations agreed to pro- 
mote laws and rules to ensure that, from the point 
of view of safety to life, a ship is fit for the service 
for which it was intended. But long before such 
a convention, the regulatory bodies of the United 
States enacted laws and regulations for safety at 
sea; for instance, a sprinkler law for passenger 
ships was passed as early as 1936. Some ship 
owners had already voluntarily installed fire safety 
equipment and procedures. Today, ships flying 
the flag of the United States are the safest in the 
world. To keep them the safest, the applicable 
parts of the Code of Federal Regulations are con- 
stantly being revised by the Coast Guard. The 
object is to stay abreast of current needs, based 
upon experience and the expertise, inventiveness 
and productiveness of engineers and manufac- 
turers in the fire protection field. Current regula- 
tions require that ships be equipped with certain 
devices or personnel procedures (patrols and 
watchmen) as a minimum standard for safety. 
Wise ship owners and masters insist upon greater 
protection than the minimum standards require. 
They want the best equipment that can be pro- 
vided; crews that have been instructed in fire pre- 
vention, fire protection and firefighting; frequent 
and meaningful fire drills; and present equipment 
tested and maintained to the highest obtainable 
standard of perfection. 

The detecting systems and devices described 
in this chapter are those currently available. Some, 
such as the smoke detector and the electric (ther- 
mostat) detector, are particularly applicable for 
shipboard use. Others, such as the flame detector, 
resistance bridge and cloud chamber, are more 
applicable to land installations. The infrared gas 
monitor is a very new system; others have been in 
use for some time. 

The Coast Guard leaves open the possibility of 
using fire detection equipment that may be de- 
veloped in the future. However before any new 
type of fire detection equipment may be installed 
aboard ship, it must be subjected to thorough and 

Fire Detection Systems 


exhaustive examination. If it is found to comply 
with government specifications, it may then be 
approved by the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, 
for use aboard vessels. 

Regardless of the type or age of a system in- 
stalled aboard a vessel, all ship's personnel must 
be familiar with its operation and maintenance. 
Instruction and maintenance manuals must be 
available and kept near the signal receiving equip- 

ment. If a manual is lost, or an additional copy 
is desired, the manufacturer will gladly supply 
one. When requesting a manual from a manufac- 
turer include all information, such as the name, 
type and model number of the equipment. This 
information is stamped or printed on the receiving 
cabinet. The addresses of equipment manufac- 
turers may be found in the U.S. Coast Guard 
Equipment Lists (CGI 90), obtainable at any 
Coast Guard inspection office. 


Bryan JL: Fire Suppression and Detecting Systems. 

Beverly Hills, Glencoe Press, 1974 
Detex Corporation: Detex Newman Watchclock 

System. New York, 1977 
Haessler WM: Systems Approach Vital to Design 

of Early Alert Detection Installation. In Fire En- 
gineering. New York, January, 1975 
Henschel Corporation: Henschel Instruction Book 

#574. Amesbury, Mass, 1976 
Johnson JE: Concepts of Fire Detection. Cedar 

Knolls, NJ, Pyrotronics, 1970 
W. Kidde and Co.: Operation and Maintenance of 

the Kidde Marine Smoke Detector. Belleville, NJ 
Lein H: Automatic Fire Detecting Devices and 

Their Operating Principles. In Fire Engineering. 

New York, June, 1975 
McKinnon CP: Fire Protection Handbook. 14th ed. 

Boston, NFPA, 1976 

National Fire Protection Association: Automatic Fire 
Detectors. NFPA Standard No. 72E. Boston, 

Osbourne A A, Neild AB: Modern Marine Engi- 
neer's Manual. Cambridge, Md, Cornell Mari- 
time Press, 1965 

Underwriters Laboratories, Inc: Standards for Smoke 
Detectors. Combustion Products Type for Fire 
Protective Signaling Systems. UL 167, Melville, 
NY, 1974 

Instruction Manuals, Norris Industries. Marine 
Smoke Detector, Newark, N.J. 

Beckman Instruments Inc. Operation and Mainte- 
nance Manuals for Gas Detection Systems. Moun- 
tainside, NJ. 

Mine Safety Appliances. Operation and Maintenance 
Manuals for Gas Detection Systems. Pittsburgh, 

Extinguishing Agents 

An extinguishing agent is a substance that will 
put out a fire. Every extinguishing agent operates 
by attacking one or more sides of the fire tetra- 
hedron (Fig. 4.8). The specific actions involved 
are the following (Fig. 7.1): 

• Cooling: to reduce the temperature of the 
fuel below its ignition temperature. This is 
a direct attack on the heat side of the fire 

• Smothering: to separate the fuel from the 
oxygen. This can be considered as an attack 
on the edge of the fire tetrahedron where 
the fuel and oxygen sides meet. 

• Oxygen dilution: to reduce the amount of 
available oxygen below that needed to sus- 
tain combustion. This is an attack on the 
oxygen side of the tetrahedron. 

• Chain breaking: to disrupt the chemical 
process that sustains the fire (the chain re- 
action side of the tetrahedron). 

Eight extinguishing agents are in common use. 
Each is applied to the fire as a liquid, gas or solid, 
depending on its extinguishing action and physi- 
cal properties (Fig. 7.2). Some may be used on 
several types of fires, whereas others are more 
limited in use. We shall discuss the agents listed 
in Figure 7.2 (and some others) in the remainder 
of this chapter, after a brief discussion of the 
classes of fires that may be encountered aboard 


Fires are grouped into four classes labeled A 
through D, according to their fuels (see Chapter 
5). However, some fuels are found in combina- 
tions, and electrical fires always involve some 

solid fuel. Thus, for firefighting purposes, there 
are actually six possible combinations of fire 

1. Class A fires (common flammable solid 

2. Class B fires (flammable liquid or gaseous 

3. Combined class A and B fires (solid fuel 
combined with liquid or gaseous fuel) 

4. Combined class A and C fires (solid fuel 
combined with electrical equipment) 

5. Combined class B and C fires (liquid or 
gaseous fuel combined with electrical 

6. Class D fires (combustible-metal fuel). 

This list includes every known type of fire. Note 
that the environment of a fire, i.e., where it oc- 
curs, does not affect its classification. For ex- 
ample, class B fires are class B fires whether they 
occur in an engine room or on a pier. The choice 
of extinguishing agent depends on the class of 
fire, the hazards involved and the agents available 
(Fig. 7.3). 

Class A Fires 

Fires involving common combustible solids such 
as wood, paper, cloth and plastics are most effec- 
tively extinguished by water, a cooling agent. 
Foam and dry chemical may also be used; they 
act mainly as smothering agents. 

Class B Fires 

For fires involving oils, greases, gases and other 
substances that give off large amounts of flam- 
mable vapors, a smothering agent is most effec- 
tive. Water fog, dry chemical, foam and carbon 
dioxide (CO2) may be used. However, if the fire 



Marine Fire Prevention, Fireflghting and Fire Safety 





Combined Class A and B Fires 

Water spray and foam may be used to smother 
fires involving both solid fuels and flammable 
liquids or gases. These agents also have some 

Figure 7.1. A. Cooling agents absorb heat from the fire. B. Smothering agents separate the fuel from its oxygen supply. 
C. Oxygen diluting agents reduce the amount of oxygen available. D. Chain breakers attack the chemical process that keep 
the fire going. 

is being supplied with fuel by an open valve or 
a broken pipe, a valve on the supply side should 
be shut down. This may extinguish the fire or, at 
least, make extinguishment less difficult and allow 
the use of much less extinguishing agent. 

In a gas fire, it is imperative to shut down the 
control valve before you extinguish the fire. If 
the fire were extinguished without shutting down 
the valve, flammable gas would continue to 
escape. The potential for an explosion, more dan- 
gerous than the fire, would then exist. It might 
be necessary to extinguish a gas fire before shut- 
ting down the fuel supply in order to save a life 
or to reach the control valve; however, these are 
the only exceptions. 



2. FOAM 



4. HALON 1211, 1301 

SOLIDS (dry chemical) 





Figure 7.2. The eight common extinguishing agents. 

Extinguishing Agents 


Extinguishing Method, COOLING 
Fuel Class of Fire 










Extinguishing Agent 


Water Spray 

Carbon Dioxide 



Sodium or Potassium Base (Regular) 
Ammonium Base (All Purpose) 

Dry Powder 

Extinguishing Method, SMOTHERING 
Fuel Class of Fire 





Extinguishing Agent 



Water Spray 




Carbon Dioxide 





Sodium or Potassium Base 
Ammonium Base 



Dry Powder 

Extinguishing Method, OXYGEN DILUTION 



of Fire 








/■ — v 





Extinguishing Agent 


Water Spray 

Carbon Dioxide 



Sodium or Potassium Base 
Ammonium Base 

Dry Powder 



Class of Fire 


Extinguishing Agent 




Water Spray 

Carbon Dioxide 







Sodium or Potassium Base 
Ammonium Base 


/■ — x 






Dry Powder 

Figure 7.3. The actions of extinguishing agents on the different classes of fires. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

cooling effect on the tire. Carbon dioxide has also 
been used to extinguish such fires in closed spaces. 

Combined Class A and C Fires 

Because energized electrical equipment is in- 
volved in these fires, a nonconducting extinguish- 
ing agent must be used. Carbon dioxide, Halon 
and dry chemical are the most efficient agents. 
Carbon dioxide dilutes the oxygen supply, while 
the others are chain breaking agents. 

Combined Class B and C Fires 

Here again, a nonconducting agent is required. 
Fires involving flammable liquids or gases and 
electrical equipment may be extinguished with 
Halon or dry chemical acting as a chain breaker. 
They may also, in closed spaces, be extinguished 
with C0 2 . 

Class D Fires 

These fires involve combustible metals such as 
potassium, sodium and their alloys and mag- 
nesium, zinc, zirconium, titanium and powdered 
aluminum. They burn on the metal surface at a 
very high temperature and often with a brilliant 
flame. Water should not be used on class D fires, 
as it may add to the intensity or cause the molten 
metal to spatter. This, in turn, can extend the fire 
and inflict painful and serious burns on those in 
the vicinity. 

Fires in combustible metals are generally 
smothered and controlled with specialized agents 
known as dry powders. Dry powders are not the 
same as dry chemicals, although many people use 
the terms interchangeably. The agents are used 
on entirely different types of fires: Dry powders 
are used only to extinguish combustible-metal 
fires. Dry chemicals may be used on other fires, 
but not on class D fires. 


Water is a liquid between the temperatures of 
0°C and 100°C (32°F and 212°F); at 100°C 
(212°F) it boils and turns to steam. Water weighs 
about 1 kg/liter (8.5 lb/gal); fresh water weighs 
slightly less, and seawater slightly more. Being 
fluid and relatively heavy, water is easily trans- 
ported through firemains and hoses when it is 
placed under pressure. The velocity of the water 
is increased by forcing it through a restricted 
nozzle at the working end of the hose. The water 
stream can be thrown a fairly good distance if 
sufficient pressure is available. 

Extinguishing Capabilities of Water 

Water is primarily a cooling agent. It absorbs 
heat and cools burning materials more effectively 
than any other of the commonly used extinguish- 
ing agents. It is most effective when it absorbs 
enough heat to raise its temperature to 100°C 
(212°F). At that temperature water absorbs still 
more heat, turns to steam, and moves the ab- 
sorbed heat away from the burning material. This 
quickly reduces the temperature of the burning 
material below its ignition temperature, and the 
fire goes out. 

Water has an important secondary effect: When 
it turns to steam, it converts from the liquid state 
to the gaseous (vapor) state, and in so doing, it 
expands about 1700 times in volume. This great 
cloud of steam surrounds the fire, displacing the 
air that supplies oxygen for the combustion proc- 
ess. Thus, water provides a smothering action as 
well as cooling. 

Seawater is just as effective in fighting fires as 
fresh water. In fact, hard water, soft water, sea- 
water and distilled water are all equally effective 
against class A fires. 

Moving Water to the Fire » 

At sea the supply of water is limitless; however, 
moving the water is another matter. The amount 
of water that can be moved to a shipboard fire 
depends on the number of pumps carried and their 
capacities. If the total pump capacity is 946 
liters/min (250 gal/min), then that is the maxi- 
mum water flow rate that can be delivered through 
the ship's firefighting water system. This is one 
reason for using firefighting water judiciously. 
But even when water is available in huge quan- 
tities, it still must be used economically and 
wisely. If it isn't, its weight can affect the equi- 
librium of the ship. This is especially true if large 
amounts of water are introduced into, and re- 
main at, a high point in the ship: The weight of 
the water raises the center of gravity of the ves- 
sel, impairing its stability (Fig. 7.4). In many 
cases the vessel will list or even capsize. Water 
that is not confined but can run to lower portions 
of the ship may affect the buoyancy of the ship. 
Ships have capsized and sunk because excessive 
amounts of water were used during firefighting 
efforts. Every 1 m 3 (35 ft 3 ) or about 946 liters 
(250 gal) of water adds another tonne to be reck- 
oned with. 

Aboard ship, water is moved to the fire in two 
ways: 1) via the firemain system, through hose- 
lines that are manipulated by the ship's personnel, 
and 2) through piping that supplies a manual or 
automatic sprinkler or spray system. Both are 

Extinguishing Agents 


Figure 7.4. Water confined high on the ship has a detri- 
mental effect on the ship's stability. 

reliable methods for bringing water to bear on a 
fire, provided the pumps, piping and all compo- 
nents of the system are maintained. These sys- 
tems are covered in Chapters 9 and 10. 

Automatic fire suppression systems are impor- 
tant to the safety of every vessel. Crewmen should 
understand how they operate and know how to 
maintain them. However, the mobility of a hose- 
line is an equally important asset in most fire- 
fighting operations. The hose and nozzle com- 
plete the job of moving water to the fire in the 
proper form. Moreover, hoseline operations rep- 
resent a much greater involvement of crew mem- 
bers in combating the fire. 

This human involvement — and the possibility 
of human error — make drills of paramount im- 
portance. Through periodic drilling, crewmen 
should become proficient in the use and mainte- 
nance of water-moving equipment. U.S. Coast 
Guard regulations require that each fire station 
be equipped with a single length of hose, with 
the nozzle attached. The hose must be situated 
at its proper location and maintained in good 
working order. More than one small fire has be- 

come a major fire owing to poor maintenance 

Straight Streams 

The straight stream, sometimes called the solid 
stream, is the oldest and most commonly used 
form of water for firefighting. The straight stream 
is formed by a nozzle that is specially designed 
for that purpose. The end from which the water 
is thrown is tapered to less than one half the 
diameter of the entry or hose end (Fig. 7.5). The 
tapering increases both the velocity of the water 
at the discharge end and the reach. 

Efficiency of Straight Streams. The distance 
that a straight stream travels before breaking up 
or dropping is called its reach. Reach is impor- 
tant when it is difficult to approach close to a fire. 
Actually, despite its name, a straight stream is 
not really straight. Like any projectile, it has two 
forces acting upon it. The velocity imparted by 
the nozzle gives it reach, either horizontally or 
at an upward angle, depending on how the noz- 
zleman aims the nozzle. The other force, gravity, 
tends to pull the stream down, so the reach ends 
where the stream encounters the deck. On a ves- 
sel, the nozzle pressure is usually below 690 kilo- 
pascals ( 100 psi). The maximum horizontal reach 
is then attained with the nozzle held at an upward 
angle of 35°-40° from the deck. The maximum 
vertical reach is attained at an angle of 75°. 

Probably less than 10% of the water from a 
straight stream actually absorbs heat from the 
fire. This is because only a small portion of the 
water surface actually comes in contact with the 
fire — and only water that contacts the fire absorbs 
heat. The rest runs off, sometimes over the side; 
but more often the runoff becomes free surface 
water and a problem for the ship. 

Using Straight Streams. A straight stream 
should be directed into the seat of the fire. This 
is important: For maximum cooling the water 

2Vi" Hose Opening 

1 " Nozzle Opening 

Figure 7.5. The taper greatly increases the velocity of the 
water coming from the nozzle. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

Figure 7.6. A straight stream can be bounced off the overhead to hit a fire located behind an obstruction. 

must contact the material that is actually burn- 
ing. A solid stream that is aimed at the flames 
is ineffective. In fact, the main use of solid streams 
is to break up the burning material and penetrate 
to the seat of a class A fire. 

It is often difficult to hit the seat of a fire, even 
with the reach of a solid stream. Aboard ship, 
bulkheads with small openings can keep fire- 
fighters from getting into proper position to aim 
the stream into the fire. If the stream is used be- 
fore the nozzle is properly positioned, the water 
may hit a bulkhead and cascade onto the deck 
without reaching the fire. The nozzleman must 
not open the nozzle until he is sure it is positioned 
so that the stream will reach into the fire. 

In some instances, there may be an obstruc- 
tion between the fire and the nozzleman. Then 
the stream can be bounced off a bulkhead or the 
overhead to get around the obstacle (Fig. 7.6). 
This method can also be used to break a solid 
stream into a spray-type stream, which will ab- 
sorb more heat. It is useful in cooling an ex- 
tremely hot passageway that is keeping firefighters 
from advancing toward the fire. (A combination 
fog-solid nozzle could be opened to the fog posi- 
tion to achieve the same results.) 

Fog Streams 

The fog (or spray) nozzle breaks the water stream 
into small droplets. These droplets have a much 
larger total surface area than a solid stream (Fig. 
7.7). Thus, a given volume of water in fog form 
will absorb much more heat than the same vol- 
ume of water in a straight stream. 

The greater heat absorption of fog streams is 
important where the use of water should be lim- 
ited. Less water need be applied to remove the 
same amount of heat from a fire. In addition, 
more of the fog stream turns to steam when it 
hits the fire. Consequently, there is less runoff, 
less free surface water and less of a stability prob- 
lem for the ship. Figure 7.8 compares straight 
and fog streams as extinguishing methods. 

High-Velocity Fog Streams. The high-velocity 
fog stream can be used effectively to reduce heat 
in compartments, cabins and cargo spaces. In 
spaces where there is an overhead, the nozzle 
should be directed upward at an angle of 20-30° 
from the plane of the deck. This directs the fog 
toward the overhead, where the most heat is con- 
centrated (Fig. 7.9). The foglike spray quickly 

Figure 7.7. A. Straight stream. B. Fog stream. The fog stream droplets present a greater water surface area to the fire and 
can absorb more heat. 

Ext ingu ish ing A gents 



Has Good Reach 

Must Hit Seat of Fire to Cool Efficiently 
Run-off of Water May be Excessive 
Generates Very Little Steam 

Difficult to Aim 
Limited Reach 
Excellent Cooling Abilities 
Generates Steam 
Has Small Amount of Run-off 
Pushes Fire and Smoke 
Does Not Have to Hit Seat of Fire 
to be Effective 


Figure 7.8. Advantages and disadvantages of straight and fog streams. 

absorbs heat, allowing firefighters to enter or ad- 
vance to the fire. 

The high-velocity fog stream can also be used 
to move air in passageways and to drive heat and 
smoke away from advancing firefighters (Fig. 
7.10). This operation can be used to facilitate 
the rescue of persons who are trapped in state- 
rooms, cabins or other spaces. If at all possible, 
the far side of the passageway should be opened 
and kept clear of people. However, if there is no 
opening in a passageway other than the one from 
which the nozzle is being advanced, the heat and 
smoke have no place to go and may burst through 


fe#v^- v < 

Heat Concentration 

20° to 30° 


Figure 7.9. The fog nozzle should be directed upward at 
an angle of 20°-30° to hit heat concentrations at the over- 

or around the fog stream (blow back) and en- 
danger those advancing the nozzle (Fig. 7.11). 
Therefore, in such a passageway, short bursts of 
fog should be aimed at the overhead to knock 
down the flame while minimizing the chance of 
blowback, or it may be better to use a solid 

Low-Velocity Fog Streams. Low-velocity fog is 
obtained by using an applicator along with a com- 
bination nozzle. Applicators are tubes, or pipes, 
that are angled at 60° or 90° at the water outlet 
end. They are stowed for use with the low-velocity 
head already in place on the pipe. Some heads 
are shaped somewhat like a pineapple, with tiny 
holes angled to cause minute streams to bounce 
off one another and create a mist. Some heads 
resemble a cage with a fluted arrow inside. The 
point of the arrow faces the opening in the appli- 
cator tubing. Water strikes the fluted arrow and 
then bounces in all directions, creating a fine 

For 3.8 cm (IVi-in.) nozzles, 1.2 m (4-ft) 
60°-angle and 3 m (10-ft) 90°-angle applicators 
are approved for shipboard use. For 6.4 cm 
(2*6 -in.) nozzles, 3.7 m (12-ft) 90°-angle appli- 
cators are approved (Fig. 7.12). Other lengths 
with different angles are sometimes found. The 
1.2 m (4-ft) applicator is intended for the 3.8 cm 
(IVi-in.) combination nozzles fitted in propul- 
sion machinery spaces containing oil-fired boilers, 
internal combustion machinery or fuel units. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Fire/ighting and Fire Safet 


Figure 7.10. A high velocity fog stream can be used to drive heat and smoke ahead of firefighters when there is an outlet 
for these combustion products. 

Low-velocity fog is effective in combating class 
B fires in spaces where entry is difficult or im- 
possible. Applicators can be poked into areas that 
cannot be reached with other types of nozzles. 
They are also used to provide a heat shield for 
firefighters advancing with foam or high-velocity 
fog. Low-velocity fog can be used to extinguish 
small tank fires, especially where the mist from 
the applicator can cover the entire surface of the 
tank. However, other extinguishing agents, such 
as foam and carbon dioxide, are usually more 

Limitations of Fog Streams. Fog streams do not 
have the accuracy or reach of straight streams. 
Improperly used, they can cause injury to per- 
sonnel, as in a blowback situation. While they 
can be effectively used on the surface of a deep- 
seated fire, they are not as effective as solid 
streams in soaking through and reaching the heart 
of the fire. 

Combination Nozzle Operation 

The combination nozzle will produce a straight 
stream or high-velocity fog, depending on the 

position of its handle. Combination nozzles are 
available for use with 3.8- and 6.4-cm (IV2- and 
2Vi-in.) hose. Reducers can be used to attach a 
3.8-cm (lV^-in.) nozzle to a 6.4-cm (2Vi-in.) 

A straight stream is obtained by pulling the 
nozzle handle all the way back toward the op- 
erator (Fig. 7.13A). 

A fog stream is obtained by pulling the handle 
back halfway (Fig. 7.13B). In other words, the 
handle is perpendicular to the plane of the noz- 

The nozzle is shut down, from any opened 
position, by pushing the handle forward as far 
as it will go (Fig. 7.1 3C). 

The low-velocity fog applicator must be at- 
tached with the nozzle shut down. First, the high- 
velocity "button" or tip is removed. Then the 
straight end of the applicator is snapped into the 
fog outlet and locked with a quarter turn. A 
low-velocity fog stream is obtained with the noz- 
zle handle in the fog position (halfway back). 

When any nozzle is to be used, the handle 
should be in the closed position until the water 

Figure 7.11. If there is no outlet for combustion products that are being pushed ahead, they may blow back and engulf 
advancing firefighters. 

Extinguishing Agents 


2Vi Inches 

Fog Applicators 


12-Foot Applicator 

1 V2-lnch Diameter 


"I 1 V4 Inches 

10-Foot Applicator 1-Inch Diameter 


4-Foot Applicator ^qo 
1-Inch Diameter x ^??) 

Figure 7.12. Low-velocity fog applicators approved for shipboard use. 

Figure 7.13. A. Nozzle open for straight stream. B. Nozzle 
open for high-velocity fog (or low-velocity fog if applicator 
is attached). C. Nozzle shut down. 

reaches the nozzle. The hose will bulge out, and 
the nozzleman will feel the weight of the water. 
Before pushing the handle to an open position, 
he should let the entrained air out of the nozzle. 
This is done by turning a bit sideways with the 
nozzle and slowly opening it until a spatter of 
water comes out. Now the nozzle is directed at 
the target. The backup man closes up to the noz- 
zleman and takes some of the weight of the hose 
and the back pressure from the nozzle. The nozzle 
is opened to the desired position, and the fire is 

Straight and fog streams can be very effective 
against class A fires in the hands of skilled op- 
erators. Fog streams can also be used effectively 
against class B fires. However, it is important that 
crewman have actual experience in directing 
these streams during drills. Applicators should 
also be broken out at drills so crewmen can get 
the feel of these devices. 

Other Types of Water for Firefighting 

Wet Water. Wet water is water that has been 
treated with a chemical agent to lower its surface 
tension. The treated water penetrates porous ma- 
terials, such as baled cotton and rolls of fabric, 
more easily than plain water. Thus it can sink in 
and extinguish fires that have extended into the 
interior of the bale or roll. 

Thick Water. Thick water is water that has been 
treated to decrease its ability to flow. It forms a 
thick wall that clings to burning material and re- 
mains in place longer than plain water. How- 
ever, it does not penetrate as easily as wet or un- 
treated water. Thick water is slippery and makes 
walking on wet decks difficult. 

Rapid or Slippery Water. Rapid water is water 
to which small quantities of polyethylene oxide 
have been added. This chemical reduces the vis- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

cosity of the water and the friction loss in hose- 
lines. The result is an increase in the reach of 
the stream. 


Foam is a blanket of bubbles that extinguishes 
fire mainly by smothering. The bubbles are 
formed by mixing water and a foam-making agent 
(foam concentrate). The result is called a foam 
solution. The various foam solutions are lighter 
than the lightest of flammable oils. Consequently, 
when applied to burning oils, they float on the 
surface of the oil (Fig. 7.14). 

Foam concentrates are produced in two 
strengths, 3% and 6% . These percentages do not 
have the usual meaning. They are the percentages 
of the concentrate to be used in making the foam 
solution. Thus, if 3% concentrate is used, 3 parts 
of concentrate must be mixed with 97 parts of 
water to make 100 parts of foam solution. If 6% 
concentrate is used, 6 parts of concentrate must 
be mixed with 94 parts of water. The 3% foam 
solution is just as effective as the 6% solution. 
The difference is in shipping and storing the 
products. Five containers of 3% concentrate 
make as much foam as 10 similar containers of 
6% concentrate. 

Extinguishing Effects of Foam 

Firefighting foam is used to form a blanket on 
the surface of flaming liquids, including oils. The 
blanket prevents flammable vapors from leaving 
the surface and prevents oxygen from reaching 
the fuel. Fire cannot exist when the fuel and oxy- 
gen are separated. The water in the foam also has 
a cooling effect, which gives foam its class A ex- 
tinguishing capability. 

The ideal foam solution should flow freely 
enough to cover a surface rapidly, yet stick to- 

gether enough to provide and maintain a vapor- 
tight blanket. The solution must retain enough 
water to provide a long-lasting seal. Rapid loss 
of water would cause the foam to dry out and 
break down (wither) from the high temperatures 
associated with fire. The foam should be light 
enough to float on flammable liquids, yet heavy 
enough to resist winds. 

The quality of a foam is generally defined in 
terms of its 25% drainage time, its expansion 
ratio and its ability to withstand heat (burnback 
resistance). These qualities are influenced by 

• The chemical nature of the foam concentrate 

• The temperature and pressure of the water 

• The efficiency of the foam-making device. 

Foams that lose their water rapidly are the 
most fluid. They flow around obstructions freely 
and spread quickly. Such foams would be of use 
in engine room or machinery space fires; they 
would be able to flow under and around ma- 
chinery, floorplates and other obstructions. 

There are two basic types of foam, chemical 
and mechanical. 

Chemical Foam 

Chemical foam is formed by mixing an alkali 
(usually sodium bicarbonate) with an acid (usu- 
ally aluminum sulfate) in water. When chemical 
foam was first introduced, these substances were 
stored in separate containers; they are now com- 
bined in a sealed, airtight container. A stabilizer 
is added to make the foam tenacious and long- 

When these chemicals react, they form a foam 
or froth of bubbles filled with carbon dioxide gas. 
The carbon dioxide in the bubbles has little or 
no extinguishing value. Its only purpose is to 
inflate the bubbles. From 7 to 16 volumes of 
foam are produced for each volume of water. 



Figure 7.14. A. Water is heavier than oil and sinks below its surface. B. Foam is lighter than oil and floats on its surface. 

Extinguishing Agents 



(A and B Premix) 

Pressure Gauge 


Reaction of Concentrate With Water Forms Foam 

Figure 7.15. Production of chemical foam with a foam hopper. 

The premixed foam powder may be stored in 
cans and introduced into the water during fire- 
fighting operations. For this, a device called a 
foam hopper (Fig. 7.15) is used. Or, the two 
chemicals may be premixed with water to form 
an aluminum sulfate solution and a sodium bi- 
carbonate solution. The solutions are then stored 
in separate tanks until the foam is needed. At that 
time, the solutions are mixed to form the foam. 

Many chemical foam systems are still in use, 
both aboard ship and in shore installations. How- 
ever, they are being phased out in favor of the 
newer mechanical foam or, as it is sometimes 
called, air foam. 

Mechanical (Air) Foam 

Mechanical foam is produced by mixing a foam 

concentrate with water to produce a foam solu- 

tion. The bubbles are formed by the turbulent 
mixing of air and the foam solution (Fig. 7.16). 
As the name air foam implies, the bubbles are 
filled with air. Aside from the workmanship and 
efficiency of the equipment, the degree of mixing 
determines the quality of the foam. The design 
of the equipment determines the quantity of foam 

There are several types of mechanical foams. 
They are similar in nature, but each has its own 
special firefighting capabilities. They are pro- 
duced from proteins, detergents (which are syn- 
thetics) and surfactants. The surfactants are a 
large group of compounds that include deter- 
gents, wetting agents and liquid soaps. Surfactants 
are used to produce aqueous film-forming foam, 
commonly referred to as AFFF. 

Figure 7.16. Production of mechanical (air) foam by mixing foam concentrate with water and air. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Water Film Blocks Vapor 


Flammable Liquid 

In Water 

In Water and Fu 


Figure 7.17. The AFFF surfactant molecule holds water at one end and flammable liquid fuel at the other end. It thus forms 
a thin layer of water on top of the burning fuel. 

Protein Foams. The usual protein foams are 
produced from protein-rich animal and vegetable 
waste that is hydrolyzed (subjected to a chemical 
reaction with water that produces a weak acid). 
Mineral salts are added to increase their resist- 
ance to withering, making the foams resistant to 
burnback. The foam concentrate can produce 
foam in all types of water, except water that is 
contaminated with oil. When antifreeze is added, 
foam can be produced in subfreezing tempera- 
tures down to -23.3°C (-10°F). 

Protein foam is the oldest type of foam and 
has been used since its development during 
World War II. The concentrate is available in 
3% and 6% concentrations. Protein foam is not 
compatible with dry chemical extinguishing agents. 

Fluoroprotein is a foam similar to hydrolyzed 
protein foam, with a fluorinated compound 
bonded to the protein. This foam can be injected 
below the liquid surface in a tank. It also works 
very well with dry chemical agents. Fluoropro- 
tein is available in both 3% and 6% concentra- 
tions; with antifreeze, it produces foam in sub- 
freezing temperatures. 

Alcohol Foams. Alcohol-resistant protein foam 
is similar to standard protein foam. However, it is 
blended with an insoluble soap, to permit its use 
on water-soluble organic flammable liquids, such 
as alcohol, ketones, ethers and aldehydes. These 
water-soluble liquids will break down ordinary 
protein foam. Tankers that carry such liquids may 
be equipped with alcohol foam. The application 
rate depends on the vessel design, products car- 
ried and foam system used. Instructions for using 
the system are posted in each vessel. 

Synthetic Foam. Synthetic detergent-based foam 
is made up of alkyl sulfonates. This form has less 
burnback resistance than protein formulas, but 
may be used with all dry chemicals. It foams more 
readily than the proteins and requires less water. 
This is important where the water supply is lim- 

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF). This 
foam was developed by the U.S. Naval Research 
Laboratory to be used in a twinned system: A 
flammable liquid fire would be quickly knocked 
down with a dry chemical; then AFFF would be 
applied to prevent reignition. However, the AFFF 
proved more effective than expected, and it is now 
used without the dry chemical. AFFF controls 
the vaporization of flammable liquids by means 
of a water film that forms as the foam is applied. 
Like other foams, it cools and blankets. This 
double action gives a highly efficient, quick-act- 
ing foam cover for combustible-liquid spills. 

The foam is made from surfactants, through a 
fairly complex chemical process. The result is an 
extinguishing agent that is highly effective when 
used according to the manufacturer's directions. 

One end of a surfactant molecule is polar 
(water soluble), whereas the other end is nonpolar 
(oil soluble but not water soluble). (This is what 
gives detergents the ability to clean away grease 
and oil, which do not dissolve in water.) In use, 
the surfactant is mixed with water before it 
reaches the nozzle (Fig. 7.17). As the surfactant 
mixes with the water, the polar end dissolves; the 
nonpolar end remains intact. 

When the surfactant reaches the surface of the 
flammable liquid, the nonpolar end dissolves in 

Extinguishing Agents 


the fuel. The polar end drags water along with 
it. Thus, a thin film of water floats on top of the 
water-insoluble flammable liquid (such as gaso- 
line, kerosene or jet fuel). It remains on the sur- 
face even though it is heavier than the burning 
fuel; the surface tension holding the nonpolar 
end is greater than the force of gravity. The film 
is very thin, less than 0.003 cm (0.001 in.) thick. 
The remainder of the water sinks below the sur- 
face of the fuel, to the bottom of the container 
(Fig. 7.17). 

Because AFFF works through surface tension, 
it spreads the water thinly, but over a larger 
surface area than untreated water could cover. 
The thin water film, spread across the flammable 
liquid, keeps the flammable vapors beneath its 
surface. When vapor cannot reach the flames, 
flame production ceases. 

The water film can be broken if it is agitated. 
It may also be broken by the roll and pitch of a 
ship that is under way, especially in heavy 

AFFF is similar in some respects to wet water. 
It has a low viscosity and spreads quickly over 
the burning material. Water draining from this 
type of foam has a low surface tension, so AFFF 
can be used on mixed class A and B fires. The 
draining water penetrates and cools the class A 
material, while the film blankets the class B ma- 

AFFF can be produced from fresh water or 
seawater. As noted above, AFFF can be used 
with, before or after dry chemicals. AFFF con- 
centrates should not be mixed with the concen- 
trates of other foams, although in foam form they 
may be applied to the same fire successfully. 

Low-Temperature Foams. Most foam concen- 
trates can be purchased with additives that pro- 
tect them against temperatures as low as — 6.7°C 
(20°F) during storage and use. However, the 
water that is mixed with the concentrate must be 
above 0°C (32°F) or it will freeze. But as long 
as the water is above freezing and is running, an 
effective foam ^an be produced with either fresh 
water or seawater. 

Foam Supplies 

Enough foam concentrate should be available to 
produce foam solution at the rate of 6.5 liters/ 
min for each square meter (1.6 gal/min for each 
10 ft 2 ) of area protected, for at least 3 minutes 
for spaces other than tanks and at least 5 minutes 
for tanks. The same discharge rate applies to 
fixed foam extinguishing systems in tank vessels; 
there should be enough concentrate on hand to 

produce foam at this rate for at least 3 minutes. 
Deck foam systems on tankers carrying the usual 
petroleum products should produce foam solu- 
tion at the rate of at least 6.5 liters/min for each 
square meter (1.6 gal/min for each 10 ft 2 ) of 
cargo area, or 9.7 liters/min for each square 
meter (2.4 gal/min for each 10 ft 2 ) of the hori- 
zontal sectional area of the single tank having 
the largest area, whichever is greater. Enough 
concentrate must be available to supply deck 
foam systems on tankers at this rate for at least 
15 minutes. 

There need not be enough foam concentrate 
aboard to supply the maximum amount required 
by all systems. Instead, the total available amount 
need only be sufficient to supply the space re- 
quiring the greatest amount. 

Before foam is used, it is necessary to ensure 
that there is enough to do the job. There must 
be a sufficient amount to cover the entire surface 
of the fuel and to completely extinguish the fire. 
If not enough foam is available, there is no sense 
in using foam at all. Half measures do not work 
with foam. Incomplete coverage allows the fire 
to burn around the foam and destroy it. 

High-Expansion Foams 

High-expansion foams are those that expand in 
ratios of over 100:1 when mixed with air. Most 
systems produce expansion ratios of from 400:1 
to 1000: 1. Unlike conventional foam, which pro- 
vides a blanket a few inches thick over the burn- 
ing surface, high-expansion foam is truly three 
dimensional; it is measured in length, width, 
height and cubic feet. 

High-expansion foam is designed for fires in 
confined spaces. Heavier than air but lighter than 
water or oil, it will flow down openings and fill 
compartments, spaces and crevices, replacing the 
air in these spaces. In this manner it deprives the 
fire of oxygen. Because of its water content, it 
absorbs heat from the fire and cools the burning 
material. When the high-expansion foam has ab- 
sorbed sufficient heat to turn its water content to 
steam at 100°C (212°F), it has absorbed as much 
heat as possible; then the steam continues to re- 
place oxygen and thus combat the fire. 

Uses of High-Expansion Foam. High-expansion 
foam is effective on both class A and class B fires. 
On class A fires its effectiveness stems from its 
cooling capability, on class B fires from its 
smothering action. Class A fires are controlled 
when the foam covers the burning material. For 
complete extinguishment, the foam cover must 
be continuously replenished, to replace water that 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

has been spent in absorbing the heat of the fire. 
It is the water content of the foam that is impor- 
tant here. 

Cooling is also involved in class B fires in- 
volving high flash point oils and liquids, such as 
lubricating oils and cooking oils. Here, the cool- 
ing reduces the surface temperature of the liquid 
below the temperature at which flammable vapors 
are given off. Class B fires involving low flash 
point liquids such as gasoline and naphtha are 
extinguished by high-expansion foam in the same 
manner as by conventional foam. The fire is de- 
prived of oxygen (smothered); the flammable 
vapors are prevented from joining with oxygen 
in the air. 

Automatic High-Expansion Foam Systems. 

Automatic high-expansion foam systems auto- 
matically flood the protected space with foam. 
Such systems are available but are not yet used 
on vessels. An automatic system requires a fire 
detector such as those discussed in Chapter 6. 
It must be wired to sense the fire, sound an alarm 
and actuate a mechanism to start generating and 
sending high-expansion foam into the protected 
space. In addition, the detector must actuate an 
evacuation alarm to warn people who may be in 
the space that it is about to be flooded. Automatic 
foam systems generate foam very quickly. A per- 
son who does not leave the area immediately 
could be inundated or cut off from escape. 

While the foam itself is not considered toxic, 
it blocks vision, impairs hearing and makes 
breathing difficult. It is thus dangerous for any- 
one to be within the foam; the only valid reason 
for entering or remaining in a foam buildup is to 
rescue someone who might be trapped. When it 
is absolutely necessary for someone to enter the 

foam to save a life, a lifeline must be attached to 
the rescuer. A canister-type breathing mask 
should not be used, because the foam will mix 
with the chemicals in the mask and suffocate the 
wearer. Either a fresh-air hose mask, a demand- 
type compressed-air or OBA self-contained unit 
may be used. 

A coarse water fog stream can be used to cut 
a path through high-expansion foam. However, 
it is difficult to cut a path if the foam is higher 
than about 1.8 m (6 ft), as the foam tends to 
slide down into the path. All this leads to one 
valid conclusion: Everyone must get out of the 
area as soon as the evacuation alarm sounds. 

Flooding a Compartment with a Portable Foam 
Generator. With the approval of the Coast 
Guard, portable high-expansion foam generators 
may be used for firefighting aboard ship. To flood 
a compartment, a hose is run out on the deck 
above, the generator is attached to the hose, and 
the foam concentrate is connected to the genera- 
tor pickup tube. All personnel must leave the 
space to be flooded, if the fire has not already 
driven them out. 

A hole, through which the foam is to be ap- 
plied, is cut in the deck (Fig. 7.18). A charged 
hoseline must be available at this time. (When- 
ever an opening is made into a fire area, an 
additional hoseline, charged with water, must be 
available in case the fire pushes through the open- 
ing. The charged line is then used to protect the 
opening.) Before the high-expansion foam is di- 
rected into the opening, another opening must 
be made. The second opening, some distance 
away but still over the same space, allows the 
escape of steam that is generated when the high- 
expansion foam hits the fire (Fig. 7.18). If the 

Opening for Application 
of High-Expansion Foam 

Openings to Vent Smoke, Cases and Heat to Atmosphere 


V I 

^ >k ^s^^ 

High-Expansion Foam 

Figure 7.18. Flooding a cargo hold with high-expansion foam. Here, hatches are being used to apply the foam (left) and to 
vent the products of combustion including the hot steam that is produced (right). 

Extinguishing Agents 


second opening (the vent) is made on an open 
deck, the steam and heat will dissipate into the 
open air. If it is impossible to place the vent in 
the open, then it must be made in a passageway 
that leads to the open air. Once firefighters are 
sure that the passageway is open, no one should 
remain in the path of the escaping steam. When 
the foam is applied, it will generate steam that is 
hot enough to scald. 

Steam leaving the vent hole is a good indica- 
tion that the foam is reaching its target and doing 
its work. If no steam is seen within a few minutes, 
either the foam is not reaching its objective or 
the vent hole is improperly placed. 

Production of High-Expansion Foam. An as- 
pirating nozzle is used to produce high-expansion 
foam. In the nozzle, a solution of foam concen- 
trate and water is sprayed over a meshed screen. 
Air is drawn into the nozzle and through the 
screen at high velocity. The air mixes with the 
solution at the screen. Bubbles are formed at the 
screen, and high-expansion foam leaves the noz- 
zle at the far side of the screen (Fig. 7.19). If air 
that has been heated or contaminated by the fire 
is used to produce foam, the result is a poor grade 
of foam. Also, soot can clog the openings in the 
screen and affect the quantity and quality of the 
foam. The air should be as clean and fresh as 

Limitations on the Use of Foam 

Foams are effective extinguishing agents when 
used properly. However, they do have some limi- 
tations, including the following: 

1. Because they are aqueous (water) solutions, 
foams are electrically conductive and 
should not be used on live electrical equip- 

2. Like water, foams should not be used on 
combustible-metal fires. 

3. Many foams must not be used with dry 
chemical extinguishing agents. AFFF is an 
exception to this rule and may be used in a 
joint attack with dry chemical. 

4. Foams are not suitable for fires involving 
gases and cryogenic (extremely low tem- 
perature) liquids. However, high-expan- 
sion foam is used on cryogenic liquid spills 
to rapidly warm the vapors to minimize the 
hazards of such spills. 

5. If foam is placed on burning liquids (like 
asphalts) whose temperatures exceed 
100°C (212°F), the water content of the 
foam may cause frothing, spattering or 
slopover. Slopover is different from boil- 
over, although the terms are frequently con- 
fused. Boilover occurs when the heat from 
a fire in a tank travels down to the bottom 
of the tank and causes water that is already 
there to boil and push part of the tank's 
contents over the side. Certain oils with a 
high water content, such as crude oil, have 
a notorious reputation for boilover. Slop- 
over occurs when foam, introduced into a 
tank of hot oil (surface temperature over 
100 C C (212°F)) sheds its water content due 
to the high heat. The water forms an emul- 
sion of steam, air and the foam itself. The 
forming of the emulsion is accompanied 
by a corresponding increase in volume. 
Since tanks are three dimensional, the only 
place for the emulsion to go is over the 
sides of open tanks or into the vents of 
enclosed tanks. 

6. Sufficient foam must be on hand to ensure 
that the entire surface of the burning ma- 
terial can be covered. In addition, there 
must be enough foam to replace foam that 
is burned off and to seal breaks in the foam 

Figure 7.19. Production of high-expansion foam. High-velocity air strikes the water-foam concentrate solution at the screen, 
producing the foam. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Advantages of Foam 

In spite of its limitations, foam is quite effective 
in combating class A and class B fires. 

1 . Foam is a very effective smothering agent, 
and it provides cooling as a secondary 

2. Foam sets up a vapor barrier that pre- 
vents flammable vapors from rising. The 
surface of an exposed tank can be cov- 
ered with foam to protect it from a fire in 
a neighboring tank. 

3. Foam is of some use on class A fires be- 
cause of its water content. AFFF is espe- 
cially effective, as are certain types of 
wet- water foam. Wet- water foam is made 
from detergents; its water content quickly 
runs out and seeps into the burning ma- 
terial. It is not usually found aboard ves- 
sels; a more likely use is in protecting 
bulk storage in piers or warehouses. 

4. Foam is effective in blanketing oil spills. 
However, if the oil is running, an attempt 
should be made to shut down a valve if 
such action would stop the flow. If that is 
impossible, the flow should be dammed. 
Foam should be applied on the upstream 
side of the dam (to extinguish the fire) 
and on the downstream side (to place a 
protective cover over any oil that has 
seeped through). 

5. Foam is the most effective extinguishing 
agent for fires involving large tanks of 
flammable liquids. 

6. Foam can be made with fresh water or 
seawater, and hard or soft water. 

7. Foam does not break down readily; it 
extinguishes fire progressively when ap- 
plied at an adequate rate. 

8. Foam stays in place, covers and absorbs 
heat from materials that could cause re- 

9. Foam uses water economically and does 
not tax the ship's fire pumps. 

10. Foam concentrates are not heavy, and 
foam systems do not take up much space. 


Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishing systems have, 
for a long time, been approved for ship installa- 
tion as well as for industrial occupancies ashore. 
Aboard ship, carbon dioxide has been approved 
for cargo and tank compartments, spaces con- 
taining internal combustion or gas-turbine main 
propulsion machinery and other spaces. 

Properties of Carbon Dioxide 

Carbon dioxide is normally a gas, but it may be 
liquefied or solidified under pressure. At — 43 °C 
(— 1 10°F), carbon dioxide exists as a solid, called 
"dry ice." The critical temperature of carbon 
dioxide is 31°C (87.8°F). Above that tempera- 
ture, it is always a gas, regardless of pressure. 
Carbon dioxide does not support combustion in 
ordinary materials. However, there are some ex- 
ceptions, as when CO2 reacts with magnesium 
and other metals. 

Carbon dioxide is about 1 .5 times heavier than 
air. This adds to its suitability as an extinguishing 
agent, because CO2 tends to fall through air and 
blanket a fire. Its weight makes it less prone to 
dissipate quickly. In addition, carbon dioxide is 
not an electrical conductor; it is approved for 
extinguishing fires in energized electrical equip- 

Extinguishing Properties of 
Carbon Dioxide 

Carbon dioxide extinguishes fire mainly by smoth- 
ering. It dilutes the air surrounding the fire until 
the oxygen content is too low to support com- 
bustion. For this reason it is effective on class 
B fires, where the main consideration is to keep 
the flammable vapors separated from oxygen in 
the air. CO2 has a very limited cooling effect. It 
can be used on class A fires in confined spaces, 
where the atmosphere may be diluted sufficiently 
to stop combustion. However, CO2 extinguish- 
ment takes time. The concentration of carbon 
dioxide must be maintained until all the fire is 
out. Constraint and patience are needed. 

Carbon dioxide is sometimes used to protect 
areas containing valuable articles. Unlike water 
and some other agents, carbon dioxide dissipates 
without leaving a residue. As mentioned above, 
it does not conduct electricity and can be used 
on live electrical equipment. However, fire parties 
must maintain a reasonable distance when using 
a portable CO2 extinguisher or hoseline from a 
semiportable system on high voltage gear. 

Uses of Carbon Dioxide 

Carbon dioxide is used primarily for class B and 
C fires. It may also be used to knock down a class 
A fire. It is particularly effective on fires involving 

1 . Flammable oils and greases 

2. Electrical and electronic equipment, such 
as motors, generators and navigational de- 

3. Hazardous and semihazardous solid ma- 
terials, such as some plastics, except those 

Extinguishing Agents 


that contain their own oxygen (like nitro- 

4. Machinery spaces, engine rooms and paint 
and tool lockers 

5. Cargo spaces where total flooding with 
carbon dioxide may be accomplished 

6. Galleys and other cooking areas, such as 
diet kitchens 

7. Compartments containing high value 
cargo, such as works of art, delicate ma- 
chinery and other material that would be 
ruined or damaged by water or water-based 
extinguishing agents 

8. Spaces where after-fire cleanup would be 
a problem. 

cations maintain the concentration of CO2 for 
periods varying from hours to days. CO2 works 
well in confined spaces, but it works slowly; pa- 
tience is the watchword. 

If a flooded space is opened before the fire is 
completely extinguished, air entering the space 
may cause reignition. Carbon dioxide cannot be 
purchased at sea. Reignition requires a second 
attack, at a time when less CO2 is available. 

Hazards. Although carbon dioxide is not pois- 
onous to the human system, it is suffocating in 
the concentration necessary for extinguishment. 
A person exposed to this concentration would 
suffer dizziness and unconsciousness. Unless re- 
moved quickly to fresh air, the victim could die. 

Limitations on the Use of Carbon Dioxide 

Effectiveness. CO2 is not effective on substances 
that contain their own oxygen (oxidizing agents). 
It is not effective on combustible metals such as 
sodium, potassium, magnesium and zirconium. 
In fact, when CO2 is used on burning magnesium, 
it reacts with the magnesium to form carbon, 
oxygen and magnesium oxide. The fire is intensi- 
fied by the addition of oxygen and carbon, a fuel. 

Outside Use. To be fully effective, the gas must 
be confined. For this reason, CO2 is not as effec- 
tive outside as it is in a confined space. This does 
not mean that it cannot be used outside. Portable 
CO2 extinguishers and hoselines have extin- 
guished many fires in the open. An outside fire 
should be attacked from the windward side; the 
CO2 should be directed low with a sweeping mo- 
tion for a spill fire, or down at the center of a con- 
fined fire. The effective range for a portable CO2 
fire extinguisher is about 1.5 m (5 ft). 

Possibility of Reignition. Compared with water 
carbon dioxide has a very limited cooling ca- 
pacity. It may not cool the fuel below its ignition 
temperature, and it is more likely than other ex- 
tinguishing agents to allow reflash. (Its main ex- 
tinguishing action, as noted above, is oxygen 
dilution.) When portable CO2 extinguishers or 
hoselines from semiportable extinguishers are 
used, additional backup water hoselines should 
be brought to the scene. In case of live electrical 
equipment, an additional nonconducting agent 
must be brought to the scene. 

When a space is flooded with CO2 the concen- 
tration must be kept up to a certain level. After 
the initial application of a set number of CO2 
cylinders, additional cylinders must be discharged 
into the space periodically. These backup appli- 

Carbon Dioxide Systems 

Carbon dioxide extinguishing systems aboard 
vessels are usually not automatic. However auto- 
matic systems may be installed in certain ships 
and towing vessels with Coast Guard approval. 
In the manual system, a fire detector senses fire 
and actuates an alarm. The engine room is alerted, 
and the bridge and CO2 room are notified as to 
the location of the fire (see Chapter 6). After it 
is verified that a fire actually exists, the amount 
of carbon dioxide required for the involved space 
is released from the CO2 room. 

Coast Guard regulations require that an evacu- 
ation alarm be sounded when CO2 is introduced 
into a space that is normally accessible to persons 
on board, other than paint and lamp lockers and 
similar small spaces. However on systems installed 
since July 1, 1957, an alarm is required only if 
delayed discharge is used. Delayed discharge is 
required where large amounts of CO2 are released 
into large spaces. Delayed discharge may also be 
required for smaller spaces from which there are 
no horizontal escape routes. 

The alarm sounds during a 20-second delay 
period prior to the discharge of carbon dioxide 
into the space. It uses no source of power other 
than the carbon dioxide itself. Every carbon 
dioxide alarm must be conspicuously identified 
with the warning "WHEN THE ALARM 

Portable and semiportable CO2 extinguishers 
may be located in certain spaces. Small systems, 
consisting of one to four CO2 cylinders, a hose 
and a nozzle, are often provided to protect against 
specific hazards. Those who work in the areas 
protected by these appliances should be familiar 
with their operation. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Dry chemical extinguishing agents are chemicals 
in powder form. Again we note that they should 
not be confused with dry powders, which are in- 
tended only for combustible-metal fires. 

Types of Chemical 
Extinguishing Agents 

At the present time, five different types of dry 
chemical extinguishing agents are in use. Like 
other extinguishing agents, dry chemical may be 
installed in a fixed system or in portable and 
semiportable extinguishers. Such systems may be 
installed aboard ship with the approval of the 
Coast Guard commandant. 

Sodium Bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is the 
original dry chemical extinguishing agent. It is 
generally referred to as regular dry chemical and 
is widely used because it is the most economical 
dry chemical agent. It is particularly effective on 
animal fats and vegetable oils because it chem- 
ically changes these substances into nonflam- 
mable soaps. Thus, sodium bicarbonate is used 
extensively for galley range, hood and duct fires. 
There is one possible problem with sodium bi- 
carbonate: Fire has been known to flash back 
over the surface of an oil fire when this agent is 

Potassium Bicarbonate. This dry chemical was 
originally developed to be used with AFFF in a 
twinned system. However it is commonly used 
alone. It has been found to be most effective on 
liquid fuel fires in driving flames back and has a 
good reputation for eliminating flashback. It is 
more expensive than sodium bicarbonate. 

Potassium Chloride. Potassium chloride was 
developed as a dry chemical that would be com- 
patible with protein-type foams. Its extinguishing 
properties are about equal to those of potassium 
bicarbonate. One drawback is its tendency to 
cause corrosion after it has extinguished a fire. 

Urea Potassium Bicarbonate. This is a British 
development, of which the NFPA says, "Urea 
potassium bicarbonate exhibits the greatest effec- 
tiveness of all the dry chemicals tested." It is not 
widely used because it is expensive. 

Monoammonium Phosphate (ABC, Multipur- 
pose). Monoammonium phosphate is called a 
multipurpose dry chemical because it can be ef- 
fective on class A, B and C fires. Ammonium 
salts interrupt the chain reaction of flaming com- 
bustion. The phosphate changes into metaphos- 

phoric acid, a glassy fusible material, at fire tem- 
peratures. The acid covers solid surfaces with a 
fire retardant coating. Therefore, this agent can 
be used on fires involving ordinary combustible 
materials such as wood and paper, as well as on 
fires involving flammable oils, gases and electrical 
equipment. However, it may only control, but not 
fully extinguish, a deep-seated fire. Complete ex- 
tinguishment may require the use of a hoseline. 
In fact, it is always prudent to run out a hoseline 
as a backup when any dry chemical extinguisher 
is used. 

Extinguishing Effects of Dry Chemical 

Dry chemical agents extinguish fire by cooling, 
smothering, shielding of radiant heat and, to the 
greatest extent by breaking the combustion chain. 

Cooling. No dry chemical exhibits any great 
capacity for cooling. However, a small amount of 
cooling takes place simply because the dry chem- 
ical is at a lower temperature than the burning 
material. Heat is transferred from the hotter fuel 
to the cooler dry chemical when the latter is in- 
troduced into the fire. (Heat is always transferred 
from a hotter body to a cooler body. The greater 
the surface area and the temperature difference, 
the greater the heat transfer.) 

Smothering. When dry chemical reacts with the 
heat and burning material, some carbon dioxide 
and water vapor are produced. These dilute the 
fuel vapors and the air surrounding the fire. The 
result is a limited smothering effect. 

Shielding of Radiant Heat. Dry chemical pro- 
duces an opaque cloud in the combustion area. 
This cloud reduces the amount of heat that is 
radiated back to the heart of the fire, i.e., the 
opaque cloud absorbs some of the radiation feed- 
back that is required to sustain the fire (see Chap- 
ter 4). Less fuel vapor is produced, and the fire 
becomes less intense. 

Chain breaking. Chain reactions are necessary 
for continued combustion (see Chapter 4). In 
these chain reactions, fuel and oxygen molecules 
are broken down by heat; they recombine into 
new molecules, giving off additional heat. This 
additional heat breaks down more molecules, 
which then recombine and give off still more heat. 
The fire thus builds, or at least sustains itself, 
through reactions that liberate enough heat to set 
off other reactions. 

Dry chemical (and other agents such as the 
halogens) attacks this chain of reactions. It is 
believed that it does so by reducing the ability of 

Extinguishing Agents 


molecular fragments to recombine. It may itself 
combine with the fragments of fuel and oxygen 
molecules, so that the fuel cannot be oxidized. 
Although the process is not completely under- 
stood, chain breaking is the most effective extin- 
guishing action of dry chemical. 

Uses of Dry Chemical 

Monoammonium phosphate (ABC, multipurpose) 
dry chemical may, as its name implies, be used 
on class A, B and C fires and combinations of 
these. However, as noted above, ABC dry chem- 
ical may only control, but not extinguish, some 
deep-seated class A fires. Then an auxiliary ex- 
tinguishment method, such as a water hoseline, 
is required. 

All dry chemical agents may be used to extin- 
guish fires involving 

1 . Flammable oils and greases 

2. Electrical equipment 

3. Hoods, ducts and cooking ranges in gal- 
leys and diet kitchens 

4. The surfaces of baled textiles 

5. Certain combustible solids such as pitch, 
naphthalene and plastics (except those that 
contain their own oxygen) 

6. Machinery spaces, engine rooms and paint 
and tool lockers. 

Limitations on the Use of Dry Chemical 

There are limitations on the use of dry chemical. 

1. The discharge of large amounts of dry 
chemical could affect people in the vicinity. 
The opaque cloud that is produced can 
reduce visibility and, depending on its den- 
sity, cause breathing difficulty. 

2. Like the other extinguishing agents that 
contain no water, dry chemical is not effec- 
tive on materials that contain their own 

3. Dry chemical may deposit an insulating 
coating on electronic or telephonic equip- 
ment, affecting the operation of the equip- 

4. Dry chemical is not effective on combusti- 
ble metals such as magnesium, potassium, 
sodium and their alloys, and in some cases 
may cause a violent reaction. 

5. Where moisture is present, dry chemical 
may corrode or stain surfaces on which it 

Compatibility with Other 
Extinguishing Agents 

Any dry chemical may be applied to a fire with 
any other dry chemical. However, different types 
of dry chemical should not be mixed in containers. 
Some have an acid base, and others an alkali base. 
Mixing could cause excess pressure in the con- 
tainer or cause the chemicals to lump. 

Many foam extinguishing agents break down 
when attacked by dry chemical. AFFF may be 
used with dry chemical, since it was developed 
for use with potassium bicarbonate in a twinned 
system. In that system, hoses from an AFFF tank 
and a dry chemical tank led to twin nozzles. 
AFFF could be directed at the fire from its noz- 
zle, and dry chemical from its nozzle, either in- 
dividually or simultaneously. 

Today, large combined agent systems are used 
to protect petroleum refineries and oil storage 
tank farms. On vessels with foam systems, only 
foam-compatible dry chemicals may be used. If 
a dry chemical is not listed in the Coast Guard 
Equipment Lists (CGI 90), the Coast Guard com- 
mandant should be consulted before it is stowed 
aboard ship. 


Dry chemical extinguishing agents are considered 
nontoxic, but they may have irritating effects 
when breathed. For this reason a warning signal, 
similar to the one used in carbon dioxide systems, 
should be installed in any space that might be 
totally flooded with dry chemical. In addition, 
breathing apparatus and lifelines must be avail- 
able in case crewmen must enter the space before 
it is entirely ventilated. 

Dry chemical extinguishing agents are very 
effective on gas fires. However, as he s been noted 
several times in this book, gas flames should not 
be extinguished until the supply of fuel has been 
shut down upstream of the fire. 


Dry powders were developed to control and ex- 
tinguish fires in combustible metals, i.e., class D 
fires. As mentioned earlier, dry chemical and dry 
powders are not the same. Only dry powders are 
intended for combustible-metal fires, i.e., those 
involving magnesium, potassium, sodium and 
their alloys, titanium, zirconium, powdered or 
fine aluminum, and some lesser known metals. 

Dry powders are the only extinguishing agents 
that can control and extinguish metal fires with- 
out causing violent reactions. Other extinguishing 
agents may accelerate or spread the fire, injure 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

personnel, cause explosions or create conditions 
more hazardous than the original fire. Dry pow- 
ders act mainly by smothering, although some 
agents also provide cooling. 

Water and water-based agents such as foam 
should not be used on combustible-metal fires. 
The water may cause an explosive chemical re- 
action. Even when there is no chemical reaction, 
water droplets that move below the surface of 
the molten metal will expand with explosive vio- 
lence and scatter molten material. However, 
water has been prudently used in some cases; for 
example, on large pieces of burning magnesium, 
water was applied to a portion not actually burn- 
ing, to cool this part sufficiently so that the fire 
did not extend. In general, water should not be 
applied to molten metals themselves, but it can 
be used to cool down threatened areas. 

Types of Dry Powders 

Two commercially available dry powders are 
composed mostly of graphite. The graphite cools 
the fire and creates a very heavy smoke that helps 
smother the fire. These agents are effective on 
all metals listed above. They are applied with a 
scoop or shovel. 

Dry powder with a sodium chloride (salt) base 
is propelled from portable extinguishers by car- 
bon dioxide, and from large containers or fixed 
systems by nitrogen. The powder is directed over 
the burning metal; when it drops, it forms a crust 
on the metal and smothers the fire. Like the 
graphite types, it is effective on the combustible 
metals mentioned above. 

Dry powder with a sodium carbonate base is 
intended for sodium fires. The powder may be 
scooped from buckets or propelled from a pres- 
surized extinguisher. It forms a crust on the sur- 
face of the burning sodium to smother the fire. 

There are a number of other extinguishing 
agents for combustible-metal fires. Most are spe- 
cialized, intended for one or perhaps two kinds 
of metal. The National Safety Council, in Chi- 
cago, and the Manufacturing Chemists' Associa- 
tion, in Washington, D.C., issue data sheets con- 
cerning specific combustible metals. The data 
sheets include extinguishment methods and 
agents. It would be wise for owners (and masters) 
who might expect their ships to carry combustible 
metals to secure data sheets for these metals. 
The Coast Guard regulations require that appro- 
priate extinguishing appliances be provided when- 
ever a merchant vessel carries hazardous material 
whose extinguishment is beyond the firefighting 
capability of the ship's normal outfitting. 

AGENTS (Halon) 

Halogenated extinguishing agents are made up 
of carbon and one or more of the halogen ele- 
ments: fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine. 

Two halogen extinguishing agents are recog- 
nized for use in the United States, bromotrifluor- 
omethane (more familiarly known as Halon 1301) 
and bromochlorodifluoromethane (Halon 1211). 
The NFPA has set up standards (No. 12A for 
1301, and No. 12B for 1211) for systems using 
these agents. The Coast Guard Equipment Lists 
(CGI 90) include equipment for Halon 1301 sys- 
tems and extinguishers, but not for Halon 1211. 
Thus, the permission of the Coast Guard com- 
mandant must be obtained before a Halon 1211 
system or extinguisher is installed aboard a 

Both Halon 1301 and Halon 1211 enter the 
fire area as a gas. Most authorities agree that the 
Halons act as chain breakers. However, it is not 
known whether they slow the chain reaction, 
break it up or cause some other reaction. 

Halon 1301 is stored and shipped as a liquid 
under pressure. When released in the protected 
area, it vaporizes to an odorless, colorless gas and 
is propelled to the fire by its storage pressure. 
Halon 1301 does not conduct electricity. 

Halon 1211 is also colorless, but it has a faint 
sweet smell. Halon 1211 is stored and shipped as 
a liquid and pressurized by nitrogen gas. Pres- 
surization is necessary since the vapor pressure 
of Halon 1211 is too low to convey it properly 
to the fire area. It does not conduct electricity. 

Uses of the Halons 

The extinguishing properties of Halon 1211 and 
Halon 1 301 allow their use on a number of differ- 
ent types of fire. These include 

1. Fires in electrical equipment 

2. Fires in engine rooms, machinery spaces 
and other spaces involving flammable oils 
and greases 

3. Class A fires in ordinary combustibles. 
However, if the fire is deep seated, a longer 
soaking time may be needed, or a standby 
hoseline may be used to complete the ex- 

4. Fires in areas where articles of high value 
may be stored and thus damaged by the 
residue of other agents 

5. Halon 1301 is recommended for fires in- 
volving electronic computers and control 
rooms. Halon 1211 carries no such recom- 

Extinguishing Agents 


There are few limitations on the use of Halons. 
However, they are not suited for fighting fires in 

1) materials containing their own oxygen and 

2) combustible metals and hydrides. 


When inhaled, both Halon 1301 and Halon 1211 
may cause dizziness and impaired coordination. 
These gases may reduce visibility in the area in 
which they are discharged. At a temperature 
slightly below 500°C or about 900°F the gases 
of both Halons will decompose. The normal 
vapors below that temperature are not considered 
very toxic; however, the decomposed gases may 
be very hazardous, depending on a) the concen- 
tration, b) the temperature and c) the amount that 
has been inhaled. 

Halon 1211 is not recommended for the total 
flooding of confined spaces. If Halon 1301 is to 
be used for the total flooding of normally occu- 
pied spaces, an evacuation alarm must be pro- 
vided. Personnel should leave the area promptly 
on hearing the alarm. Similarly, when a Halon 
1301 extinguisher is used, those not directly in- 
volved in the operation should leave the area 
immediately. The extinguisher operator should 
step away as soon as the appliance is discharged. 
The area should be vented with fresh air before 
it is reentered. If it is necessary to remain in or 
enter an area where Halon 1301 has been dis- 
charged, breathing apparatus and lifelines should 
be used. The only valid reason for such entry 
would be to save life or to maintain control of the 


Sand has been used on fires since time imme- 
morial. However, it is not very efficient when 
compared to modern extinguishing agents. 

The function of sand is to smother an oil fire 
by covering its surface. But if the oil is more than 
an inch or so in depth, the sand will sink below 
the oil surface. Then, unless a sufficient amount 
of sand is available to cover the oil, it will be in- 
effective in extinguishing the fire. However, when 
properly applied, sand can be used to dam or 
cover an oil spill. 

Sand must be applied to a fire with a scoop or 
shovel. Its minimal effectiveness may be further 
reduced by an unskilled user. After the fire, there 
is a cleanup problem. In addition to these defi- 
ciencies, sand is abrasive and has an ingenious 
way of getting into machinery and other equip- 

Title 46 CFR, Parts 34 and 95, lists require- 
ments for sand as an extinguishing substance in 

the amount of 0.28 m 3 (10 ft 3 ) for spaces contain- 
ing oil-fired boilers. However, an additional class 
B extinguisher may be substituted for the sand. 
The class B extinguisher is a good alternative to 

1. The extinguisher is more effective, pound 
for pound and cubic foot for cubic foot. 

2. The extinguisher is easier to use. 

3. The extinguisher has greater range. 

4. Use of the extinguisher requires little or no 

5. The extinguisher occupies less space: 
5.7 x 10" 2 m 3 (2 ft 3 ) at most, as compared 
to 0.28 m 3 (10 ft 3 ) for sand. 

6. The extinguisher is lighter in weight: 
22.7 kg (50 lb) or less, as compared to 
0.45 tonne (Vi ton) for sand. 

Suitable substitutes for the required sand are a 
9.5-liter (2Vi-gal) foam extinguisher, a 6.8-kg 
(15-lb) carbon dioxide extinguisher, and a 4.5-kg 
(10-lb) dry chemical extinguisher. 

It is difficult to smother combustible-metal fires 
with sand because the extremely hot temperature 
of the fire extracts oxygen from the sand. Any 
water in the sand will increase the intensity of the 
fire or cause such reactions as steam explosions; 
it would be very unusual to find completely dry 
sand aboard ship. Sand may be used to dam up 
running molten metal, but an approved dry pow- 
der should be used to extinguish the fire. 


Sawdust impregnated with soda is sometimes used 
to smother small oil fires. Like sand, it must be 
scooped up and placed at close range. The de- 
ficiencies of sawdust as an extinguishing agent are 
similar to those of sand. The alternative, a class 
B extinguisher, is more effective than sawdust 
for the reasons given in the discussion of sand. 
Although sawdust is considerably lighter than 
sand, the amount required — 0.28 m 3 (10 ft 3 ) — 
weighs more than an extinguisher. 


Steam was one of the earliest extinguishing agents 
used aboard vessels. It was readily available for 
firefighting once the ship's boilers were lighted. 
Steam extinguishes fire by smothering, e.g., by 
forcing air away from the fire and by diluting 
the air around the fire. As long as the steam 
blanket is maintained, it will prevent reignition. 
However, there are several disadvantages in using 
steam, especially in comparison with other ex- 
tinguishing agents. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Obviously steam is applied to the fire in the 
vapor state. Thus, most of its heat-absorbing 
ability is lost before it is applied, and it does 
little cooling. (Water fog, on the other hand, 
cools as it turns to steam.) Additionally, steam 
condenses when the supply is shut off. Its volume 
decreases substantially, and combustible vapors 
and air rush in to displace it. There is, then, a 
very good chance that the fire will reflash if it 
has not been completely extinguished and cooled. 
The temperature of the steam itself is high enough 
to ignite many liquid fuels. Finally, steam is haz- 
ardous to personnel; the heat it carries can inflict 
c^vere burns. 

If a ship is equipped with a steam smothering 
system, the crew must, of course, use that system 
in case of fire. Some older ships may have fixed 
steam smothering systems for the protection of 
cargo; however, since January 1, 1962, such in- 
stallations have not been allowed on new ships. 

The use of the steam soot blowers on the boiler 
to extinguish uptake-type fires is extremely haz- 
ardous and should not be attempted. The high 
velocity and high temperature of the steam reacts 
with the powdered soot (mostly carbon) to form 
an explosive mixture. Several explosions have oc- 
curred as a result of this practice. 


Some extinguishing agents such as carbon dioxide 
and foam are required in ships. Some, like dry 
chemical and the halogenated agents, are ap- 
proved for shipboard use in the Coast Guard 
Equipment Lists (CGI 90). Any extinguishing 
agent that is neither required nor specifically 
listed may be installed or carried if it is approved 

by the Coast Guard commandant. Sprinkler sys- 
tems of any type must be approved by the Coast 
Guard commandant before they are installed. In 
short, the Coast Guard has the final say on fire 
extinguishing systems and appliances. 

A fire extinguishing system consists of a supply 
of the extinguishing agent, an actuation device 
(manual or automatic), and the piping, valves 
and nozzles necessary to apply the agent. A fire 
extinguisher is a self-contained unit, portable or 
semiportable, consisting of a supply of the ex- 
tinguishing agent, an expellant gas (if the appa- 
ratus is not pressurized) and a hose with a nozzle. 

Officers and crewmen should familiarize them- 
selves with the extinguishing agents, systems and 
appliances carried aboard their ships. They should 
be aware of the relative advantages of the vari- 
ous agents and the limitations on their use. For 
instance, they should remember that when a space 
is totally flooded with carbon dioxide, patience 
is not only a virtue but a necessity. They should 
also be aware of the toxic or suffocating proper- 
ties of some agents used in total flooding systems, 
and the need for proper and sufficient ventilation 
before anyone enters a space that has been totally 
flooded with an extinguishing agent. A test of 
the atmosphere in such a space should be made 
with an oxygen indicator (see Chapter 16) to de- 
termine if the space is safe to enter. Officers and 
crewmen should realize that, although a space 
may look and smell clean or clear, it may contain 
sufficient carbon monoxide to render them help- 
less or insufficient oxygen to support life. Breath- 
ing apparatus and lifelines should be used when 
entering a compartment or tank whose contents 
are unknown. (See Chapters 8 and 9 for a dis- 
cussion of the appliances, systems and equipment 
that use extinguishing agents.) 


National Fire Codes. NFPA. Boston, Mass, 1977 

Fire Service Training. Ohio Trade & Industrial Ed. 
Services. Columbus, Ohio, 1977 

Basic Fireman's Training Course. Md. Fire & Res- 
cue Inst., Univ. of Md. College Park, Md, 1969 

Fire Fighting — Principles & Practices. William Clark, 
New York, NY, 1974 

Fire Control. California State Dept. of Ed. Sacra- 
mento, Ca, 1964 

Fire Protection Guide on Hazardous Materials. 
NFPA. Boston, Mass, 1973 

Fire Chiefs Handbook, 4th Ed. Dunn-Donnelly Pub. 
Company. New York, NY, 1977 

Portable & 

fire Extinguishers 

Since some fires start small, a fire discovered early 
and attacked quickly, usually can be extinguished 
easily. Portable fire extinguishers are used for a 
fast attack that will knock down the flames; semi- 
portable extinguishing systems bring larger 
amounts of extinguishing agent to the fire. Both 
can be effective when used properly. 


Portable extinguishers can be carried to the fire 
area for a fast attack. However, they contain a 
limited supply of extinguishing agent. The agent 
is quickly expelled from the extinguisher; in most 
cases, continuous application can be sustained 
for only a minute or less. For this reason, it is 
extremely important to back up the extinguisher 
with a hoseline. Then, if the extinguisher does not 
have the capacity to put the fire out completely, 
the hoseline can be used to finish the job. How- 
ever, a crewman who is using an extinguisher 
cannot advance a hoseline at the same time. Thus, 
the alarm must be sounded as soon as fire is dis- 
covered, to alert the ship's personnel to the situ- 

There is a right way to use a portable fire ex- 
tinguisher, and there are many wrong ways. Crew- 
men who have had little training with these ap- 
pliances waste extinguishing agent through im- 
proper application. At the same time, untrained 
personnel tend to overestimate their extinguish- 
ing ability. Periodic training sessions, including 
practice with the types of extinguishers carried on 
board, are the best insurance against inefficient 
use of this equipment. Extinguishers that are due 
to be discharged and inspected may be used in 
these training sessions. 

Classes of Fire Extinguishers 

Every portable extinguisher is classified in two 
ways, with one or more letters and with a nu- 

meral. The letter or letters indicate the classes of 
fires on which the extinguisher may be used. 
These letters correspond exactly to the four 
classes of fires (see Chapter 5). Thus, for ex- 
ample, class A extinguishers may be used only 
on class A fires — those involving common com- 
bustible materials. Class AB extinguishers may 
be used on fires involving wood or diesel oil or 

The numeral indicates either the relative effi- 
ciency of the extinguisher or its size. This does 
not mean the size of fire on which to use the ex- 
tinguisher; rather, the numeral indicates how well 
the extinguisher will fight a fire of its class. 

The National Fire Protection Association 
(NFPA) rates extinguisher efficiency with Arabic 
numerals. The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 
tests extinguishers on controlled fires to deter- 
mine their NFPA ratings. A rating such as 2A 
or 4A on an extinguisher would be an NFPA 
rating. (A 4A rating will extinguish twice as much 
class A fire as a 2A rating; a 20B rating will ex- 
tinguish four times as much class B fire as a 5B 

The Coast Guard uses Roman numerals to in- 
dicate the sizes of portable extinguishers. The 
numeral I indicates the smallest size, and V the 
largest. Thus, a Bill Coast Guard rating indi- 
cates a medium-sized extinguisher suitable for 
fires involving flammable liquids and gases. The 
Coast Guard ratings of the different types of ex- 
tinguishers are given in Table 8.1. 

Test and Inspection 

The Coast Guard requires owners, masters or 
persons in charge to have portable and semiport- 
able fire extinguishers and fixed fire-extinguish- 
ing systems tested and inspected "at least once in 
every twelve months." More detailed maintenance 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Table 8.1. United States Coast Guard Extinguisher Classification. 




















































instructions are included with some of the dis- 
cussions that follow. 

Upon the completion of required tests, a tag 
should be placed on each extinguisher, showing 
the date and the person who completed the tests. 
Many ship owners have contracts with commer- 
cial fire protection companies to have their fire 
equipment tested and maintained. This does not 
relieve the master or officer-in-charge of fire pro- 
tection from the responsibility of carrying out 
Coast Guard regulations regarding the mainte- 
nance of firefighting equipment. 

General Safety Rules for Portable 

1 . When you discover a fire, call out your dis- 
covery, sound the fire alarm and summon 

2. Never pass the fire to get to an extinguisher. 
A dead-end passageway could trap you. 

3. If you must enter a room or compartment 
to combat the fire, keep an escape path 
open. Never let the fire get between you 
and the door. 

4. If you enter a room or compartment and 
your attack with a portable extinguisher 
fails, get out immediately. Close the door 
to confine the fire and prepare to fight the 
fire while waiting for previously summoned 
help. Your knowledge of the situation will 
aid those responding. 


Extinguishers that use water or a water solution 
as the extinguishing agent are suitable only for 
class A fires. There are five types of water extin- 
guishers, but only two are currently produced. 
In 1969, the manufacture of the inverting types 
of extinguishers (the soda-acid, foam and car- 
tridge-operated) was discontinued. However, 

since a large number of inverting extinguishers 
are still in use, they will be discussed along with 
the two currently produced types: the stored- 
pressure and pump-tank water extinguishers. 

Soda-Acid Extinguisher 

The soda-acid extinguisher (Fig. 8.1) comes only 
in a 9.5 liter (2 1 /2-gal) size that carries an NFPA 
rating of 2A. It weighs about 13.6 kg (30 lb) 
when charged, has a reach of from 10.7 m to 
12.2 m (30-40 ft) and expends itself in about 
55 seconds. The shell of the extinguisher is filled 
with a solution of 0.7 kg (W2 lb) of sodium bi- 
carbonate in 9.5 liters (2 x /2 gal) of water. The 
screw-on cap contains a cage that holds a 0.23-kg 
(8-oz) bottle, half filled with sulfuric acid, in an 
upright position. A loose stopper in the top of 
the acid bottle prevents acid from splashing out 
before the extinguisher is to be used. 

Operation. The extinguisher is carried to the 
fire by means of the top handle. At the fire, the 
extinguisher is inverted, the acid mixes with the 
solium bicarbonate solution forming carbon 
dioxide gas and the pressure of the CO2 propels 
the water out through the nozzle. The stream 
must be directed at the seat of the fire and moved 
back and forth to hit as much of the fire as pos- 
sible. The nozzle should be aimed at the fire 
until the entire content of the extinguisher is dis- 
charged (Fig. 8.2). Remember, water is available 
for less than a minute! 

The extinguishing agent, sodium bicarbonate 
solution mixed with acid, is more corrosive than 
plain water. The operator should avoid getting 
the agent on his skin or in his eyes, as the acid 
could cause burning. Moreover, soda-acid ex- 
tinguishers must be carefully maintained. When 
the extinguisher is inverted, a pressure of 896 
kilopascals (130 psi) or more is generated. If the 
container is corroded or otherwise damaged, this 
pressure could be sufficient to burst the container. 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 


WATER (Soda- Acid) 


of Soda 

Invert to Use 

Figure 8.1. 


Soda-acid fire extinguisher used for class A fires 

Maintenance. Soda-acid extinguishers should be 
stowed at temperatures above 0°C (32°F) to keep 
the water from freezing. They should be re- 
charged annually and immediately after each use. 
During the annual recharging, all parts must be 
carefully inspected and washed in fresh water. 
The hose and nozzle should be checked for de- 
terioration and clogging. The proper chemicals 
must be used for recharging. The sodium bicar- 
bonate solution should be prepared outside the ex- 
tinguisher, preferably with lukewarm fresh water. 
The recharging date and the signature of the per- 
son who supervised the recharging must be placed 
on a tag attached to the extinguisher. 

Several times a year, each extinguisher should 
be inspected for damage and to ensure that the 
extinguisher is full and the nozzle is not clogged. 

Cartridge-Operated Water Extinguisher 

The cartridge-operated water extinguisher (Fig. 
8.3) is similar in size and operation to the soda- 
acid extinguisher. The most common size is 9.5 
liters (2Vz gal), with an NFPA rating of 2 A. It 
has a range of from 10.7-12.2 m (30-40 ft). The 
container is filled with water or an antifreeze 

Aim at Base of Fire 
Work From Side to Side 
Wet Thoroughly 

Figure 8.2. The soda-acid extinguisher is inverted, and the 
nozzle is swept back and forth across the base of the fire. 

WATER (Cartridge Operated) 






Figure 8.3. Cartridge-operated water extinguisher used for 
class A fires only. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

solution. The screw-on cap contains a small cyl- 
inder of CO2; when the cylinder is punctured, the 
gas provides the pressure to propel the extinguish- 
ing agent. 

Operation. The extinguisher is carried to the 
fire, then inverted and bumped against the deck. 
This ruptures the CO2 cylinder and expels the 
water. The stream should be directed at the seat 
of the fire. The nozzle should be moved back and 
forth, to quench as much of the burning material 
as possible in the short time available (Fig. 8.4). 
The discharge time is less than one minute. The 
entire content of the extinguisher must be dis- 
charged, since the flow cannot be shut off. 

As with the soda-acid extinguisher, the con- 
tainer is not subjected to pressure until it is put 
to use. Thus, any weakness in the container may 
not become apparent until the container fails. 

Maintenance. The pressure cartridge should be 
inspected and weighed annually. It should be 
replaced if it is punctured or if its weight is 
14 gm i}A oz) less than the indicated weight. The 
hose and nozzle should be inspected to ensure 
that they are clear. The container should be in- 
spected for damage. Water should be added, if 
necessary, to bring the contents up to the fill 

Pin-Type Cartridge-Operated Extinguisher. A 

newer version of the cartridge-operated water ex- 
tinguisher need not be inverted for use. Instead, 
a pin is pulled out of the cartridge, with the ex- 
tinguisher upright. A lever is squeezed to dis- 
charge the extinguishing agent (water or anti- 
freeze solution). 

The cartridge is fitted with a pressure gauge. 
The gauge should be checked periodically to en- 
sure that the cartridge pressure is within its op- 
erating range. Otherwise, maintenance is similar 
to that for the inverting-type cartridge extin- 

Stored-Pressure Water Extinguisher 

The stored-pressure water extinguisher (Fig. 8.5) 
is the most commonly used portable firefighting 
appliance. The 9.5-liter (2V2-gal) size has an 
NFPA rating of 2 A. It weighs about 13.6 kg 
(30 lb) and has a horizontal range of 10.7-12.2 m 
(35-40 ft). In continuous operation, it will ex- 
pend its water in about 55 seconds. However, it 
may be used intermittently, to extend its opera- 
tional time. 

The container is filled with water or an anti- 
freeze solution, to within about 15 cm (6 in.) 
of the top. (Most extinguishers have a fill mark 


Crasp Bottom 


Bump on Deck 

Figure 8.4. The cartridge-operated extinguisher is inverted 
and bumped on the deck. The stream is moved across the 
base of the fire. 

stamped on the container.) The screw-on cap 
holds a lever-operated discharge valve, a pres- 
sure gauge and an automobile tire-type valve. 
The extinguisher is pressurized through the air 
valve, with either air or an inert gas such as 
nitrogen. The normal charging pressure is about 
690 kilopascals (100 psi). The gauge (Fig. 8.5) 
allows the pressure within the extinguisher to be 
checked at any time. Most gauges are color coded 
to indicate normal and abnormal pressures. 

Portable and Semipurtable Fire Extinguishers 




2Vi Gallons 

Figure 8.5. Stored-pressure water extinguisher used for 
class A fires only. 

Operation. The extinguisher is carried to the 
fire, and the ring pin or other safety device is 
removed. The operator aims the nozzle with one 
hand and squeezes the discharge lever with the 
other hand. The stream should be directed at the 
seat of the fire. It should be moved back and 
forth to ensure complete coverage of the burning 
material. Short bursts can be used to conserve 
the limited supply of water. 

As the flames are knocked down, the operator 
may move closer to the fire. Then, by placing the 
tip of one finger over the nozzle, the operator 
can obtain a spray pattern that will cover a wider 

Maintenance. Inspect gauge for loss of pres- 
sure, check for leaks and check condition of hose 
and overall condition of the tank. 

Pump-Tank Extinguisher 

Pump tanks are the simplest type of water ex- 
tinguishers. They come in sizes from 9.5-19 liters 
(2i/2 to 5 gal), with NFPA ratings of 2 A to 4 A. 
Ships do not carry pump-tank extinguishers and 
are not required to do so. However, in port, shore- 
side personnel often bring them aboard for fire 
protection during burning and welding operations. 
The tank is filled with water or an antifreeze 

solution. A hand-operated piston pump is built 
into the extinguisher and is used to discharge 
water onto the fire. The pump is usually double 
acting, which means it discharges on both the up 
and down strokes. The range of the stream de- 
pends on the strength and ability of the operator, 
but is usually 9.2-12.2 m (30-40 ft). The 9.5 
liter (2 J /2-gal) size holds enough water for about 
55 seconds of continuous operation. 

Operation. The tank is carried to the fire and 
placed on the deck. It is steadied by placing one 
foot on the extension bracket. The operator uses 
one hand to operate the pump, and the other to 
direct the stream at the seat of the fire. If the 
operator must change position, he has to stop 
pumping and carry the pump tank to the new 

If more than one person is at the fire scene, 
and there are no other extinguishers available, a 
joint operation is more effective. One person 
should direct the stream, and one should do the 
pumping. Other available personnel should bring 
additional water to keep the tank full. They 
should also relieve the pumpman periodically. 

Maintenance. The pump-tank hose should be 
inspected periodically to ensure that it is clear. 
The efficiency of the pump should be checked 
by throwing a stream. The tank should be checked 
for corrosion and refilled to the fill mark. 

Foam Extinguisher 

Foam extinguishers (Fig. 8.6) are similar in ap- 
pearance to those discussed previously, but '.hey 
have a greater extinguishing capability. The most 
common size is 9.5 liters (2Vz gal), with an NFPA 
rating of 2A:4B. This indicates that the extin- 
guisher may be used on both class A and class B 
fires. It has a range of about 9.2-12.2 m (30-40 
ft) and a discharge duration of slightly less than 
a minute. 

The extinguisher is charged by filling it with 
two solutions that are kept separated (in the ex- 
tinguisher) until it is to be used. These solutions 
are commonly called the A and B solutions; their 
designations have nothing to do with fire classifi- 

Operation. The foam extinguisher is carried to 
the fire right side up and then inverted. This 
mixes the two solutions, producing a liquid foam 
and CO2 gas. The CO2 acts as the propellant and 
fills the foam bubbles. The liquid foam expands 
to about 8 times its original volume; this means 
the 9.5 liter (2 ! /2-gal) extinguisher will produce 
68-76 liters (18-20 gal) foam. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 



A Solution: 



B Solution 

Water With 



and a 



Figure 8.6. Cutaway of foam extinguisher used for class A 
and class B fires showing 

The foam should be applied gently on burning 
liquids (Fig. 8.7). This can be done by directing 
the stream in front of the fire, to bounce the foam 
onto the fire. The stream also may be directed 
against the back wall of a tank or a structural 
member to allow the foam to run down and flow 
over the fire. Chemical foam is stiff and flows 
slowly. For this reason, the stream must be di- 
rected to the fire from several angles, for complete 
coverage of the burning materials. 

For fires involving ordinary combustible ma- 
terials, the foam may be applied in the same way, 
as a blanket. Or, the force of the stream may be 
used to get the foam into the seat of the fire. 

Foam extinguishers are subject to freezing and 
cannot be stowed in low temperatures below 
4.4°C (40°F). Once activated, these extinguishers 
will expel their entire foam content; it should all 
be directed onto the fire. As with other pressur- 
ized extinguishers, the containers are subject to 

rupture when their contents are mixed, and are 
a possible cause of injury to the operator. Main- 
tenance consists mainly of annual discharging, 
inspection, cleaning and recharging. 


Carbon dioxide extinguishers are used primarily 
on class B and class C fires. The most common 
sizes of portable extinguishers contain from 
2.3-9.1 kg (5-20 lb) of CO2 not including the 
weight of the relatively heavy shell. The CO2 
is mostly in the liquid state, at a pressure of 
5.86 x 10 6 pascals (850 psi) at 21°C (70°F). The 
2.3 kg (5-lb) size is rated 5B:C, and the 6.8 kg 
(15-lb) size has a rating of 10B:C. The range 
varies between 1.8-2.4 m (3-8 ft), and the dura- 
tion between 8-30 seconds depending on the size. 


The extinguisher is carried to the fire in an up- 
right position. (The short range of the CO2 ex- 
tinguisher means the operator must get fairly close 
to the fire.) The extinguisher is placed on the 
deck, and the locking pin is removed. The dis- 
charge is controlled either by opening a valve or 
by squeezing two handles together. Figure 8.8 
shows the two-handle type. 

The operator must grasp the hose handle, and 
not the discharge horn. The CO2 expands and 
cools very quickly as it leaves the extinguisher. 
The horn gets cold enough to frost over and cause 
severe frostbite. When a CO2 extinguisher is used 
in a confined space, the operator should guard 
against suffocation by wearing breathing appa- 

Class B Fires. The horn should be aimed first at 
the base of the fire nearest the operator. The dis- 
charge should be moved slowly back and forth 
across the fire. At the same time, the operator 
should move forward slowly. The result should 
be a "sweeping" of the flames off the burning sur- 
face, with some carbon dioxide "snow" left on 
the surface. 

Whenever possible, a fire on a weather deck 
should be attacked from the windward side. This 
will allow the wind to blow the heat away from 
the operator and to carry the CO2 to the fire. Gen- 
erally, CO2 extinguishers do not perform well in 
a wind. The blanket of CO2 gas does not remain 
on the fire long enough to permit the fuel to cool 

Class C Fires. The discharge should be aimed 
at the source of a fire that involves electrical 
equipment. The equipment should be de-ener- 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 


Grasp Hose and Ring 
. . . LiftOff Hanger 

Carry in Upright 
Position to Fire 

Turn Over to Operate 



J v 


• Stand back . . . Curve Stream Upward 

• Foam Should Fall Lightly on 
Burning Surface 

• Cover the Entire Surface 

Figure 8.7. Steps in operating a foam extinguisher on flammable liquid fires. 

gized as soon as possible to eliminate the chance 
of shock and the source of ignition. 


CO2 extinguishers need not be protected against 
freezing. However, they should be stowed at tem- 
peratures below 54°C (130°F) to keep their in- 
ternal pressure at a safe level. (At about 57°C 
(135°F), the safety valves built into CO2 extin- 
guishers are activated at approximately 18.62 x 
10 6 pascals (2700 psi), to release excess pressure.) 

Several times each year, CO2 extinguishers 
should be examined for damage and to ensure 
that they are not empty. At annual inspection, 
these extinguishers should be weighed. Any ex- 
tinguisher that has lost more than 10% of its 

CO2 weight should be recharged, by the manu- 
facturer. A CO2 extinguisher should also be re- 
charged after each use, even if it was only partly 


Dry chemical extinguishers are available in sev- 
eral sizes, with any of five different extinguishing 
agents. All have at least a BC rating; the mono- 
ammonium phosphate extinguisher carries an 
ABC rating. The different dry chemical agents 
have different extinguishing capabilities. If so- 
dium bicarbonate is arbitrarily given an extin- 
guishing capability of 1, then the relative capa- 
bilities of the other dry chemical agents are as 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Range: Small, 6 Feet; Large, 8 Feet 

Figure 8.8A. Steps in operating the CQ 2 extinguisher used for class B and class C fires. 

Figure 8.8B. Extinguishing galley range fire with COs port- 
able extinguisher. 

Table 8.2. Relative Extinguishing Capabilities of 
Dry Chemical Agents.* 

Monoammonium phosphate (ABC) 
Potassium chloride (BC) 
Potassium bicarbonate (BC) 
Urea potassium bicarbonate (BC) 


*When sodium bicarbonate is classified as 1. 

Thus, for example, potassium bicarbonate is twice 
as effective as sodium bicarbonate. 

Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical 

Portable cartridge-operated, dry chemical extin- 
guishers range in size from 0.91-13. 6 kg (2-3 lb) ; 
semiportable models contain up to 22.7 kg (50 lb) 
of agent. An extinguisher may be filled with any 
of the five agents, and its rating will be based on 
the particular agent used. A small cylinder of 
inert gas is used as the propellant (Fig. 8.9). 
Cartridge-operated, dry chemical extinguishers 
have a range of from 3-9.1 m (10-30 ft). Units 
under 4.5 kg (10 lb) have a discharge duration 
of 8-10 seconds, while the larger extinguishers 
provide up to 30 seconds of discharge time. 

Operation. The extinguisher is carried and used 
upright. The ring pin is removed, and the punc- 
turing lever is depressed. This releases the pro- 
pellant gas, which forces the extinguishing agent 
up to the nozzle. The flow of dry chemical is con- 
trolled with the squeeze-grip On-Off nozzle at 
the end of the hose. The discharge is directed at 
the seat of the fire, starting at the near edge. The 
stream should be moved from side to side with 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 




n r 

/ \ 

Pull Pin . . . Press Lever 

Squeeze Nozzle 

Figure 8.9. Operating the cartridge-operated dry-chemical extinguisher. 

rapid motions, to sweep the fire off the fuel. On 
a weather deck, the fire should be approached 
from the windward side if possible. 

The initial discharge should not be directed 
onto the burning material from close range 
(0.91-2.4 m (3-8 ft)). The velocity of the stream 
may scatter the burning material. 

If the propellant gas cylinder is punctured but 
the extinguisher is not put into use or is only 
partially discharged, the remaining gas may leak 
away in a few hours. Thus, the extinguisher must 
be recharged after each use or activation. How- 
ever, the agent may be applied in short bursts by 
opening and closing the nozzle with the squeeze 

Dry chemical extinguishers extinguish class B 
fires by chain breaking, with little or no cooling. 
Thus, a reflash is possible if the surrounding sur- 
faces are hot. Additional dry chemical or another 
appropriate extinguishing agent must be avail- 
able as backup, until all sources of ignition are 

Dry chemical extinguishing agents may be used 
along with water. Some dry chemical extin- 
guishers are filled with an extinguishing agent 
that is compatible with foam. 

Stored-Pressure Dry Chemical 

Stored-pressure dry chemical extinguishers are 
available in the same sizes as cartridge-operated 
types. They have the same ranges and durations 
of discharge and are used in the same way. The 
only difference is that the propellant gas is mixed 
in with the dry chemical in the stored-pressure 
type. And the extinguisher is controlled with a 
squeeze-grip trigger on the top of the container 
(Fig. 8.10). A pressure gauge indicates the con- 
dition of the charge. 

Class A Extinguishment Using 
ABC Dry Chemical 

Only one dry chemical extinguishing agent, mono- 
ammonium phosphate (ABC, multipurpose) is 




Pull Pin . . . Aim 

Squeeze Trigger 

Figure 8.10. Operating the stored-pressure dry-chemical extinguisher. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

approved for use on class A fires. This agent ex- 
tinguishes fire by chain breaking, as do the other 
dry chemical agents. In addition, it softens and 
clings to the surfaces of burning materials to form 
a coating that deprives the fuel of air. As with 
the other agents, this dry chemical should be di- 
rected at the seat of the fire and swept from side 
to side to knock down the flames. However, once 
the fire has been knocked down, the operator 
should move close to the burning debris. Then all 
fuel surfaces should be thoroughly coated with the 
chemical agent. For this, the operator should use 
short, intermittent bursts. 

Class B Extinguishment Using BC or 
ABC Dry Chemical 

A flammable-liquid fire should be attacked as 
noted above. The agent should first be directed 
at the edge nearest the operator. The nozzle 
should be moved from side to side, with a wrist 
action, to cover the width of the fire. The op- 
erator should maintain the maximum continuous 
discharge rate, remembering that the extinguisher 
has a range of from 1.6-13.1 m (10-30 ft). The 
operator must be very cautious, moving in toward 
the fire very slowly. A liquid fire can flank an 
operator who moves in too rapidly, or reflash 
around an operator who is too close. 

When all the flames are out, the operator should 
back away from the fire very slowly, being alert 
for possible reignition. Many types of flammable 
liquids will reflash under normal atmospheric 
conditions. A hot spot that the operator has 
missed could cause reignition, resulting in a dupli- 
cate of the original fire. For this reason it is 
always a good idea to have reserve units or addi- 
tional extinguishers ready to move in to assist 
in the extinguishment of the fire. 

In using dry chemical to approach a pressure 
gas fire to close off the fuel flow, the heat shield 
afforded by the dry chemical should be main- 
tained constantly in front of the operator's face. 
When extinguishment is desired, the dry chemical 
stream must be directed into the gas stream 
nearly parallel to the gas flow, with approxi- 
mately 10 degrees to the right or left side entry. 
If dry chemical is directed into the stream at too 
great an angle, the dry chemical will not pene- 
trate the full stream and will be unsuccessful. 
Conversely, if the chemical stream does not have 
a slight right or left angle, the dry chemical will 
be deflected by the gas pipe. 

Once the gas is shut off or extinguished, the 
operator should slowly back away. Remember, 
never extinguish a pressure gas fire unless by so 
doing the fuel flow can be controlled. 

Class C Extinguishment Using BC or 
ABC Dry Chemical 

When electrical equipment is involved in a fire, 
the stream of dry chemical should be aimed at 
the source of the flames. In small spaces, the 
smoke and the cloud produced by the dry chem- 
ical will limit visibility (and may cause choking). 
The chance of electrical shock is also increased. 
For this reason, electrical equipment that may 
be involved in a fire should be deenergized at its 
source, if at all possible, before any attempt is 
made to extinguish the fire. 

Dry chemical extinguishing agents leave a coat- 
ing on materials involved in the fire. This coating 
must be cleaned off electrical equipment before it 
can be used. Monoammonium phosphate (ABC) 
dry chemical leaves a sticky coating that is very 
difficult to remove. This coating also penetrates 
and sticks to circuit breakers and switching com- 
ponents, making them virtually useless. For that 
reason, ABC dry chemical is not recommended 
for use on electrical fires. 

Dry chemical agents that contain sodium can 
contaminate or corrode brass and copper elec- 
trical fittings. Electric fires are best extinguished 
with carbon dioxide or Halon, which are "clean" 
extinguishing agents. 

Maintenance of Dry Chemical 

Dry chemicals and their propellants are unaf- 
fected by temperature extremes and may be 
stowed anywhere aboard ship. They do not de- 
teriorate or evaporate, so periodic recharging is 
not necessary. However, the cartridges in cart- 
ridge-operated extinguishers should be inspected 
and weighed every 6 months. Cartridges that are 
punctured or weigh 14.2 gm i}A oz) less than 
the indicated weight should be replaced. At the 
same time, the hose and nozzle should be checked 
to ensure that they are not clogged. 

Stored-pressure extinguishers manufactured 
after June 1, 1965, have pressure gauges that in- 
dicate whether the internal pressure is within the 
operating range. These should be checked vis- 
ually at intervals. (The gauge is located on the 
bottom of some extinguishers.) 


Dry powder {not dry chemical) is the only extin- 
guishing agent that may be used on combustible- 
metal (class D) fires. The one available class D 
extinguisher is a 13.6 kg (30-lb) cartridge-op- 
erated model that looks very much like the car- 
tridge-operated dry chemical extinguisher (Fig. 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 


tosnnn LB 

■f tf 

kWf * 


1 • • -^ 1 
1 * • r'- 
1 V 

I W 


the desired rate of flow, to build a thick layer of 
powder over the entire involved area. The opera- 
tor must be careful not to break the crust that 
forms when the powder hits the fire (Fig. 8.12). 

A large amount of dry powder is sometimes 
needed to extinguish a very small amount of 
burning metal. A brown discoloration indicates 
a hot spot, where the layer of dry powder is too 
thin. Additional agent should be applied to the 
discolored areas. When the fire involves small 
metal chips, the agent should be applied as gently 
as possible, so the force of the discharge does not 
scatter burning chips. 

Class D dry powder also comes in a container, 
for application with a scoop or shovel (Fig. 8.13). 
Here, too, the agent should be applied very gently. 
A thick layer of powder should be built up, and 
the operator should be careful not to break the 
crust that forms. 

Figure 8.11. Dry-powder extinguisher used for class D fires 

Aim at Burning Area 

Squeeze Nozzle . . . Adjust Crip to 

Change Flow Rate 

Build up Thick Layer of Agent Over 

Entire Burning Area 

Do Not Break Crust 

Press Puncture Lever Aim . . . 

Squeeze Nozzle Gently 

Combustible Meta 

Figure 8.12. The dry-powder extinguisher is operated in an upright position. The agent must be applied gently, to maintain 
a crust on the burning metal. 

8.11). One difference is that the class D extin- 
guisher has a range of only 1.8-2.4 m (6-8 ft). 
The extinguishing agent is sodium chloride, which 
forms a crust on the burning metal. 


The nozzle is removed from its retainer, and the 
puncture lever is pressed. This allows the propel- 
lant gas (CO2 or nitrogen) to activate the extin- 
guisher. The operator then aims the nozzle and 
squeezes the grips to apply the powder to the 
surface of the burning metal. 

The operator should begin the application of 
dry powder from the maximum range 1.8-2.4 m Figure 813 Application of dry powder with a shove , or 

(6-8 ft). The squeeze grips may be adjusted for scoop. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Halon 1211 extinguishers are available in several 
sizes; Halon 1301 in only one size. All the Halon 
extinguishers look alike (Fig. 8.14) and are used 
in the same way. 

Bromochlorodifluoromethane (Halon 1211) ex- 
tinguishers contain from 0.91-5.44 kg (2-12 lb) 
of extinguishing agent and carry NFPA ratings 
of 5B:C to 10B:C. Their horizontal range is 
from 2.7-4.6 m (9-15 ft), and they discharge 
their contents in 9-15 seconds. Halon 1211 is 
more effective than CO2, leaves no residue and is 
virtually noncorrosive. However, it can be toxic, 
and its vapors should not be inhaled. 

Bromotrifluoromethane (Halon 1301) is avail- 
able only in a 1.1 -kg (2V2-lb) portable extin- 
guisher, with an NFPA rating of 5B:C. Its hori- 

HALON (1211/1 301) 

To Use: 

• Pull Pin 

• Point Nozzle 

• Squeeze Handle 

zontal range is from 1.2-1.8 m (4-6 ft), and its 
discharge time is 8-10 seconds. 

Both extinguishing agents are pressurized in 
a light weight steel or aluminum alloy shell. The 
cap contains the discharge control valve and dis- 
charge nozzle. 


The extinguisher is carried to the fire, and the 
locking pin is removed. The discharge is con- 
trolled by squeezing the control valve-carrying 
handle. The Halon should be directed at the seat 
of a class B fire, and applied with a slow, side- 
to-side sweeping motion. It should be directed at 
the source of an electrical fire (Fig. 8.15). 

Figure 8.14. 

class C fires. 

Halon extinguisher for use on class B and 

Direct Discharge at Near Edge 
Sweep Agent Back and Forth . . . Advance 
Slowly to Far Edge 

Apply Heavy Layer Over Entire Surface 
Wind Can Blow Agent Away From Fire 
• Flashback is Possible 



• High Voltage 

• Air Depletion 
in Small Spaces 

Figure 8.15. Operation of Halon extinguishers. 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 



A semiportable fire extinguisher (or extinguish- 
ing system) is one from which a hose can be run 
out to the fire. The other components of the sys- 
tem are fixed in place, usually because they are 
too heavy to move easily. 

Semiportable systems provide a way of getting 
a sizable amount of extinguishing agent to a fire 
rapidly. This allows the operator to make a sus- 
tained attack. However, a semiportable system is 
also a semifixed system. One disadvantage is that 
the protected area is limited by the length of hose 
connected into the system. Extinguishing agents 
are applied to the fire in the manner described 
for portable extinguishers. The main differences 
are a slight increase in the effective range (from 
nozzle to fire) and the increased amount of ex- 
tinguishing agent available. 

Semiportable systems are usually set up to pro- 
tect the same areas as fixed systems. Where pos- 
sible, a fire is first attacked with the semiportable 
system. If this attack controls or extinguishes the 
fire, then the large fixed system need not be ac- 
tivated. Semiportable systems may also be used 
as primary extinguishing systems. Since they are 
initial attack systems, it is essential that they be 
backed up with additional firefighting equipment. 


The carbon dioxide hose-reel system is employed 
in engine rooms and in spaces containing elec- 
trical equipment. The system consists of one or 
two C0 2 cylinders, a 1.27-cm (Vi-in.) diameter 
hose that is 15.2-22.9 m (50-75 ft.) in length, a 
reel for the hose and a CO2 discharge horn with 
an On-Off control valve. 


The system is activated manually, by use of a con- 
trol lever mounted on top of the CO2 cylinder. 
If the system uses two cylinders, only one lever 
need be operated; pressure from the first cylinder 
opens the valve of the second, so both will be 

Here is the general procedure to be followed: 

1. Activate the cylinders by removing the 
locking pin and operating the lever of the 
control cylinder (Fig. 8.16). 

2. Run out the CO2 hoseline to the fire area. 

3. Open the horn valve by pushing the handle 

4. Direct the CO2 at the near edge of the fire 
(Fig. 8.17). For a bulkhead fire, direct the 
CO2 at the bottom and work up. As the 

Figure 8.16. The activating lever on one C0 2 cylinder is 
operated after the locking pin is removed. 

flames recede, follow them slowly with 
C0 2 . 

5. Continue the discharge until any smolder- 
ing materials are covered with snow. 

6. To temporarily stop the flow of CO2, close 
the horn valve by pulling the handle back. 

To attack a bilge fire, it may be necessary to 
remove some floor plates to gain access to the 
fire. As few plates as possible should be removed. 
If it is necessary to drop the horn to attack an 
inaccessible fire, the horn valve may be locked 
in the open position. This is done by pushing the 
lock against the notch in the handle, with the 
handle forward (Fig. 8.18). 

In an attack on an electrical fire, the gas should 
be directed into all openings in the involved 
equipment. After the fire is extinguished, the CO2 
discharge should be continued until the burned 
surfaces are covered with "snow." Although car- 
bon dioxide is a poorer conductor than air, the 
equipment should be deenergized as soon as pos- 
sible to prevent the fire from spreading. 


The dry chemical semiportable system consists 
of a storage tank containing the agent, pressur- 
ized cylinders containing nitrogen gas, a rubber 
hose and a nozzle with a control valve. The nitro- 
gen is used as the propellant for the dry chemical. 
Systems employing sodium bicarbonate, potas- 
sium bicarbonate or potassium chloride can be 
located where class B and class C fires may be 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighling and Fire Safety 

Figure 8.17. The CO z is first directed at the near edge of the fire. It is then directed at the receding flames until the fire is 
knocked down. 

some systems may also be activated by a remote- 
cable device (Fig. 8.19). When the system is ac- 
tivated, the nitrogen flows into the dry chemical 
tank. It fluidizes the chemical and propels it into 
the hoseline, up to the nozzle. The hose is run 
out to the fire attack position, and the nozzle is 
opened to commence the attack. The full length 
of the hose should be run out to ensure an even, 
continuous flow of extinguishing agent. 


The semiportable Halon system is very similar 
to the carbon dioxide system and is employed to 
combat class B and class C fires. Most semiport- 
able systems use Halon 1301. The system consists 
of one or two pressurized cylinders containing 
the extinguishing agent, a hoseline and a nozzle 
with an On-Off control valve. 


The system is activated by operating a release 
mechanism at the top of the cylinder, similar to 
the CO2 release device. If two cylinders are used, 
they are both opened when the pilot cylinder is 
activated. When the agent is released, it travels 
through the hose up to the nozzle. The hose is 
then run out to the fire, and the agent is applied 
as required. 


A foam system using an in-line proportioner or a 
mechanical foam nozzle with pickup tube can be 

Figure 8.18. The C0 2 horn valve may be locked in the open 
position as shown. 

expected. Systems employing monoammonium 
phosphate may be approved for any location on 
the ship. However, they should not be used to pro- 
tect electrical gear, because of the sticky residue 
this dry chemical leaves. 


The system is activated by pulling the release 
mechanism in the head of the nitrogen cylinder; 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 157 


Manual Release 


=H} Pull Handle 




Figure 8.19. Dry chemical hose system with a remote-cable activating device. In some installations, the entire system is lo- 
cated in one space. 


Figure 8.20. How foam is produced by the mechanical foam nozzle with pickup. The nozzle itself is a very efficient foam 
producer. However, the nozzleman's movements are restricted by the need to keep the pickup tube in the foam-concentrate 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

carried to various parts of the ship. The foam 
system is used with the ship's firemain system. 
It is an efficient method for producing foam, but 
it requires more manpower than semiportable 
systems employing other extinguishing agents. 

Mechanical Foam Nozzle with 
Pickup Tube 

In use, the mechanical foam nozzle with pickup 
tube is attached to a standard hoseline from the 
firemain system. It draws air in through an as- 
pirating cage in its hoseline end. At the same 
time it introduces mechanical foam concentrate 
into the water stream through a pickup tube (Fig. 
8.20). When the air and foam solution mix, foam 
is discharged from the nozzle. 

One type of nozzle consists of a 533-mm 
(21 -in.) length of flexible-metal or asbestos-com- 
position hose, 51 mm (2 in.) in diameter, with a 
solid metal outlet. A suction chamber and an 
air port in the hoseline end form the aspirating 
cage. The pickup tube is a short piece of 16-mm 
(%-in.) metal pipe with a short piece of rubber 
hose on one end. It is used to draw up the con- 
tents of a 19-liter (5-gal) container of foam con- 
centrate. The pickup tube operates on suction 
created in the suction chamber of the nozzle. 

Operation. The mechanical foam nozzle is 
screwed onto the fire hose, and the pickup tube 
is screwed into the side port in the base of the 
nozzle. The metal pipe at the end of the pickup 
tube is inserted into the foam-concentrate con- 
tainer. When water pressure is applied to the 
hose, foam concentrate is drawn up to the noz- 
zle, where it mixes with the air and water. The 

resulting foam is applied in the usual manner. As 
Figure 8.20 shows, the mobility of the foam noz- 
zle is improved if one firefighter operates the 
nozzle while another follows with the concentrate 

Portable In-Line Proportioner 

The portable in-line foam proportioner, or educ- 
tor, allows the nozzlemen more freedom of move- 
ment than the nozzle with pickup tube. The 
proportioner may be installed anywhere in the 
hoseline, between the firemain and the foam 
nozzle. It, too, feeds mechanical foam to the noz- 
zle, but it may be placed at a convenient distance 
from the heat of the fire (Fig. 8.21). 

The in-line proportioner is a light weight ven- 
turi device. It uses the water-stream pressure to 
draw foam concentrate from a 19-liter (5-gal) 
container, through a pickup tube, and into the 
water stream, in the proper proportion. 

Operation. The male end of the hoseline feed- 
ing water to the proportioner is screwed into the 
female (gauge) end of the proportioner. The pick- 
up tube is screwed into the top center of the pro- 
portioner. The female end of the firefighting hose 
is screwed into the male end of the proportioner. 
The male end of the firefighting hose is advanced 
to the fire, and the mechanical foam nozzle is 
screwed on. The firefighting hose should not be 
longer than 45.7 m (150 ft) from proportioner 
to nozzle. 

The hoselines are now charged from the fire- 
main. When the water pressure on the inlet side 
of the proportioner reaches 448 kilopascals (65 
psi) as shown on the gauge, the suction end of 

Fire Station 

Foam Nozzle 


Figure 8.21. Production of me- 
chanical foam by an in-line 
proportioner, or eductor. The 
proportioner can be placed in 
the hoseline away from the fire, 
so the nozzleman has more 

Portable and Semiportable Fire Extinguishers 159 

the pickup tube is inserted into the foam-concen- 
trate container. Mechanical foam is discharged 
from the nozzle and directed onto the fire. 

Foam Supply 

Whether a mechanical nozzle with pickup tube or 
a proportioner is being used, extra containers of 
foam concentrate should be opened and kept on 
hand. This will allow the pickup tube to be quickly 
transferred from an empty container to a full one, 
so there is no break in the foam discharge. The 
19-liter (5-gal) containers of foam concentrate 
are used up quickly. At 345 kilopascals (50 psi) 
water pressure, one 19-liter (5-gal) container 
lasts approximately 2 ! /2 minutes; at 689 kilo- 
pascals (100 psi) water pressure, a container lasts 
about 1 Vi minutes. 


Instructor's Guide, Fire Service Extinguishers. G. IFSTA Fire Extinguisher, Oklahoma State Univer- 

Post, J. Smith, R. J. Brady visual teaching aid pro- sity, Stillwater, Okla. NFPA 14th Ed. 

gram, unit 3, 1978, Bowie, Md. 




The primary objective of firefighting is quick 
control and extinguishment. This objective can 
be achieved only if the extinguishing agent is 
brought to the fire rapidly and in sufficient quan- 
tity. Fixed fire-extinguishing systems can do ex- 
actly that. Additionally, some of these systems 
are also capable of applying the agent directly to 
the fire — without the assistance of crew members. 
The Coast Guard regulates the installation of 
fixed firefighting systems aboard U.S. vessels. In 
its Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular 
6-72, Guide to Fixed Fire-fighting Equipment 
aboard Merchant Vessels, the Coast Guard states: 

Fire extinguishing systems should be reliable and 
capable of being placed into service in simple, 
logical steps. The more sophisticated the system is, 
the more essential that the equipment be properly 
designed and installed. It is not possible to antici- 
pate all demands which might be placed upon fire 
extinguishing systems in event of emergency. How- 
ever, potential casualties and uses should be con- 
sidered, especially as related to the isolation of 
equipment, controls, and required power from pos- 
sible disruption by a casualty. Fire protection sys- 
tems should, in most cases, serve no function other 
than fire fighting. Improper design or installation 
can lead to a false sense of security, and can be 
as dangerous as no installation. 

Fixed extinguishing equipment is not a substitute 
for required structural fire protection. These two 
aspects have distinct primary functions in U.S. 
practice. Structural fire protection protects pas- 
sengers, crew, and essential equipment from the 
effects of fire long enough to permit escape to a 
safe location. Firefighting equipment, on the other 
hand, is for protection of the vessel. Requirements 
for structural fire protection vary with the class of 
vessel and are the most detailed for passenger 
vessels. However, approved fixed extinguishing 
systems are generally independent of the vessel's 

Coast Guard regulations ensure that shipboard 
firefighting systems are properly designed and 

installed to provide reliable protection for the 
ship and its crew. The material presented in this 
chapter reflects Coast Guard thinking on the sub- 
ject. However, the chapter is not intended to be 
a digest of their regulations, but rather a discus- 
sion of fire protection systems aboard U.S. flag 
vessels. Title 46 CFR contains specific fire pro- 
tection requirements for ships, based on age, ton- 
nage, service and other factors. 


Fire extinguishing systems are designed and in- 
stalled in a ship as a part of its original construc- 
tion. The ship's master, officers and crew mem- 
bers rarely have any influence on the type of 
firefighting systems employed. Marine and fire 
protection engineers generally make these deci- 
sions to conform with Coast Guard Regulations. 
The crew's duties require them to learn how the 
systems operate, perform proper maintenance and 
conduct required tests and inspections. 

Many factors must be analyzed when a fixed 
extinguishing system (or combination of systems) 
is installed on a ship. A study is made of the over- 
all ship design and the potential fire hazards. 
Among the things considered are 

• Fire classes (A, B, C and D) of potential 

• Extinguishing agent to be employed 

• Locations of specific hazards 

• Explosion potential 

• Exposures 

• Effects on the ship's stability 

• Methods of fire detection 

• Protection of the crew. 

Generally the fire class of the hazard deter- 
mines the type of system to be installed. Aboard 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

ship, there are exceptions to this rule. For ex- 
ample, ship's spaces are normally protected 
against class A fires by systems using water as the 
extinguishing agent. The cooling effect of water 
makes it the logical extinguishing agent for fires 
involving ordinary combustible materials. Yet 
water is not used to protect cargo holds, even 
though they contain class A materials. Water 
would not be effective in a hold because the 
closely packed cargo would probably prevent the 
water from reaching the seat of the fire, and the 
use of excessive amounts of water could cause 
the ship to lose stability and develop a list. The 
system used for cargo hold protection is the car- 
bon dioxide flooding system, which controls and 
extinguishes fire by smothering. 

Shipboard extinguishing systems are thus de- 
signed to be consistent with both the potential 
fire hazards and the uses of the protected space. 

• Water is used in fixed systems protecting 
areas containing ordinary combustibles, 
such as public spaces and passageways. 

• Foam or dry chemical is used in fixed sys- 
tems protecting spaces subject to class B 
(flammable liquid) fires. Flammable gas fires 
are not extinguished by fixed systems; con- 
trolled burning is recommended until the 
fuel source can be shut off. 

• Carbon dioxide, Halon or a suitable dry 
chemical is used in fixed systems that pro- 
tect against class C (electrical) fires. 

• No fixed extinguishing system is approved 
for use against class D fires involving com- 
bustible metals. 

The design of shipboard extinguishing systems 
is also consistent with the ship's purpose: a cargo 
vessel, tanker, grain ship, LNG carrier or pas- 
senger vessel. Each system is tailored to the con- 
figuration of the ship and the spaces to be pro- 
tected. Because of the many variables that must 
be considered, the selection, design and installa- 
tion of an automatic fire extinguishing system is 
a highly complex process. It requires expertise in 
a variety of technical disciplines. The unauthor- 
ized alteration or jury-rigging of a fire extinguish- 
ing system could render it incapable of controlling 

United States ships use seven major types of 
fixed fire-extinguishing systems: 

1 . Fire-main systems 

2. Automatic and manual sprinkler systems 

3. Spray systems 

4. Foam systems 

5. Carbon dioxide systems 

6. Halon 1301 

7. Dry chemical systems 

The first four systems use liquid extinguishing 
agents; the next two use gaseous agents; the last 
uses solid agents. Each of these systems is dis- 
cussed in the sections that follow. 


The fire-main system is the ship's first line of de- 
fense against fire. It is required no matter what 
other fire extinguishing systems are installed. 
Every crew member can expect to be assigned to 
a station requiring knowledge of the use and op- 
eration of the ship's fire main. 

The fire-main system supplies water to all areas 
of the vessel. Fortunately, the supply of water at 
sea is limitless. The movement of water to the 
fire location is restricted only by the system itself, 
the effect of the water on the stability of the ship 
and the capacity of the supply pumps. 

The fire-main system is composed of the fire 
pumps, piping (main and branch lines), control 
valves, hose and nozzles. The fire pumps provide 
the power to move water through the piping to 
fire stations located throughout the vessel. The 
valves, hose and nozzles are used to control the 
firefighting water and direct it onto the fire. 

Hydrants and Piping 

The piping directs firefighting water from the 
pumps to hydrants at the fire stations. The piping 
must be large enough in diameter to distribute 
the maximum required discharge from two fire 
pumps operating simultaneously. The water pres- 
sure in the system must be approximately 345 
kilopascals (50 psi) at the two hydrants that are 
highest or furthest (whichever results in the great- 
est pressure drop) for cargo and miscellaneous 
vessels, and 517 kilopascals (75 psi) for tank 
vessels. This requirement ensures that the piping 
is large enough in diameter so that the pressure 
produced at the pump is not lost through friction 
in the piping. 

The piping system consists of a large main pipe 
and smaller branch lines leading off to the hy- 
drants. The main pipe is usually 102-152 mm 
(4-6 in.) in diameter. The branch lines are gen- 
erally 37-64 mm (lVi-2 1 /^ in.) in diameter. Al- 
though the smaller branch lines reduce the flow 
of water, they make it easier to maintain the re- 
quired pressure at the fire stations. Branch lines 
may not be connected into the fire-main system 
for any purpose other than firefighting and deck 

Fixed hire- Extinguishing Systems 



Fire Station 

Main Supply 

Fire Pumps 

@ Cut-Out Valve 

Figure 9.1. Typical single main system. 

All sections of the fire-main system on weather 
decks must be protected against freezing. For this 
purpose, they may be fitted with isolation and 
drain valves, so that water in the piping may be 
drained in cold weather. 

There are two basic main-pipe layouts, the 
single main and the horizontal loop. 

Single Main System. Single main systems make 
use of one main pipe running fore and aft, usu- 
ally at the main deck level. Vertical and hori- 
zontal branch lines extend the piping system 
through the ship (Fig. 9.1). On tankers, the main 
pipe usually runs the length of the vessel, down 
its centerline. On grain vessels of the Great Lakes 


Looped Main Supply Line 

Fire Station 

Fire Pumps 
Sea Chest 

Shore Connection 

@ Cut-Out Valve 

Figure 9.2. Typical horizontal loop fire-main system. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

or similar configuration, the main pipe is located 
along the port or starboard edge of the vessel's 
main deck. A disadvantage of the single main 
system is its inability to provide water beyond a 
point where a serious break has occurred. 

Horizontal Loop System. The horizontal loop 
system consists of two parallel main pipes, con- 
nected together at their furthest points fore and 
aft to form a complete loop (Fig. 9.2). Branch 
lines extend the system to the fire stations. In the 
horizontal loop system, a ruptured section of the 
main pipe may be isolated. The system can then 
be used to deliver water to all other parts of the 
system. Isolation valves are sometimes located 
on the main pipeline, forward of each hydrant 
location; they are used to control the water flow 
when a break occurs in the system. Some single 
loop systems have isolation valves for the fore 
and aft decks only. 

Shore Connections. At least one shore connec- 
tion to the fire-main system is required on each 
side of the vessel. Each shore connection must 
be in an accessible location and must be fitted 
with cutoff and check valves. 

A vessel on an international voyage must have 
at least one portable international shore connec- 
tion (Fig. 9.5) available to either side of the vessel. 
International shore connections may be connected 
to matching fittings that are available at most 
ports and terminals throughout the world. They 
enable the crew to take advantage of the pump- 
ing capability of the shore installation or fire de- 
partment at any port. The required international 
shore connections are permanently mounted on 
some vessels. 

wnwrsssrSKF"" 1 *""*™ 


V. > I ■ 

e-nw vi 

Figure 9.3. Portable international shore connection for 

ship's fire-main system. 

Fire Pumps 

Fire pumps are the only means for moving watei 
through tne fire-main system when the vessel is at 
sea. The number of pumps required and their 
capacity, location and power sources are gov- 
erned by Coast Guard regulations. In brief, the 
minimum requirements are as follows. 

Number and Location. Two independently 
powered fire pumps are required on a tank ship 
76 m (250 ft) or more in overall length or 1016 
metric tons (1000 gross tons) and over on an 
international voyage. A cargo or miscellaneous 
vessel of 1016 metric tons (1000 gross tons) and 
over also requires at least two independently pow- 
ered fire pumps, regardless of its length. All pas- 
senger vessels up to 4064 metric tons (4000 gross 
tons) on international voyages must have at least 
two fire pumps, and those over 4064 metric tons 
(4000 gross tons) must have three pumps, regard- 
less of their lengths. 

On vessels that are required to carry two fire 
pumps, the pumps must be located in separate 
spaces. The fire pumps, sea suction and power 
supply must be arranged so that fire in one space 
will not remove all the pumps from operation and 
leave the vessel unprotected. Any alternative to 
the two separate pump locations requires the ap- 
proval of the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, 
and the installation of a C0 2 flooding system to 
protect at least one fire pump and its power 
source. This arrangement is permitted only in the 
most unusual circumstances. Generally, it is used 
only on special ships, where safety would not be 
improved by separating the pumps. 

The crew is not usually responsible for ensur- 
ing that their ship carries the correct number of 
pumps, located and powered as required. Ships 
are designed, built and, when necessary, refitted 
to comply with Coast Guard regulations. How- 
ever, the crew is directly responsible for keeping 
the pumps in good condition. In particular, engi- 
neering personnel are usually charged with the 
responsibility for maintaining and testing the 
ship's fire pumps, to ensure their reliability during 
an emergency. 

Water Flow. Each fire pump must be capable 
of delivering at least two powerful streams of 
water from the hydrant outlets having the great- 
est pressure drop, at a pitot-tube pressure of 517 
kilopascals (75 psi) for tanker vessels and 345 
kilopascals (50 psi) for passenger and cargo ves- 
sels. These requirements match those for the fire- 
main piping. They must be met when the system 
is tested. 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Safety. Every fire pump must be equipped with a 
relief valve on its discharge side. The relief valve 
should be set at 862 kilopascals (125 psi), or at 
172 kilopascals (25 psi) above the pressure neces- 
sary to provide the required fire streams, which- 
ever is greater. A pressure gauge must also be 
located on the discharge side of the pump. 

Other firefighting systems (e.g., a sprinkler 
system) may be connected to the fire-main pumps. 
However, the capacity of the fire pumps must 
then be increased sufficiently so they can supply 
both the fire-main system and the other system 
with the proper water pressure at the same time. 
A pump that is connected to an oil line should 
not be used as a fire pump. The pump could pos- 
sibly pump a flammable liquid, rather than water, 
through the fire main. In addition, the pump 
could contaminate the system with oil, which 
would clog applicator and nozzle openings. Oil 
in the water would also rot the linings in hoses. 

Use of Fire Pumps for Other Purposes. Fire 
pumps may be used for purposes other than sup- 
plying water to the fire main. However, one of 
the required pumps must be kept available for 
use on the fire main at all times. This does not 
mean that one pump must be reserved exclusively 
for the fire main. The reliability of fire pumps is 
probably improved if they are used occasionally 
for other services and are then properly main- 
tained. When control valves for other services 
are located at a manifold adjacent to the pump, 
any other service may be readily secured if the 
valve to the fire main must be opened. 

The fire-main piping is a tempting source of 
"free" water, already installed in most spaces. 
However, improper or careless use quickly re- 
duces the reliability of the system. If the fire-main 
pumps are used for purposes other than firefight- 
ing, deck washing and tank cleaning (on tankers), 
connections should be made only to a discharge 
manifold near the pump. The fire-main piping 
may be used only when specific exceptions are 
granted. The fire main may be used for deck 
washing and tank cleaning simply because, in 
those cases, someone knows that the system is in 
use, and crewmen are usually in attendance. 

Connections to the fire main for low-water- 
demand services in the forward portion of the 
vessel (such as anchor washing, forepeak eductor 
or chain-locker eductor) have frequently been 
allowed. In such cases, each fire pump must be 
capable of meeting its water flow requirements 
with the other service connection open. This 
ensures that the effectiveness of the fire-main 
system is maintained if the other service connec- 
tion is accidentally opened. 

Fire Stations 

The purpose of the fire-main system is to deliver 
water to the fire stations that are located through- 
out the ship. A fire station consists basically of a 
fire hydrant (water outlet) with valve and asso- 
ciated hose and nozzles. It is important that all 
required firefighting equipment be kept in its 
proper place. 

Fire stations and hoses must be highly visible 
and easily put into service. However, this visi- 
bility makes them vulnerable to misuse and dam- 
age. One type of misuse is washing down decks 
and bulkheads. The valve or piping can be dam- 
aged if it is used as a cleat for typing a line. 
Hydrant valve stems can also be damaged during 
the handling of cargo or the moving of heavy ma- 
terials through passageways. Hydrants located on 
weather decks may become corroded or en- 
crusted with salt, causing their valves to freeze in 
position and become inoperable. When a section 
of hose or a nozzle is borrowed for use at another 
station, at least one fire station is made useless 
as a firefighting unit. Couplings and hoses that 
are abused (as by being dropped or dragged on 
the deck) may fail in use or, at least, become diffi- 
cult to connect. 

Crew members should make every effort to 
protect all parts of the fire-main system and avoid 
unauthorized use of the system. Weekly visual 
inspection of fire stations should be a standard 
procedure to ensure that all required equipment 
is in its proper place. 

Different hydrants should be opened during 
succeeding weekly fire drills to ensure that water 
is allowed to flow from each hydrant at least once 
every 2 months. This will reduce crusting and 
rust. Whenever the opportunity arises, the fire- 
main system should be flushed out with fresh 
water to destroy any marine growth in the lines. 

Fire Station Locations. Fire stations are located 
to ensure that the water streams from at least two 
hydrants will overlap. U.S. Coast Guard regula- 
tions specify hydrant locations as follows: 

• Fire hydrants shall be sufficient in number 
and so located that any part of the vessel, 
other than main machinery spaces, is acces- 
sible to persons on board while the vessel 
is being navigated, and all cargo holds may 
be reached with at least two streams of 
water from separate outlets. At least one of 
these streams shall be from a single length 
of hose. 

• In main machinery spaces, all portions of 
such spaces shall be capable of being reached 
by at least two streams of water, each of 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

which shall be from a single length of hose 
and from separate outlets. 

• Fire stations should be numbered sequen- 
tially as required by regulations on all ves- 
sels to be certified by the Coast Guard. 

If deck cargo is carried, it must be stowed so 
that it does not block access to the fire station 

Hydrants. The fire station hydrant (Fig. 9.4) 
has three major components: 1 ) a control valve; 

2) the hose connection, either 38.1 or 63.5 mm 
(Wi or 2 l /i in.) with appropriate threads; and 

3) a hose rack. 
Regulations require that: 

• Each fire hydrant outlet must have a valve 
that allows the hose to be removed while 
there is pressure in the fire-main system. 

• The fire hydrant outlet may be in any posi- 
tion, from horizontal to pointing vertically 
downward. It should be positioned to mini- 
mize the kinking of the fire hose. 

• The threads on the fire hydrant outlet must 
be National Standard fire-hose coupling 
threads. These standard threads allow all 
approved hose to be attached to the hydrant. 

• On interior hydrants in certain passenger 
vessels, a 63.5-mm (2Vi-in.) outlet may be 
wyed for two 38.1 -mm (lV^-in.) hoses with 
a wye gate connection. 

• A rack must be provided for the proper 
stowage of the fire hose. The hose must be 
stowed in the open or where it is readily 

Control Valve 
Hose Connection 
Hose Rack 

Figure 9.4. The three required components of a fire station 

All water enters the fire-main system through 
the sea chest, which is frequently covered with 
marine growth. It would thus be a good practice 
to fit all hydrant outlets with self-cleaning 
strainers. These strainers remove matter that 
might clog the nozzle, particularly the fine holes 
in combination nozzles and low-velocity appli- 
cators (see Fig. 9.5). Combination nozzles in- 
stalled since 1962 must allow the free flow of 
foreign matter through nozzle orifices up to 
9.53 mm (% in.) in size. On vessels that are not 
required to carry such combination nozzles, self- 
cleaning strainers should be installed on the hy- 
drant, or combination nozzles with internal 
strainers must be used. 

Fire Hose, Nozzles and Appliances. The effi- 
ciency of a fire station depends largely on the 
equipment stowed at the station and its condi- 
tion. A single station should have the following 

Hoses. A single length of hose of the required 
size, type and length: 63.5-mm (2Vi-m.) diam- 
eter hose is used at weather-deck locations; 
38.1 -mm (\V2-\n.) diameter hose is used in en- 
closed areas. The hose must bear the Under- 
writers Laboratory (UL) label or comply with 
federal specification JJ-1 1-571 or ZZ-ll-451a. 
Unlined hose may not be used in machinery 
spaces. The hose couplings must be of brass, 
bronze or a similar metal and be threaded with 
National Standard fire-hose coupling threads. 

The hose must be 15 m (50 ft) in length, ex- 
cept on the weather decks of tankers. There, the 
hose must be long enough to permit a single 
length to be goosenecked over the side of the 
tank ship. Goosenecking is directing a stream of 
water over the vessel's side, perpendicular to the 
water surface. 

The fire hose must be connected to the hydrant 
at all times, with the appropriate nozzle attached. 
However, when a hose is exposed to heavy 
weather on an open deck, it may be temporarily 
removed from the hydrant and stowed in a nearby 
accessible location. Fire hose may also be tempo- 
rarily moved when it might be damaged by the 
handling of cargo. (When fire hose is removed, 
the exposed threads of the hydrant should be 
covered with a thin coating of grease and a pro- 
tective screwcap. If a screwcap is not available, a 
heavy canvas, lashed over the threads, gives some 

Fire hose may not be used for any purpose 
other than firefighting, testing and fire drills. 

Nozzles. A nozzle, preferably of the combina- 
tion type, so that water flow may be controlled 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


15.24m (50') Hose 



When Bell Rings 
Report to Your 
Fire Station 

Figure 9.5. Shipboard fire station equipment 

must be connected to the hose at all times. The 
following regulations apply to vessels contracted 
or built after May 26, 1965: Tank vessels must 
be equipped with combination nozzles through- 
out. Cargo and miscellaneous vessels must be 
equipped with combination nozzles in machinery 
spaces and may use smooth-bore solid-stream 
nozzles in other spaces. 

The combination nozzle must be fitted with a 
control that permits the stream to be shut off and 
to be adjusted for solid stream or high-velocity 
fog. On a 63.5-mm (2Vi-in.) combination nozzle, 
the solid-stream orifice must be at least 22.2 mm 
(% in.) in diameter; on a 38.1 -mm (lVi-in.) 
nozzle, the opening must be at least 15.8 mm 
(% in.) in diameter. 

At this writing, the Coast Guard is consider- 
ing a regulation that would eliminate the use of 
smooth-bore solid-stream nozzles on U.S. flag 
vessels. If the regulation is put into effect, the 
Coast Guard may allow the continued use of 
smooth-bore nozzles on ships that currently carry 
them; however, approved nozzles would have to 
be substituted when the smooth-bore nozzles are 
replaced in normal service. 

Fog applicator. A low-velocity fog applicator 
for use with the required combination nozzle 
must be provided at each station. On exterior 

decks, applicators should be 3.0-3.6 m (10-12 
ft) in length. In machinery spaces, applicators are 
limited to 1.8 m (6 ft) in length. Where combi- 
nation nozzles are not required but are installed, 
the low-velocity applicator need not be furnished. 
On container ships, a bayonet-type applicator 
should be provided. This applicator is similar to 
the fog applicator, but it has a sharp tip that can 
cut and penetrate the metal skin of a container. 

Other Useful Tools. A spanner wrench whose 
size matches the hose coupling, or an adjustable 
spanner wrench. Depending on the location of the 
fire station, a pickhead axe may also be required. 
A fully equipped fire station is shown in 
Figure 9.5. 

Fire Hose 

A fire hose is a flexible tube that is used to trans- 
port water from the hydrant to the fire. Most of 
the hose in use is lined to stand up under high 
water pressure and minimize frictional loss. The 
lining is usually constructed of a rubber or syn- 
thetic material. Its inner surface is very smooth, 
so water will flow through it with a minimum of 
friction. The outer covering of the hose is a jacket 
of heavy cloth or synthetic material. The hose 
has a male coupling at one end and a female 
coupling at the other; these couplings are some- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Female Coupling 
Gasket 1 /Swivel 


Outer Covering (Jacket) ^ Male Coupling 

Figure 9.6. Lined fire hose and hose couplings. 

times called butts. The female coupling is at- 
tached to the hydrant, and the male coupling to 
the nozzle. (Fig. 9.6). 

The fire hose is the most vulnerable part of the 
fire-main system. It is easily damaged through 
misuse. Failure to remove dirt, grease, abrasives 
and other foreign substances from the outer sur- 
face of a hose can cause it to fail under pressure. 
Fire hose may be cleaned by washing with fresh 
water and mild detergent, using a soft brush. 
Abrasive cleaners should not be used as they cut 
into the outer covering of the hose and weaken it. 

Hose that is dragged across metal decks can 
be permanently damaged. The jacket may be cut, 
or the coupling threads may be bent or broken. 
Failure to drain hose thoroughly, prior to rack- 
ing, allows trapped moisture to cause mildew and 
rot; possibly resulting in failure under pressure. 
In addition, cold, heat and seawater tend to 
weaken the hose. 

Fire hose should be inspected visually each 
week. Every hose on board should be tested 
monthly, through actual use under the pressure 
required to produce a substantial water stream. 
This can de done by alternating weekly fire drills 
from station to station, or through a rotating 
testing schedule. 

Fire hose should be taken from the rack peri- 
odically and visually inspected for dry rot and 
other damage. If the hose is sound, it should be 
replaced on the rack with the bight folds at dif- 
ferent locations. This prevents cracking of the 
hose liner and the friction loss that is caused by 
deep bends. 

Racking and Stowage Procedures. Most ship- 
board racks for the stowage of hose at fire sta- 
tions require that the hose be faked. The pro- 
cedure should include the following steps: 

1. Check the hose to make sure it is com- 
pletely drained. Wet hose should not be 

2. Check the female coupling for its gasket. 

3. Hook the female coupling to the male out- 
let of the hydrant. (The hose should al- 
ways be connected to the hydrant.) 

4. Fake the hose so that the nozzle end can 
be run out to the fire (see Fig. 9.5). 

5. Attach the nozzle to the male end of the 
hose, making sure a gasket is in place. 

6. Place the nozzle in its holder or lay it on 
the hose, so that it will not come adrift. 

There are several different types of hose racks. 
One type consists of a half round plate, over 
which the hose is faked. A horizontal bar swings 
into position, holding the hose snug. Reels are 
used in engine rooms. They are also used for 
rubber hose, such as that found on a semiportable 
CO2 extinguisher. 

Rolling Hose. After spare hose is used, it should 
be rolled and replaced in stowage. The hose must 
first be drained and dried. Then it should be 
placed flat on the deck with the female coupling 
against the deck. The hose is next folded back on 
itself, so the male coupling is brought up to about 
1.2 m (4 ft) from the female couplings. The ex- 
posed thread of the male coupling should be lay- 
ered between the hose when the roll is completed. 
The roll should be tied with small stuff to keep 
it from losing its shape. 

Nozzles and Applicators 

Two types of nozzles are used on merchant ma- 
rine vessels, combination nozzles and smooth-bore 
nozzles. Both have been mentioned earlier in 
this chapter. (See Chapter 10 for a description of 
their operation.) 

Nozzles are quite rugged but are still subject 
to damage. For example, the control handle can 
become stuck in the closed position, owing to the 
corrosive action of seawater. Combination noz- 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


zles and applicators are often clogged by minute 
pieces of dirt that enter and collect around open- 
ings. Periodic testing and maintenance will help 
detect and correct deficiencies. 

The combination nozzle has a spring latch that 
allows the high-velocity tip to be released (Fig. 
9.7). The latch often freezes into position from 
misuse. During inspections and drills, the tip 
should be released and the applicator inserted 
into position for proper operation. The high- 
velocity tip should be attached to the nozzle by 
a substantial chain, so that it cannot be com- 
pletely separated from the nozzle. 

Applicators {see Fig. 9.5) are strong, but not 
strong enough to be used as crowbars, levers or 
supports for lashing. If misused, the applicator 
can be crimped or bent along its length. The bay- 
onet end can be damaged so that it cannot fit 
in the nozzle receptacle. Applicators should be 
stowed in the proper clips at the fire station, and 
used for firefighting and training only. When 
stowed, applicator heads should be enclosed in 
sock-type covers to keep foreign matter out. {See 
Chapter 10 for a description of the proper use 
of applicators.) 

Spanner Wrenches 

A spanner wrench is a special tool designed spe- 
cifically for tightening or breaking apart fire-hose 
connections. The spanner should match the hose 
size and butt configuration. Hose-butt lug de- 
signs change over the years, making some span- 
ner wrenches obsolete. When new hose is ordered, 
the available spanner wrenches must be corn- 

Control Handle 

Straight Stream 

Spring Latch 

Fog Tip 

Tip is Removable to Allow 
for Insertion of 
Low-Velocity Fog Applicators 

patible with the new hose couplings, or new span- 
ner wrenches must also be ordered. 

Most hose connections can be made handtight 
and do not require excessive force. 

Wye Gates and Tri-Gates 

It is sometimes advantageous to have two smaller 
38.1 -mm (IVi-in.) hoselines available, rather 
than one large 63.5-mm (ZVi-in.) line. Devices 
called wye gates and tri-gates are used to reduce 
the hoseline size and separate the lines. 

A wye gate is a connector in the shape of a 
"Y" (Fig. 9.8). It has one female 63.5-mm (2V&- 
in.) inlet butt and two 38.1-mm (P/i-in.) male 
outlet butts. The large inlet butt is attached to 
a 63.5-mm (2V / 2-in.) fire hydrant outlet so that 
water flows out through the two smaller outlets. 
A hose may be attached to each outlet. 

The device is gated, which means it has valves 
that can be used to shut off the flow of water. The 
two valves, or gates, are independent of each 
other, so that one can be closed while the other 

Figure 9.7. The outlet end of a combination nozzle. 

Figure 9.8. Wye gate attached to a hydrant outlet. Left, 
closed valve; right, open valve. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

is open. The gates are opened or closed with a 
quarter turn. When a gate handle is parallel with 
the waterway, it is in the open position (Fig. 9.8). 

If two hoses are connected to a wye gate, both 
gates should be closed when the hoses are not in 
use. If one hose is connected, its gate should be 
closed. The other gate should be open, allowing 
leakage from the hydrant to drip out the opening. 

The U.S. Coast Guard permits the use of wye 
gates at fire hydrants under certain conditions. 
The tri-gate is similar to the wye gate, but it pro- 
vides three 38.1 -mm (IVi-in.) outlets. While 
these devices may allow additional lines to be 
directed onto a fire, they result in a large pres- 
sure drop at the nozzle. Even the reduction of a 
63.5-mm (21^ -in.) line to two smaller lines could 
drop the water pressure to the point where both 
streams are ineffective for firefighting. It is better 
to have one good firefighting stream that can pene- 
trate into the fire than two poor streams. 


United States ships are constructed in accord- 
ance with Method I of the Safety of Life at Sea 
(SOLAS) convention. Method I calls for fire pro- 
tection through the use of noncombustible con- 
struction materials, rather than reliance on auto- 
matic sprinkler systems. For this reason, sprinkler 
systems are not widely used on U.S. merchant 
vessels. They are generally used only to protect 
living quarters, adjacent passageways, public 
spaces, and vehicular decks on roll-on/ roll-off 
(ro-ro) vessels and ferryboats. 

Sprinkler systems may extinguish fire in these 
spaces. However, their primary function is to 
protect the vessel's structure, limit the spread of 
fire and control the amount of heat produced. 
They also protect people in these areas and main- 
tain escape routes. 

Components of Sprinkler Systems 

All sprinkler systems consist of piping, valves, 
sprinkler heads, a pump and a water supply. 

Piping. The piping must comply with stand- 
ards developed for such systems. The piping size 
and layout are chosen to deliver the proper 
amount of water to the sprinkler heads. The main 
supply line from the pump carries the water to 
branch lines. The diameters of the branch lines 
decrease as they extend further from the source 
of the water. The branch lines supply the water 
to the sprinkler heads. 

Valves. Valves are located at the pump mani- 
fold and outside the protected spaces. They should 

be readily accessible in case of fire. Control valves 
should be clearly marked as to their function, 
e.g., "Control Valve for Automatic Sprinkler 
System." They should also be marked as to their 
normal position: "Keep Open at All Times" or 
"Close Only to Reset the System." If the sprinkler 
system is divided into separate zones, the control 
valves should be clearly identified with their zone 

Sprinkler Heads. The heads are actually valves 
of special design. They release water from the 
system and form the water into a cone-shaped 
spray. A sprinkler head is made up of a threaded 
frame (for installation in a branch pipe), a water- 
way and a deflector for forming the water spray 
pattern. Sprinkler heads for automatic systems 
may be equipped with a fusible link. The link 
keeps the head closed normally. Heads for man- 
ual systems are open normally; they do not in- 
clude a fusible link. 

Coast Guard regulations require that each pro- 
tected space have sufficient heads located so that 
no part of an overhead or vertical projection of 
a deck is more than 2.1 m (7 ft) from a sprinkler 

Fusible Links. A fusible link is a pair of levers, 
held within the sprinkler head frame by two links. 
The links are connected by eutectic alloy or a 
similar low melting-point metal (Fig. 9.9). The 
levers hold a valve cap in place over the sprinkler 
head outlet, preventing the flow of water. Since 
the sprinkler head is closed, the piping may be 
charged with water up to the head. {See Chapter 
6 for a discussion of other types of heat detectors.) 
When heat from a fire increases the temperature 
of the eutectic alloy enough to melt it, the links 
come apart. This releases the levers, opening the 
sprinkler head waterway (Fig. 9.9). 

Temperature Ratings of Fusible Links. Sprin- 
kler heads on some ships may be color coded to 
indicate the temperature at which the fusible 
metal (solder) will melt and activate the head. 
Table 9.1 gives the standard operating tempera- 
tures of sprinkler heads and the corresponding 
color codes. The color is painted on the frame 
arms of the sprinkler head. No other part of a 
sprinkler head should be painted — especially not 
the fusible element. The paint would insulate the 
fusible metal from the heat of the fire and keep it 
from melting at its operating temperature. 

The sprinkler heads normally used on ships are 
-these that operate 57.2°C-73.8°C/or 100°C 
(135°F-165°F/or 212°F) (uncolored or white). 
Heads with lower operating temperatures are 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Table 9.1. Operating Temperatures and Color Coding 
of Fusible Metal links for Sprinkler Heads.* 

Figure 9.9. A. Heat from fire melts solder, allowing links 
to separate. 8. The levers come apart and C. water pressure 
pushes the valve cap off the sprinkler outlet. D. Water 
flows up against the deflector, forming a spray that falls 
onto the fire. 

used in spaces where normal temperatures can be 
expected, such as living spaces. Higher tempera- 
ture heads are used where temperatures above 
normal are expected, such as galley areas. A 
sprinkler head must always be replaced with a 
head that has the same temperature rating. A 
higher temperature head will not protect the 
space properly; a lower temperature head could 
be operated by a heat source other than a hostile 

Spray Patterns. The spray deflector on a 
sprinkler head is designed to direct the water in 
a specific direction. The upright deflector in Fig- 
ure 9.9 directs water down toward the deck. The 
pendant deflector also directs water downward, 
but it is placed differently in the piping. The side- 
wall deflector directs water away from bulkheads, 
toward the center of the protected space. The 
position in which a sprinkler head should be in- 
stalled is stamped on the frame or deflector. Pen- 
dant heads should not be installed as replacements 

Operating temperature 


Color code 

57.2 (135); 65.5 (150); 71.1 (160); 


73.8 (165) 

79.4 (175); 100 (212) 


121 (250); 138 (280); 141 (286) 


163 (325); 171 (340); 177 (350); 


182 (360) 

232 (450); 260 (500) 


"Color coding may be found on some vessels. 

for upright heads, and vice versa. Improper instal- 
lation can destroy the firefighting capability of a 
sprinkler head. 

Automatic Sprinkler Systems 

Automatic sprinkler systems are not used exten- 
sively on U.S. merchant ships. The automatic 
sprinkler makes use of closed sprinkler heads 
(Fig. 9.9), so the piping can be charged with 
water. The fusible links serve as the fire detectors 
and the activating devices. A pressure tank serves 
as the initial water source. The pressure tank is 
partially filled with fresh water (usually to two 
thirds of its capacity). The remainder of the tank 
is filled with air under pressure. The air pressure 
propels the water to and through the sprinkler 
heads when they open. The pressure tank must 
hold enough water to fill the piping of the largest 
zone, and in addition, force out at least 757 liters 
(200 gal) at the least effective head in the zone 
at a pitot tube pressure of at least 103.42 x 10 3 
pascals (15 psi). Fresh water is used in the system 
to avoid the breakdown of metal by electrolysis. 

How the System Works. Heat from the fire 
melts the fusible links of one or more sprinkler 
heads. The heads open, allowing water to flow. 
The initial supply of water comes from the piping, 
and then from the pressure tank. As water flows 
out of the tank, its pressure is reduced. This pres- 
sure drop causes a pressure-sensitive switch to 
electrically activate the sprinkler water pump and 
the alarm bells. The sprinkler pump takes over as 
the water source, supplying water from a fresh 
water holding tank (Fig. 9.10). Check valves in 
the piping ensure that the water flows from the 
pump to the sprinkler heads, rather than into the 
pressure tank. When the holding tank water sup- 
ply is depleted, the pump suction must be man- 
ually shifted to seawater. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

® Check Valve 
i Control Valve 
T5- Sprinkler Head 

Sprinkler Heads 

Branch Line 

Sea Chest 

Fresh-Water Holding Tank 

Pressure Switch (Activates 
_ Sprinkler Pump and 
Alarm Circuits) 

Figure 9.10. Shipboard automatic sprinkler system. The sprinkler pump is started automatically by a switch in the pressure 

Crewmen should not depend on an automatic 
sprinkler system as the sole method of extinguish- 
ment. As in all fire attack operations, the initial 
attack (by the sprinkler system) should be backed 
up with charged hoselines. 

An activated sprinkler system should not be 
shut down until the fire is at least knocked down 
and hoselines are in position to extinguish any 
remaining fire. It is important to prevent unneces- 
sary water accumulation, but the primary objec- 
tive is to get the fire out. If an automatic sprinkler 
system is shut off too soon, heat from the con- 
tinuing fire can cause many more sprinkler heads 
to open. The additional open heads can put an 
excessive load on the system, beyond the capa- 
bility of the sprinkler pump. The result would 
be reduced pressure in the system and insufficient 
water flow from the sprinkler heads. The heads 

then would not be able to form the spray pattern 
necessary to achieve extinguishment. 

After the fire is extinguished, the sprinkler 
system should be restored to service. The sprin- 
kler heads that were opened should be replaced 
with heads of the same temperature rating and 
deflector type. A supply of heads of the proper 
types should be kept on board for this purpose. 
The pressure tank should be refilled and pressur- 
ized, and the valves reset. 

Manual Sprinkler Systems 

The manual sprinkler system differs from auto- 
matic systems in two respects: 1) the sprinkler 
heads are normally open and 2) the piping does 
not normally contain water. Water is supplied to 
the manual system by the ship's fire pumps; no 
pressure tank is required. 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


The system is composed of the piping, open 
sprinkler heads, control valves, fire pumps and 
water supply. It may be used along with a fire 
detection system. However, the fire detectors do 
not activate the system automatically; they sound 
alarms so that the system can be put into action 

How the System Works. When fire is discovered 
or the alarm is sounded, the fire pumps are started. 
A control valve is manually opened to allow water 
to flow into the system. The control valve is lo- 
cated either at the fire-pump manifold or near 
(but not in) the protected area. Water is dis- 
charged out of all the sprinkler heads, so the 
entire area is covered with water spray. The area 
is thus saturated with a large volume of water, 
capable of knocking down a sizable fire. 

With manual systems, there is a delay in get- 
ting water onto the fire, and then an excessive 
amount of water is applied, well beyond that 
needed for extinguishment. Manual systems are, 
however, effective protection for vehicular decks 
on ro-ro vessels and ferryboats. The large amount 
of water is effective in knocking down the fire and 
protecting the vessel and exposed vehicles. It will 
also dilute and carry off flammable liquids, if they 
are involved. Manual sprinkler systems are also 
used in cargo spaces that are accessible to the 
crew when the vessel is under way. 

Free surface water is a constant threat to a 
ship's stability. A sprinkler system with open 
heads can easily flow 1.89 m 3 /min (500 gal/min). 
Where large systems are used, as on ro-ro vessels, 
provisions are made to drain the water off 
through scuppers or internal drains. Scuppers 
drain the water overboard; internal drains direct 
the water to bilges in the ship's bottom. However, 
bilges can overflow during firefighting operations, 
spilling the water into the cargo holds. Therefore, 
the vessel's bilges should be pumped out while 
water is draining into them; otherwise, the free 
surface water would simply be moved from the 
fire area to the bilge, possibly resulting in a seri- 
ous list. 

Reliability of Sprinkler Systems 

Land-based sprinkler systems are very reliable. 
In most instances, fires are controlled or extin- 
guished as soon as one or two heads are opened. 
The water supply to these systems is clean and 
free of debris. However, shipboard systems are 
not as reliable, because they are supplied with 
water through sea chests. In most instances, this 
water contains solid matter of sufficient size to 
clog the system, especially at the sprinkler head 

To help ensure some measure of reliability, 
sprinkler systems must be tested periodically. The 
testing procedure must conform with Coast Guard 

Zoning of Sprinkler Systems 

When a large portion of a passenger ship is to be 
protected by sprinklers, several small subsystems, 
rather than one large system, are used. The sub- 
systems are placed within spaces separated by 
fire-retarding bulkheads; these spaces between 
bulkheads are called fire zones. Fire zones extend 
across the beam of the vessel and are confined 
between main vertical zones (class A bulkheads). 
Zones may not exceed 40 m (131 ft) in length. 
The bulkheads are fitted with doors of the same 
fire-retarding capability as the bulkheads. (Class 
A bulkheads must be capable of retarding the 
passage of smoke and flame for 1 hour.) 

This arrangement has two advantages: 1) No 
subsystem is very large, so it will not overtax the 
water supply and 2) when the bulkhead doors are 
closed, the fire is confined in an area that is de- 
signed to keep it from spreading. 

Two separate subsystems may be installed 
within a single fire zone, e.g., one to protect the 
port size, and the other the starboard side. How- 
ever, the coverage of the two subsystems must 
overlap, to ensure full protection of the fire zone. 
The sprinkler systems on ro-ro vessels are zoned 
but do not require bulkheaded divisions. 

Sprinkler Zone Chart. A chart must be posted 
(in the wheelhouse or control station, adjacent to 
the detecting cabinet) showing the arrangement 
of the fire zones, their identification numbers and 
the sprinkler system layout within the zones. The 
chart must also show the piping system, including 
the locations of control valves and water supply 
pumps (Fig. 9.11). 


Water spray systems are similar to sprinkler sys- 
tems but make use of a different type of head 
and a different piping arrangement. 

Spray Heads 

Spray heads are open heads (Fig. 9.12) that shape 
the discharged water into a spray pattern. How- 
ever, unlike some sprinkler heads, which dis- 
charge hollow spray patterns, spray heads dis- 
charge a solid cone of water, giving them superior 
cooling capabilities. In addition, a spray head 
can be aimed to hit a specific target area. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 9.11. Zone valves and zone chart for a shipboard 
sprinkler system. 

Water Supply 

Water can be supplied to the spray system by a 
separate pump or by one of the ship's fire pumps. 
A fire pump may be used if it can adequately 
supply both the fire main and the spray system 
when both are in operation at the same time. An 
extensive spray system needs a substantial water 
supply and would most likely require a pump 
other than a fire pump. 

The spray system piping is normally empty, 
because the spray heads are open. When fire is 
discovered, the system is activated manually by 
opening the proper valves and starting the water 
pump. The spray heads provide a very finely di- 
vided water spray that blankets the protected 



Figure 9.12. Typical spray head. There is no fusible link; 
the head is open at all times. 


Water spray systems are used to protect the piping 
and exposed sections of storage tanks on vessels 
transporting cryogenic gases such as LNG. They 
are also used to protect loading stations and 
manifolds. In the event of a gas leak with fire, 
their primary functions are to cool exposed tanks 
and piping and to confine the fire until the leak 
can be stopped. If a leak occurs without fire, the 
water spray could be effective in diluting the 
leaking vapors. The water spray also helps pro- 
tect metal surfaces directly exposed to the leak 
from fracture, and it can be used to dissipate the 
vapors under the right conditions. 

In addition, water spray can be used to protect 
the superstructure of the vessel from radiant heat 
in the event of a massive fire. When used for this 
purpose, the spray is cascaded directly onto the 
surfaces of bulkheads and decks (Fig. 9.13), tak- 
ing the most advantage of the cooling capabili- 
ties of the water. 

The water spray is not normally used to ex- 
tinguish the fire, dry chemical extinguishing units 
are employed on LNG and LPG vessels for this 
purpose. Crewmen should, however, realize that 
extinguishing such a fire may create a greater 
hazard — a flammable vapor cloud. It is usually 
best to allow the LNG to burn under controlled 
conditions until the fuel is exhausted. 


Foam is used mainly in fighting class B fires, al- 
though low-expansion foam (with a high water 
content) can be used to extinguish class A fires. 
Foam extinguishes mainly by smothering, with 
some cooling action. (See Chapter 7 for a dis- 
cussion of foam as an extinguishing agent.) 

Foam may be generated chemically or me- 
chanically. Chemical foam is produced by chem- 
ical reactions taking place in water. The foam 
bubbles are filled with CO2. Mechanical foam is 
produced by first mixing foam concentrate with 
water to produce a foam solution, then mixing 
air with the foam solution. The bubbles are thus 
filled with air. 

Foam systems are acceptable as fire protection 
for boiler rooms, machinery spaces and pump 
rooms on all vessels. Mechanical foam systems 
may be installed in these spaces instead of other 
approved systems such as CO2. Deck foam sys- 
tems must be installed on tankers constructed 
after January 1, 1970, as fire protection for flam- 
mable-liquid cargo. Some older vessels may have 
foam systems protecting flammable-liquid cargo 
holds; foam systems are no longer employed for 
this purpose. 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 175 

Figure 9.13. LNG and LPG burn cleanly with little smoke, but do produce massive quantities of radiant heat. The spray sys- 
tem can provide protection by cooling exposed decks, tanks, pipelines and superstructure through a continuous cascade of 

Foam systems must meet Coast Guard require- 
ments. Other guidance regarding fixed systems 
can be found in the recommendations of the Inter- 
governmental Maritime Consultative Organiza- 
tion (IMCO). The Coast Guard regulations are 
usually consistent with, but more stringent than, 
IMCO recommendations. 

Chemical Foam Systems 

Chemical foam is produced by the reaction of 
bicarbonate of soda with aluminum sulfate (or 
ferric sulfate). A foam stabilizer is added to im- 
prove its extinguishing properties. Chemical foam 
has more body than mechanical foam and will 
build a stouter blanket. 

Continuous-Type Generator. A continuous- 
type chemical foam generator is shown in Figure 
9.14. The generator may be fixed or portable. It 
consists of a hopper with a foam ejector at the 
bottom; its function is to dissolve the dry foam 
chemicals in a stream of water. The generator 
inlet is connected to a hoseline or piping to the 
fire main; the outlet is connected to a 63.5-mm 
(2 1 /2-in.) hoseline. After water at 517-689 kilo- 
pascals (75-100 psi) has been started through the 
generator, the mixture of dry foam chemicals is 
poured into the hopper. The chemical reaction 
takes place downstream of the ejector. 

The temperature of the water governs the speed 
of foam production (it is slower at lower tempera- 
tures), and the length of the outlet hose should be 
varied accordingly. At temperatures above 
32.2°C (90°F), 15.24 m (50 ft) of hose is ade- 
quate; from 10°C to 32.2°C (50°F to 90°F), 
30.48 m (100 ft) of hose should be used; at tem- 
peratures below 10°C (50°F), 45.72 m (150 ft) 
is required. The hose should have a 3 8.1 -mm 
(IVi-in.) diameter nozzle for the most effective 
foam discharge. 

The continuous-type generator uses foam 
chemical at a rate of about 45.4 kg/min (100 
lb/min) with either fresh or salt water at 21.1 °C 
(70°F). Since 0.45 kg (1 lb) of foam powder 
produces about 30 liters (8 gal) of foam, the unit 
produces about 3000 liters/min (800 gal/min) of 
foam. In one minute, this quantity of foam can 
cover an area of 37 m- (400 ft 2 ) to a thickness of 
76.2 mm (3 in.). This area is equivalent to a 
square, 6.1 m (20 ft) on each side. 


Flushout Hose for Cleanup 




Flush- rl 




Hopper Locking 
Nut Handle 


2 1 / 2 -lnch 

Foam Connection 

Figure 9.14. Continuous-type chemical foam generator. A. 
The generator is connected to a hoseline or piping to the 
fire main. B. Foam chemicals are discharged into water 
flowing through the bottom of the generator. C. Chemical 
foam is produced downstream of the generator. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

The continuous-type foam generator is also 
available with two separate hoppers. The dry 
foam chemicals are dissolved separately in two 
streams of water. The two solutions are brought 
together at the discharge outlet to produce foam. 

Hopper-Type Generator. In the large hopper- 
type generator, the chemicals are stored sepa- 
rately, in powder form, in twin compartments in 
the hopper. The chemicals are thus always ready 
for use. This type of generator is usually equipped 
with a mechanical turning device that should be 
turned occasionally to keep the chemicals from 
settling and packing. When the generator is to 
be used, control levers are operated to release the 
chemicals into the water stream. 

Extra chemicals are usually stored in con- 
tainers holding 22.7 kg (50 lb) each. These con- 
tainers must be kept sealed and must be stored 
in a cool dry place until used. 

Twin-Solution Generator. In the twin-solution 
foam generator, a solution of bicarbonate of soda 
and foam stabilizer is contained in one cylinder, 
and an aluminum sulfate solution in the other. 
The contents of the two cylinders are pumped 
separately to discharge outlets. At the outlets, 
the solutions mix to produce and discharge foam 
on the protected area. 

Mechanical versus Chemical Foam 

Chemical foam generators have been replaced by 
mechanical foam generators on almost all vessels. 
Chemical foam systems are no longer approved 
for installation by the U.S. Coast Guard. How- 
ever, older ships may still use chemical foam sys- 
tems provided they are in good condition and 
operate properly. Whichever system is installed 
aboard a vessel, crewmen should be well trained 
in its use. Periodic drills build efficiency and help 
to avoid mistakes when a fire occurs. 

Mechanical Foam Systems 

Mechanical foam concentrate is available in 3% 
and 6% concentrations {see Chapter 7). It may 
be mixed with either fresh or salt water to produce 
foam solution: 

• 12 liters (3 gal) 3% concentrate, mixed with 
367 liters (97 gal) of water produces 379 
liters (100 gal) foam solution. 

• 23 liters (6 gal) 6% concentrate, mixed with 
356 liters (94 gal) water, produces 379 liters 
(100 gal) foam solution. 

When the foam solution is mixed with air, it 
expands. The expansion ratio of the foam indi- 
cates the proportions of air and water it contains. 

Thus, for example, a 4:1 foam expansion ratio 
is defined as the quantity of moisture contained 
in a given quantity of foam. In 1000: 1 high ex- 
pansion foam there is one gallon of moisture in 
1000 gallons of the high expansion foam. A 
100:1 expansion ratio means the foam contains 
99 volumes of air for each volume of water. The 
air is introduced into the foam solution at a foam 
spray nozzle, monitor or turret nozzle. 

In fixed foam extinguishing systems the air-to- 
water ratio is set to obtain the desired foam prop- 
erties. In general, the lower the expansion ratio, 

• The wetter the foam 

• The more fluid the foam 

• The heavier the foam 

• The more heat resistant the foam (for a given 
type of concentrate) 

• The less the foam adheres to vertical surfaces 

• The more electrically conductive the foam 

• The less the foam is subject to movement 
by wind. 

The foams used in engine rooms should be 
soupy, mixed at about a 4:1 expansion ratio. A 
mixture of this consistency is capable of flowing 
rapidly around obstructions. It has good cooling 
qualities (for foam) and resists heat (holds up 
longer). However, the actual ratio may vary. Be- 
cause a 4: 1 ratio foam is loaded with water, there 
is a fairly rapid water runoff. It is difficult to 
build up a deep layer of 4:1 foam, unless it is 
confined in a limited area. 

High-expansion foam, with a ratio of 100:1 
or more, is stiff, does not flow rapidly and is 
easily pushed around by the wind in open areas. 
It builds up a deep layer of foam rapidly — up to 
0.9 m (3 ft) in open, unconfined areas, and up 
to 5.9 m (20 ft) in a confined space. High-expan- 
sion foam is a poor conductor of electricity since 
it contains little water. 

Low-Expansion Mechanical Foam System 

One low-expansion foam system used on ships 
is the balanced-pressure proportioning system. 
The system gets its name from the action of the 
proportioning device: The water and the foam 
concentrate are pumped into the proportioner 
separately, under pressure. Monitoring devices in 
the proportioner regulate (balance) these two 
flows to produce the desired foam solution. 

A typical system is shown in schematic form 
in Figure 9.15. The major components are 

• A water supply 

• The fire pump 

• The foam-concentrate pump 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 



To Pump Room 
To Tank Top 
To Flat 
To Cargo Deck 

This Distance 
to be Straight 


Foam Liquid 
Foam Solution 

Gate Valve 

Check Valve 

Globe Valve, Regulating 

Side Outlet Strainer With Valve (1 Size Larger 

than Piping) 
Flushout Connection (Valved Hose Fitting, 1 Vi 

Female Swivel, Plug & Chain) 

Figure 9.15. Schematic diagram of a typical balanced-pressure proportioning system. A. Water supply valve (normally closed). 
B. Ratio-flow proportioner. C. Water balance line. D. Foam concentrate balance line. E. Balance line valves (normally open). 
F. Diaphragm control valve (automatic bypass). G. Block valves (normally open). H. Regulating globe valve (manual bypass; 
normally closed). I. Water and foam concentrate pressure gauge. J. Foam-concentrate storage tank. (Courtesy National Foam 
System, Inc.) 

• A holding tank for the foam concentrate 

• The proportioning device 

• The discharge foam spray nozzles or moni- 

• The piping, control and check valves. 

How the System Works. The system must be 
activated manually when fire is discovered in the 
protected area. First the water and foam-concen- 
trate supply pumps are started. Then the proper 
control valves are opened to allow the water and 
foam concentrate to flow to the proportioner. If 
central foam-producing equipment furnishes 
foam solution to more than one piping system, 
then the control valve to the proper system must 
be opened. It is important that the crew member 
reporting the fire give the fire's exact location, 
so the proper valves may be opened without delay. 

When the necessary valves are open and the 
pumps are activated, foam concentrate and water 
are pumped into the proportioner and mixed in 
preset proportions. The foam solution then flows 
through piping to the desired location for dis- 
charge. In a fixed system, the foam is discharged 
through nozzles located in the protected area. 
As the solution flows into each nozzle, it passes 
through an aspirator and is mixed with air to 
form the foam bubbles. In most fixed systems the 
nozzles are aimed at a bulkhead or metal de- 
flector, so the foam flows gently onto the surface 
of the burning liquid. All the spray nozzles in the 
system discharge foam at the same time, to cover 
the area rapidly with a blanket of foam. 

The system will continue to operate and pro- 
duce foam until the foam-concentrate supply in 
the storage tank is depleted. When this occurs, 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

water will continue to flow through the system 
and out the foam nozzles. If the water is allowed 
to flow more than 2 or 3 minutes, it will start to 
dilute the foam blanket and break it down. There- 
fore, it is important to shut off the system when 
it is no longer producing foam. 

Foam-Concentrate Supplies. The rate of appli- 
cation affects the ability of foam to control flam- 
mable-liquid fires; it is essential that the required 
amount of foam be discharged in 3 minutes. The 
pumps, piping and nozzles are designed to do 
this. However, sufficient foam concentrate must 
be carried to produce the required amount of 
foam solution, which is 6.5 liters/min per m 2 
(1.6 gal/min/per 10 ft 2 ) of protected area. The 
total available supply of foam concentrate must 
at least be sufficient for the space requiring the 
greatest amount. In conjunction with the deck 
foam system which requires a 20-minute supply, 
this will automatically cover the requirements 
for other spaces. 

Most foam concentrates have a storage life of 
5-20 years, depending on the manufacturer. 
However, the concentrate must be stored prop- 
erly, on sturdy racks, where the containers will 
not become damaged. The storage space should 
be ventilated and fairly dry, with an ambient 
temperature not exceeding 38°C (100°F). The 
foam should be kept away from steam pipes and 

hot bulkheads. Excessive temperatures deteriorate 
the liquid concentrate and reduce its foam-mak- 
ing capability. 

Foam-Concentrate Tanks. In the diaphragm- 
tank foam system shown in Figure 9.16, the foam- 
concentrate tank is fitted internally with a flex- 
ible rubber diaphragm. The diaphragm is one 
half the size of the tank and is fastened to a metal 
lio around the tank midsection. As the tank is 
filled with foam concentrate, the rubber dia- 
phragm is pressed against the walls of the tank. 
When the foam system is activated, the foam 
svstem pump supplies water to both the propor- 
tioner and the tank at a predetermined pressure. 
The water enters the tank on the diaphragm side. 
It pushes against the diaphragm with enough 
pressure to force foam concentrate out of the 
tank and into the foam proportioner. An adjust- 
able metering valve provides a measured flow of 
foam concentrate to the proportioner; this as- 
sures the proper proportions of water and con- 
centrate to produce the foam solution. After 
operation, the water is drained from the tank. 
The tank is then refilled with the appropriate 
type and amount of foam concentrate. The sys- 
tem is very reliable and does not require the 
separate foam-concentrate pump. 

Another type of foam-concentrate tank is 
shown in Figure 9.17. Here, water moving 


Foam Concentrate 

Flexible Rubber Diaphragm 

(Diaphragm Tank Type) 

Metering Valve 

Foam Concentrate Flow to Proportioner 

Water Flow to Tank 

Foam Solution 

Water From Ship Foam System Pump 


Water Flow to Proportioner 

Figure 9.16. Schematic diagram showing the operation of a diaphragm-type foam concentrate tank. (Courtesy Rockwood 
System Corporation) 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Water Supply 





Figure 9.17. Venturi-affect foam tank with dual propor- 
tioners. This type of tank does not require a separate foam 
concentrate pump. (Courtesy National Foam System, Inc.) 

through the proportioner creates a slight vacuum. 
The vacuum draws a metered amount of foam 
concentrate up from the tank and into the water 
stream. Note the two separate water lines, with 
proportioners in Figure 9.17. Each line has its 
own water control valve and can serve a differ- 
ent foam piping system. 

Foam-concentrate storage tanks must be kept 
filled, with liquid halfway into the expansion dome 
to ensure prolonged storage life. The tank should 
be kept closed to the atmosphere, except for the 
pressure vacuum vent. When a tank is partially 
empty, there is a larger liquid surface area to 
interact with air. This allows excessive evapora- 
tion and condensation, which degrade the foam 
concentrate and permit corrosion of the tank 

Nozzle Placement. Once the foam solution is 
produced, it can be piped to supply a deck-system 
turret, handline nozzles or fixed marine floor or 
overhead spray deflectors (Fig. 9.18). The supply 
can also service high-expansion foam devices if 
proper concentrate is used. 

Nozzles are located so that no point in the 
protected area is more than 9 m (30 ft) from a 
nozzle. If there is an obstruction to the flow of 
foam, additional nozzles must be employed. 

The nozzles protecting boiler flats are posi- 
tioned to spread the foam under the floor plates 
on the lower boiler flat. The foam will then fol- 
low the path of a fuel-oil spill, providing it does 
not have to travel very far from the nozzle. In 
machinery spaces the nozzles are placed to pro- 
tect the bilge. U.S. Coast Guard regulations re- 

quire that the distance from the bilge nozzles to 
the bilge be no less than 152 mm (6 in.). When 
the foam system is used to protect an oil-fired 
boiler installation on a boiler flat that can drain 
to the lower engine room, both spaces should be 
protected simultaneously. Nozzles should be lo- 
cated near the boiler flat and near the floor plates. 

Hydrant Requirement — Additional Protection. 

According to Coast Guard regulations, "two addi- 
tional fire hydrants are required outside of ma- 
chinery spaces to extinguish residual fires above 
the floor plates." These two hydrants are addi- 
tional to those required for the fire-main system. 
If the foam system is blanketing a fire below 
the floor plates, fire above the floor plates should 
be attacked with the low-velocity applicator. 
Water usage should be kept to a minimum to 
prevent excessive drainage into the bilge and 
dilution of the foam. A straight stream should 
definitely not be used. It could "dig into" the 
foam blanket, break it up and allow the fire to 

Valves and Piping. A diagram of the piping 
system and control valves should be posted in 
the foam supply room. It should show which 
valves are to be opened in the event the system 
must be activated. The diagram should explain 
thoroughly and clearly all the steps necessary to 
put the system into operation. Color coding the 
valves aids in identification, e.g., all valves that 
are to be opened when a fire alarm is received 
might be painted some distinctive color. Each 
valve could also be labeled as to its function; 
this would be of help in operating, restoring and 
maintaining the system. 

Deck Foam Systems (Tankers) 

Deck foam systems are required on all tank ves- 
sels by the 1970 Tank Vessel Regulations. The 
foam system replaces the fixed-pipe, inert-gas 
smothering system, for improved fire protection. 
With a fixed-pipe, inert-gas system, the rupture 
of a key inert-gas line would make it impossible 
to get inert gas to the fire. The rupture of a tank 
would make it impossible to maintain an inert-gas 

The deck foam system is intended to protect 
any deck area with foam applied from stations 
(monitors or hose stations) located aft of the area. 
At least 50% of the required rate of application 
must come from mounted devices (deck foam 
monitors). Mounted appliances have greater ca- 
pacity and range, require fewer personnel, and 
can be put into operation in a much shorter time 
than handheld devices. Title 46 CFR 34.20 re- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

High Expansion Foam 

Handline Nozzle 




Foam Concentrate 




v>vw^ ^ssss^^sssss^ jESS ^^^ ^s^)^^gs^y 

Foam Solution 
- Proportioner 

Water Supply 

Figure 9.18. Fixed mechanical foam systems can supply turret and handline nozzles, foam discharge heads and high-expan- 
sion foam devices. (Courtesy Rockwood Systems, Inc.) 

quires that each foam monitor have a capacity 
of at least 3 liters/min per m 2 covered (0.073 
gal/min per ft 2 covered). At least one handheld 
device must also be provided at each foam station 
for flexibility during the final stages of extinguish- 
ment. The system piping and the foam stations 
must be arranged so that a ruptured section of 
piping may be isolated during a fire. With this 
arrangement, it is possible to fight a fire effec- 
tively by working forward from the after house 
(assuming the machinery and foam generating 
equipment is aft). 

The system is supplied from a central station 
that houses the foam-concentrate tank, propor- 
tioning unit, foam pump and control valves. Pip- 
ing carries the foam solution from the central 
station to foam stations located on deck, above 
the cargo tanks. Each foam station is equipped 
with a foam turret nozzle and may have one or 

two foam-dispensing handlines. The stations are 
generally located so that the foam pattern from 
each station overlaps the foam patterns from 
adjacent stations. 

How the System Works. The foam system and 
each foam station are activated manually. The 
first step is to activate the foam pumps and open 
the proper valves in the foam supply room. This 
starts the flow of foam solution to the fire station 
through the main piping. The turret nozzle is put 
into operation by opening a valve that is usually 
located in the supply pipe at the base of the 
turret. The handlines at the foam station also 
must be put into operation manually. When the 
foam solution passes into the foam turret or hand 
nozzle, air is drawn in; it mixes with the foam 
solution to produce low-expansion mechanical 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Rate of Foam Flow. The required foam solu- 
tion rate is 0.65 liter/min per m 2 (0.016 gal/min 
per ft 2 ) of the entire tank surface, for 15 minutes. 
The entire tank surface is defined as the maxi- 
mum beam of the vessel times the longitudinal 
extent of the tank spaces. The required rate is 
based on the typical T-2 tanker configuration 
shown in Figure 9.19. Note: The term "water 
rate" is used by USCG; its meaning is synony- 
mous with that of "foam solution rate" for 3% 
and 6% concentrate systems. 

For the usual petroleum products, the foam 
solution rate must be at least 0.65 liter/min per 
m 2 (0.016 gal/min per ft 2 ) of cargo area or 9.8 
liters/min per m 2 (0.24 gal/min per ft 2 ) of the 
horizontal sectional area of the single tank having 
the largest area, whichever is greater. The quan- 
tity of foam available must be sufficient for 15 
minutes of operation, or 20 minutes of operation 
without recharging on installations after January 
1, 1975. The cargo area is defined as the maxi- 
mum beam of the vessel times the longitudinal 
extent of the tank spaces. 

The foam solution rate was determined by as- 
suming fire in hold no. 3C, and probable and 
possible fire areas as shown in Figure 9.19. The 
total possible fire area is approximately one third 
of the total tank area of the vessel. The time of 
application of the required rate (15 minutes) was 
based upon two considerations: 

1 . If the fire were to burn longer than 15 min- 
utes, it is improbable that it could be con- 
tained and extinguished by the vessel's 

2. The previous requirement for fixed systems 
protecting cargo tanks was to apply foam 
for 5 minutes per tank. Since the possible 
fire area covers three tanks, the required 
application time is 3 X 5 = 15 minutes. 

Fire extinguishment does not always depend 
on the thickness of the foam blanket. What is im- 
portant is to maintain an effective vaportight 
cover on the fire. Some foams require thick 
blankets to accomplish this. Other foams can do 
an equally effective job with thinner blankets. 
Thus, the rate of application, as related to some 
standard rate, is the important factor. 

Pumps. The use of the deck foam main must 
not interfere with simultaneous use of the fire 
main. The ship's fire pumps may be used to pro- 
vide water for foam generation if, in a fixed sys- 
tem, the pumps are located outside the protected 
space. If the foam system water supply is taken 
directly from the fire main, a single fire pump 
must be capable of meeting the fire-main and 
foam system requirements simultaneously. 

The foam system piping may not be used for 
any other purpose. If it were, complex operating 
instructions would be required. This would make 
the foam system something other than a versatile 
fire protection system that can be put into imme- 
diate use. In addition, there would be a possibility 
of pumping the foam out through the ballast con- 
nection rather than the monitors and handline 


Carbon dioxide (CO2) systems are used to pro- 
tect cargo spaces, pump rooms, generator rooms, 
storage spaces such as paint and lamp lockers, 
galley ranges and duct systems. They are also used 
in engine rooms and to protect individual gen- 

As an extinguishing agent, CO2 is especially 
adaptable to shipboard use: It will not damage 
expensive cargo or machinery. It leaves no unde- 
sirable residue to be cleaned off equipment and 






j I Probable Fire 

[[ Possible Fire 

Figure 9.19. Tanker configuration used to determine the required rate of foam flow. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

decks. It does not conduct electricity, and so can 
be used on live electrical equipment. It is re- 
leased as a liquid under pressure and expands to 
a dense gas at atmospheric pressure. It will re- 
main at the lower levels of a space until it dif- 
fuses with time and a temperature rise. 

There are some disadvantages to CO2. The 
amount that can be carried on a ship is limited, 
because it must be stored in cylinders under pres- 
sure. CO2 has little cooling effect on materials 
that have been heated by the fire. Instead, CO2 
extinguishes fire by smothering, i.e., by displacing 
the oxygen content in the surrounding air to 
15% or lower. Thus, materials that generate their 
own oxygen as they burn cannot be extinguished 
by CO 2. 

CO2 is hazardous to humans. The minimum 
concentration sufficient to extinguish fire does 
not reduce the oxygen content of the air to a haz- 
ardous level. However, when inhaled, the CO2 
raises the acidic level of the blood. This prevents 
the hemoglobin from absorbing oxygen in the 
lungs, which can lead to a respiratory arrest. 
Thus, it is extremely dangerous to enter any com- 
partment in which CO2 has been discharged, with- 
out proper breathing apparatus. This applies even 
to supposedly short periods of time, e.g., a crew- 
man might be tempted to hold his breath while 
darting into a compartment to rescue a person 
lying unconscious on the floor. 

CO2 is especially effective against fires involv- 
ing flammable liquids. It will also control fires 
involving class A combustibles in confined spaces. 

Types of Marine Systems 

Two fixed CO2 systems are used for the vessel's 
protection: The total-flooding system for ma- 
chinery space and the cargo system. A total- 
flooding system for machinery space is activated 
only as a last resort, after all other extinguishing 
methods have been tried and have failed to con- 
trol the fire. This system for machinery spaces 
expels 85% of its total CO2 capacity within 2 
minutes to achieve rapid saturation of the air 
with CO2 and quick extinguishment. This rapid 
release of the CO2 is necessary in spaces such as 
engine rooms, where fast-burning flammable 
liquids must be extinguished quickly. Smaller 
versions of the total-flooding system are used in 
generator rooms, pump rooms and paint lockers. 
The systems designed for these spaces may be 
supplied by the main system, or they may be com- 
plete, independent systems. 

The cargo system is not activated immediately 
upon discovery of the fire. The involved space 
(usually a cargo hold) is first sealed. Then the 

agent is introduced into the space at a preset rate, 
to reduce and maintain the oxygen content at a 
level that will not support combustion. Cargo 
systems are used in a break-bulk, ro-ro and 
stacked-container cargo holds. The cargo tanks 
aboard cargo and passenger vessels may be pro- 
tected by a type of CO2 cargo system. Tank ves- 
sels contracted prior to January 1, 1962, may 
have CO2 systems in their cargo tanks. Tank ves- 
sels contracted on or after January 1, 1970, must 
be equipped with a deck foam system and may 
have an approved inert-gas or water spray system 
for cargo tank protection. 

All CO2 systems consist basically of piping, 
discharge nozzles of a special configuration, 
valves and CO2 cylinders. The cylinders are ar- 
ranged to discharge their contents into the system 
through a manifold. The CO2 is also used to 
activate alarm devices and pressure switches that 
shut down ventilation systems. Total-flooding 
systems and cargo systems are activated manu- 
ally. Smaller systems (those using less than 136 kg 
(300 lb) of CO2) for paint lockers and other small 
spaces may be automatically activated by heat 
sensitive devices or may be operated manually. 

Actuating a Typical 
Total-Flooding System 

The total-flooding system is actuated manually 
by pulling two cables. The cable pulls are housed 
in pull boxes. They are connected through corner 
pulleys to controls in the CO2 room. Coast Guard 
regulations require that the pull boxes be located 
outside the area being protected, for example, 
outside an engine room doorway that would be 
a normal route of escape. The cable pulls are 
protected by glass to prevent tampering. To op- 
erate the glass must be broken with the hammer 
that is provided. Then each cable must be pulled 
straight out. The cables must be pulled in the re- 
quired sequence. Instructions explaining how to 
actuate the system should be posted over the pull 
boxes (Fig. 9.20). 

One cable is connected to the control heads 
on the pilot cylinders; the other is connected to a 
control head mounted on the pilot port valve. 
When both cables are pulled, CO2 discharges 
from the two pilot cylinders and opens the pilot 
port valve. The CO2 is delayed from discharging 
into the fire area by a stop valve. During the de- 
lay, the CO2 is routed through the pilot port 
valve to the discharge delay device, into piping 
where it actuates pressure switches. About 20 
seconds is required for the CO2 to pass through 
the discharge delay device. During this time, 
ventilation svstems are shut down and alarm de- 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 



Break Glass and Pull Handle of 
Valve Control Pull Box 
Immediately Break Glass and Pull 
Handle of Cylinder Control Pull 
Box. Alarm Sounds 25 Seconds 
Prior to Gas Discharge 
Warning Personnel to Evacuate Area 


Figure 9.20. The pull cables used to activate the total-flooding CO a system. The cables must be pulled in the proper order 
(valve control first) as noted in the posted instructions. 

vices are actuated. After the 20-second delay, 
the CO2 acts on a pressure control head mounted 
on the stop valve. The valve opens, permitting 
the C0 2 to discharge into the protected space. 

Carbon Dioxide Warning Alarm. An approved 
audible alarm must be installed in every space 
protected by a CO2 extinguishing system (other 
than paint and lamp lockers and similar small 
spaces) and normally accessible to persons on 
board while the vessel is being navigated. The 
alarm must be arranged to sound automatically 
for at least 20 seconds prior to the discharge of 
CO2 into the space. It must not depend on any 
source of power other than the CO2. The alarm 
must be conspicuously and centrally located and 
RELEASED" (Fig. 9.21). 

Actuation Procedure. In case of fire in the en- 
gine room, once the decision to release the fixed 
CO2 system is made, the following procedure 
should be followed: 

The alarm is a warning that the carbon dioxide 
system has been activated. Once it sounds, you 
have about 20 seconds to get out of the space. 
Do not delay — leave immediately: If you delay, 
the CO2 will flood the space and reduce the oxy- 
gen content below the level required to sustain 
life. Failure to evacuate immediately could result 
in loss of life. 


Figure 9.21. Carbon dioxide alarm and posted warning. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

1. Warn personnel to evacuate the space. 

2. Close all doors, hatches and other openings. 

3. Secure main and auxiliary machinery. 

4. Go to the pull boxes at the engine room 

5. Break the glass and pull the handle of the 
pull box marked "valve control" (Fig. 

6. Immediately break the glass and pull the 
handle of the pull box marked "cylinder 
control" (Fig. 9.20). 

The system may also be activated from within 
the CO2 room. Here the procedure is to remove 
the locking pins and operate the levers of the 
control heads mounted on the two pilot cylinders 
and the pilot port valve. The discharge delay may 
be bypassed by removing the locking pin and 
operating the lever of the pressure control head 
mounted on the stop valve. {See Chapter 10 for 
a discussion on using CO2 total-flooding system 
to combat an engine room fire.) 

Combination Smoke Detection — 
Carbon Dioxide System 

Smoke detection systems are often installed in 
cargo spaces, along with carbon dioxide extin- 
guishing systems. When the presence of fire is 
detected by the smoke detection system, it sounds 
alarms in the CO2 room, bridge and engine room. 
The line number indicator locks on the monitor- 
ing line from which smoke is detected. The CO2 
extinguishing system must then be activated man- 
ually. {See Chapter 6 for a discussion of smoke 
detection systems.) 

Recheck and Initial Discharge. The following 
procedure should be used when the smoke de- 
tection system signals a cargo space fire: 

1. Confirm the presence of smoke. To do so, 
depress the recheck (or reset) button on 
the main detecting cabinet, and note 
whether the indicator locks on the same 
line again. Then visually inspect all moni- 
toring lines for smoke. 

2. Check the number of the line showing 
smoke against the line index chart, to de- 
termine which space is involved. 

3. Make certain no one is in the space. 

4. Shut off all mechanical ventilation; seal all 
ventilators, ports, sounding pipes and 
hatches leading to the space. 

5. Refer to the line index chart or profile 
chart for the number of cylinders to be 
discharged into the involved space. 

6. Open the three-way valve whose number 
(on the handle) is indicated on the line 
index chart. To do so, pull the handle down 
so the word "extinguishing" is visible. 
When more than one line is installed in a 
space, open all the three-way valves for 
that space (Fig. 9.22). 

7. Discharge the required number of cylin- 
ders, in pairs. To do this, remove the lock- 
ing pin and operate the lever of the control 
head mounted on one cylinder of each pair. 
Caution: Do not operate the control heads 
mounted on the pilot cylinders until all 
other cylinders have been discharged. Op- 
erating the pilot cylinders first will activate 
all the cylinders connected to the manifold 
(Fig. 9.23). 

If fire occurs in two spaces simultaneously, 
only one three-way valve is opened; the required 
number of clinders is discharged into the space 
served by that valve. When this first space has 
been charged with CO2, the first valve is closed. 
The second three-way valve is then opened, and 
the required number of cylinders is discharged 
into the second space. Carbon dioxide should be 
discharged into the lowest involved space first, 
then into the next higher space, and so on. 

Delayed Discharge. To maintain the proper 
CO2 level, additional cylinders should be dis- 
charged into the involved space at intervals rang- 
ing from 30 minutes to 6 hours. If the smoke in- 
creases in intensity or the surrounding plates and 
bulkheads get hotter, shorter intervals are indi- 
cated; if conditions are favorable, longer intervals 
are acceptable. The number of cylinders to be 
discharged and the intervals are shown on the 
line index chart and profile chart, as delayed dis- 

Because the supply of CO2 is limited, it should 
be used carefully. The distance of the ship from 
port and the possibility of obtaining additional 
CO2 at a port should be taken into account. Cargo 
hold fires usually are not extinguished quickly; 
they often require days to extinguish. {See Chap- 
ters 3 and 10 for detailed discussions of cargo 
hold fires.) 

Lash and Seabee Barge-carrying Ships. Combi- 
nation smoke detection-carbon dioxide systems 
are used in the cargo holds of Lash and Seabee 
barge carrying ships. When fire is detected in the 
hold of a Lash vessel carrying barges, the CO2 
is released into the entire hold — not into indi- 
vidual barges. On Seabee vessels, a smoke detec- 
tor monitoring line is attached to each barge. 
When fire occurs, the smoke detector identifies 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Figure 9.22. The proper three-way valve (or valves) must be pulled down to route CO? to the involved space. Here, the 
involved space is served by four lines. 

the barge. CO2 is manually released into the in- 
volved barge through the smoke detector moni- 
toring line attached to that barge. The specific 
amount of CO2 to be released is given in the CO2 
discharge instructions. 

Independent Carbon Dioxide Systems 

The paint locker, lamp locker, engineer's paint 
locker and generator rooms can be protected by 
independent fixed CO2 systems, i.e., each system 
has its own CO2 supply, independent of other 
CO2 systems. If the space requires less than 136 
kg (300 lbs) of C0 2 , the cylinders may be installed 
inside each protected space provided they are 
capable of automatic operation. These systems 
are manually operated, in addition to being ac- 
tivated automatically by heat detectors. 

Independent Automatic System. An independ- 
ent automatic system is composed of heat detec 

tors, one or more CO2 cylinders, piping, valves 
and discharge nozzles. The heat detectors are 
usually of the pneumatic type. They are located 
on 'the overhead of the protected space and are 
connected by tubing to a pneumatic control head 
mounted on the pilot cylinder. Air contained in 
the heat detector expands as the temperature 
rises; the resulting pressure increase is transmitted 
to the control head through the tubing. The con- 
trol head is vented so that normal increases in 
temperature will not activate the system. How- 
ever, the sudden increase in pressure caused by a 
fire cannot be vented off fast enough. This in- 
creased pressure operates a diaphragm-lever ar- 
rangement in the control head and releases the 
contents of the CO2 cylinder. The carbon dioxide 
then discharges into the space through approved 
nozzles. When the system goes into operation, 
it sounds an audible alarm to alert crew members 
to begin evacuation immediately. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 



Lever for 








Pilot Cylinders 

Control Head 






Local Lever 





Local Control 
Levers for 
:, Release of 
Two Cylinders 

Top View of Cylinder Bank 

Figure 9.23. The pilot C0 2 cylinders must be activated last when CO a is routed to a cargo space fire. Otherwise, all the cyl- 
inders in the bank will be opened at once. (Courtesy Walter Kidde and Company) 


Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Independent Manual System. To activate an 
independent manual system, one or two pull 
cables (depending on the manufacturer) must be 
operated. The cables are, as usual, located in pull 
boxes outside the protected space. 
To activate a manual system 

1 . Make sure no one is in the protected space. 

2. Close all doors, hatches and other openings 
to the space. 

3. Operate the pull cable (or cables) accord- 
ing to the posted instructions. 

The involved space should remain buttoned 
up for several hours, if possible. Then, if no heat 
buildup is evident on decks or bulkheads, a hose- 
line, charged with water and ready for use, should 
be positioned outside the door. The door should 
then be opened slightly. If fire is not evident, the 
door should be left open, but no one should enter 
the space. First, a breathable oxygen level must 
be allowed to build up. If the CO2 has extin- 
guished the fire, the atmosphere in the space may 
be tested for oxygen content after some time has 
passed. It is important not to rush in before mak- 
ing sure that the space will support life. 

Carbon Dioxide Protection for Rotating Elec- 
trical Equipment. Carbon dioxide systems are 
used to protect generators with CO2 discharge 
nozzles located inside the casing. The piping leads 
from the casing to a cylinder of CO2. Most units 
of this type are activated manually. The need for 
evacuation of personnel should be evaluated when 
the system is designed, by determining the degree 
of oxygen depletion caused when CO2 is dis- 
charged. Since the CO2 does not flood the engine 
room, evacuation may not be required. 

Inspection and Maintenance of 
Carbon Dioxide Systems 

Carbon dioxide systems are reliable when they 
are maintained properly. Almost all malfunctions 
are due to neglect. When CO2 systems have failed 
to control or extinguish fire, it was usually be- 
cause they were used incorrectly, owing to a lack 
of knowledge. These fire extinguishing systems 
require only normal care to ensure proper opera- 
tion when they are needed. However, they should 
be inspected on a regular basis, to combat the 
tendency to neglect emergency equipment of this 

Monthly Inspection. At least once a month, 
each fixed CO2 system should be checked to en- 
sure that nothing has been stowed so as to inter- 
fere with the operation of the equipment or with 

access to its controls. All nozzles and piping 
should be checked for obstruction by paint, oil 
or other substances. The semi-portable hose-reel 
horn valve should be operated several times. Any 
damaged equipment must be replaced immedi- 

Annual Inspection. It is recommended that a 
qualified fire protection technician or engineer 
make the annual inspection. Each year all the 
cylinders should be weighed, and the weights re- 
corded on the record sheet. If a weigh bar is not 
installed above any cylinder, the cylinder must 
be placed on a scale for weighing. The full and 
empty weights of each cylinder are stamped on 
the cylinder valve. A cyclinder is considered satis- 
factory if its weight is within 10% of the stamped 
full weight of the charge. 

Removing Charged Cylinders. When charged 
cylinders are to be removed from service, the dis- 
charge must be disconnected first. This eliminates 
the possibility of accidentally discharging the 
cylinders. Here is the recommended procedure 
for a typical system: 

1 . Remove the discharge heads from all cylin- 
der valves by loosening the mounting nuts, 
which have right-hand threads. On instal- 
lations of more than one cylinder, allow 
the discharge heads to hang on the loops. 

2. Remove all the control heads from the cyl- 
inder valves by loosening the right-hand- 
threaded mounting nuts. 

3. Screw a large top protection cap onto the 
threads on top of the cylinder valve. Screw 
a side protection cap onto the cylinder- 
valve control-head outlet. 

4. Remove the cylinder rack. 

5. Remove the cylinder. It is recommended 
that the cylinder cap be screwed on to pre- 
vent damage to the cylinder valve during 

Installing Charged Cylinders. When charged 
cylinders are placed in service, the discharge 
heads are replaced last. Here is the recommended 
procedure for a typical system: 

1. Place the fully charged cylinder in the cyl- 
inder rack before removing the cylinder 

2. Install the cylinder rack, and handtighten 
the bolts so that the cylinder may be ro- 
tated in place. 

3. Remove the cylinder cap and the top and 
side protection caps. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


21 "-Not Including 

Clearance for Operator 

Weighing Angle 

Adjustment Sleeve 

Sleeve , 

_ — — — -- -TO 

Discharge Head 

Control Heads 
Coupling Nut 

Initial Position 
Final Position 

8Va " Diameter Weighing 
Scale — Rotated 90° 
for Clearness 

Pointer Initial Position 

Finger Grip Ring 

Figure 9.24. Carbon dioxide cylinder weigh bar and its use. (Courtesy Walter Kidde and Company) 

4. Turn the cylinder so that the control-head 
outlet points in the proper direction. 
Tighten the cylinder rack bolts securely. 

5. Make certain that all control heads have 
been reset, as follows: 

a. Cable-operated control head: 

(1) Remove the cover from the control 

(2) Make sure the plunger is retracted 
below the surface of the control- 
head body. Then engage a few 
threads of the mounting nut onto 
the cylinder valve. 

(3) Retract the actuating roller as far 
as possible from the direction of 

(4) Replace the cover and locking pin, 
and install a new seal wire. (Note: 
When two control heads are con- 
nected in tandem, make certain 
both are completely reset before 
assembling them to the cylinder 

b. Lever-operated control head: 

(1) Return the lever to the set position, 
with the plunger fully retracted 
into the control-head body. 

(2) Replace the locking pin, and install 
a new seal wire. 

c. Pneumatic control head: 

(1) Insert a screwdriver into the reset 
stem. Turn it clockwise until the 
stem locks in position with the ar- 
row on the reset stem lined up with 
the set arrow on the nameplate. 
The plunger should be fully re- 
tracted into the control head body. 

(2) Replace the locking pin, and install 
a new seal wire. 

Reinstall the control head on the cylinder 
valve, tightening the mounting nut securely. 

Connect the discharge head to the cylin- 
der valve, tightening the mounting nut with 
a wrench that is at least 457 mm (18 in.) 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


Replacing Damaged Discharge Nozzles. If a 

discharge nozzle in a total-flooding system must 
be replaced, it should be replaced with a nozzle 
of the same size and discharge rate. Each dis- 
charge nozzle is installed to achieve a set dis- 
charge rate, and to ensure saturation of the space 
it protects in a certain length of time. The wrong 
nozzle can destroy the effectiveness of the system 
in the affected space. 


A halogenated extinguishing agent, Halon 1301, 
has been accepted by the Coast Guard for lim- 
ited use in fixed firefighting systems aboard U.S. 
ships. Halon 1301 is a very efficient extinguishing 
agent for fires involving flammable liquids and 
gases and live electrical equipment. It is a clean 
agent; its residue does not contaminate electrical 
contacts or circuits. It is a nonconductor of elec- 

Halon 1301 is a colorless, odorless gas. It may 
be toxic when exposed to flames. (This is taken 
into consideration in the engineering of Halon 
1301 systems.) When the flames are extinguished 
quickly, a minimal amount of toxic material is 
produced. Slow extinguishment allows increased 
production of toxic materials at levels that could 
be dangerous to personnel. 

The effectiveness of Halon 1301 as an extin- 
guishing agent comes from its ability to chemi- 
cally interrupt the combustion process. When ap- 
plied in the proper concentration and at the 
proper delivery rate (usually in less than 10 sec- 
onds), it extinguishes flames very rapidly. {See 
Chapter 7 for a discussion of the other properties 
of Halon 1301.) 

Halon 1301 System Requirements 

To be acceptable for use on U.S. ships, a Halon 
1301 system must be at least as reliable and effec- 
tive as the system it replaces. Most of the Halon 
1301 systems approved by the U.S. Coast Guard 
protect machinery spaces, turbine enclosures and 
pump rooms, where the usual petroleum products 
may be found. Halon 1301 systems are not yet 
approved for installation in the holds of ships 
carrying general cargo (usually class A materials.) 
The spaces for which Halon 1301 systems have 
been approved are those normally protected by 
COo systems. Thus, Halon 1301 systems must 
meet all the design requirements for CO2 total- 
flooding systems. These include 

1. Evacuation of all personnel from the pro- 
tected space before the extinguishing agent 
is discharged. (A warning alarm, audible 

above operating machinery, is required. 
Personnel must be protected from both 
Halon 1301 and its toxic decomposition 

2. Stowage of the extinguishing agent outside 
the protected space except for space less 
than 169.9 m 3 (6000 ft 3 ) and modular sys- 

3. Performance of two separate actions to 
activate the system. (Two pull boxes are 
used; one activates the pilot cylinders and 
one controls the stop valve, as in the CO2 

4. Manual activation of the system, except 
for spaces with a volume less than 169.9 m 3 
(6000 ft 3 ). (Systems for these smaller 
spaces may be activated automatically, and 
the extinguishing agent may be stowed 
within the protected space. However, an 
automatic system must also be capable 
of manual operation.) 

5. Posting of detailed instructions for activat- 
ing alternate means of discharging the sys- 
tem at the remote release station. 

Two types of Halon 1301 fire extinguishing 
systems have been approved by the Coast Guard. 
One, the preengineered type, includes a system 
approved for limited installation in unmanned 
spaces on hydrofoil craft (maximum volume of 
63.7 m 3 (2250 ft 3 ) and uninspected pleasure 
craft. The other, the engineered type, includes 
systems installed on merchant vessels. 

Engineered Halon 1301 Systems 

The engineered system is a total-flooding system. 
The Halon 1301 extinguishing agent is contained 
in cylinders in liquid form. It is pressurized with 
dry nitrogen to a pressure of 2482 or 4137 kilo- 
pascals (360 or 600 psi) at 21°C (70°F). The 
cylinders are stowed outside the protected space, 
in an area whose temperature is maintained be- 
tween -29°C and 54.4°C (-20°F-130°F). The 
bulkheads if contiguous separating the cylinders 
from the protected space must be A-60 bulk- 

The cylinders are connected to a manifold that, 
in turn, is connected to piping leading to the pro- 
tected space. All cylinders on a common manifold 
must be of the same size and must contain the 
same quantity of Halon 1301. This ensures equal 
flows from all cylinders. The cylinders should be 
adequately supported. Each cylinder must have 
a pressure relief device and a pressure gauge. 
Figure 9.25 shows one of the general arrange- 
ments of Halon 1301 cylinders approved by the 
U.S. Coast Guard. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 



Discharge Manifold 

(50lb./Min. Per Cylinder) 


Figure 9.25. A U.S. Coast Guard approved arrangement for Halon 1301 cylinders in a manually operated engineered extin- 
guishing system. 1) Line to pressure-operated alarm. 2) Line to pressure-operated switches. 3) Time delay. 4) Valve capable of 
manual operations. 5) Pressure-operated valve (cannot be operated manually). 6) Check valve. 

Extinguishing-Agent Discharge Requirements. 

Enough Halon 1301 must be available to provide 
a minimum concentration of 6% of the gross 
volume of the protected space. A concentration 
of 7% may be required for the effective extin- 
guishment of fires involving most marine fuels. 

Both liquid and gaseous Halon 1301 flow 
through the piping to protected areas. Thus, the 
flow rates and piping sizes must be carefully com- 
puted when the system is designed. In addition, 
the system must be "balanced" so that all spaces 
that may require simultaneous discharge are ade- 
quately served. 

Controls. A remote release (pull-box) station is 
required for each protected space. It should be 
located close to one exit from that space. Posted 
instructions at the release station should describe 
how to activate the system from the station. They 
should also describe an alternative means of ac- 
tivating the system in case the remote release fails. 
The instructions should be in large print and 
easily understood. 

A warning device, actuated by pressure from 
the Halon 1301 system, must sound an alarm 
when the agent is about to be discharged into the 
protected space. The discharge must be delayed, 
to give personnel sufficient time to evacuate the 
space before the Halon 1301 is released. A sign 

should be posted at the warning device, explain- 
ing its purpose. In addition, a sign must be posted 
at each entrance to each protected space. The 
sign must warn crew members not to enter the 
space without breathing apparatus after the sys- 
tem has been activated. 

A schematic diagram of the entire system 
should be posted in the Halon 1301 storage room. 
Each section of the system should be numbered, 
color coded or identified by name. The valves 
controlling these sections should be similarly 
identified. Instructions for activating the system 
should be posted in the storage room and at each 
pull box or stop valve. Again, the instructions 
should be in large print and easily understood. 
They should indicate which valves must be op- 
erated to activate each section of the system. 

Ventilation. If a protected space is ventilated 
mechanically, the ventilation system must be 
automatically shut down by the release of the 
Halon 1301. Time must be allowed for fans and 
motors to stop rotating before the agent is re- 
leased into the space. There must be some pro- 
vision for sealing off points where the Halon 
1301 could escape from the protected space. If 
this is not done, the concentration of the agent 
can be reduced below the effective level. Addi- 
tional Halon must be provided, to make up for 
any leakage. 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


If a diesel or gasoline engine draws air from 
the protected space, the engine must be shut 
down before the extinguishing agent is released. 
Otherwise, the Halon 1301 would be decomposed 
by the high pressure and temperature within the 
engine. An automatic shutoff, activated by the 
extinguishing system, is required. 

Inspection and Maintenance. If any system is 
to perform properly in an emergency, it must be 
inspected at intervals and maintained as neces- 
sary. Halon 1301 systems should be checked as 

1. The cylinders should be weighed periodi- 
cally. A weight loss of 5% or more indi- 
cates that the affected cylinder should be 
replaced or recharged. 

2. The cylinder pressures should also be 
checked periodically. Table 9.2 gives nor- 
mal pressures for a range of ambient tem- 
peratures. A pressure loss of 10% or more 
(for a given temperature) indicates that 
the affected cylinder must be recharged or 

3. Remote release levers, cables and pulleys 
should be checked to ensure smooth opera- 

4. Automatic switches and warning alarms 
should be checked to verify that they are 
operating properly. 

5. Halon 1301 cylinders should be hydro- 
statically tested every 12 years. 


Ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk are now 
being fitted with a dry chemical fire extinguishing 
system to conform with IMCO and U.S. Coast 
Guard recommendations and regulations. The 
system is used to protect the cargo deck area and 
all loading-station manifolds on the ship (see Fig. 
10.19). Each deck system is actually made up of 

several independent skid-mounted units (Fig. 
9.26). The units are placed on deck so that they 
protect overlapping areas. The units are self- 
contained firefighting systems that use dry 

Components of the Skid-Mounted Unit 
(A Typical System) 

Each unit consists of a large capacity storage 
tank holding up to 1361 kg (3000 lb) of dry 
chemical 11.3 m 3 (400-ft 3 ) capacity nitrogen 
cylinders (6-8 per skid) and 30.5-45.7 m (100- 
150 ft) of lined, round rubber hose on reels. The 
unit can be fitted with a turret nozzle and several 
handlines. In some systems, handlines are used 
exclusively; in this case, up to six handline sta- 
tions can be supplied, by each unit. Generally, 
the hose reels are mounted on the unit. However, 
in some installations, remote handlines are con- 
nected to the unit via piping. The hoselines are 
equipped with special On-Off controlled nozzles. 

IMCO requires that monitor turrets have a 
discharge rate of not less than 10 kg/sec (22 lb/ 
sec), and handline nozzles not less than 3.5 
kg/sec (7.7 lb/sec). The maximum nozzle dis- 
charge rate is set by the requirement that one man 
be able to control the handline. The U.S. Coast 
Guard has adopted the recommendations of 
IMCO as at least its minimum standards. 

The monitor-turret range required by IMCO 
is based on the discharge rate: 


maximum capacity 

Maximum reach 

kg/sec (lb/sec) 


10 (22) 

10 (33) 

25 (55.4) 

30 (99) 

45 (99) 


A handline is considered to have a range equal 
to its length. The actual coverage is affected when 
the target is above the nozzle. Wind conditions 
also affect coverage. 

Table 9.2. Normal Halon 1301 Extinguishing System Cylinder Pressure as Related to Temperature. 


Cylinder pressure 

2482-kilopascals (360-psi) 4137-kilopascals (600-psi) 

system system 

4.4 (40) 

10 (50) 

16 (60) 

21 (70) 

27 (80) 

32 (90) 

38 (100) 

2068 (300) 
2275 (330) 
2482 (360) 
2723 (395) 
2965 (430) 
3241 (470) 

3447 (500) 
3654 (530) 
3896 (565) 
4137 (600) 
4413 (640) 
4688 (680) 
5033 (730) 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 9.26. Typical skid-mounted dry chemical deck unit. (Courtesy Ansul Company) 

A sufficient quantity of dry chemical should be 
stored on each unit to provide at least 45 seconds 
of continuous discharge through all its monitors 
and handline. 

How the System Works 

When fire is discovered, each skid-mounted unit 
is activated manually. The nitrogen cylinder 
valve is opened to release the nitrogen propel- 
lent. The nitrogen flows into the dry chemical 
storage tank through a perforated aerating tube. 
The holes in the tube are covered with rubber, so 
that nitrogen can flow into the tank but dry chem- 
ical cannot enter the tube. The action is similar 
to that of a check valve. The nitrogen cylinder 
valve is calibrated to release dry chemical to the 
nozzles at the proper rate. The hose should always 
be stowed with the nozzle in the closed position, 
since the dry chemical flows to the nozzle as soon 
as the nitrogen is released. 

Activating and operating details vary with dif- 
ferent units and manufacturers. In each case, the 
manufacturer's instructions should be followed 
carefully. Most important, and common to all sys- 
tems, is the need to get the skid units into opera- 
tion quickly when fire occurs. For this, standard 
activation procedures must be practiced. Emer- 
gency procedures, which are used in case the 
nitrogen valve does not operate properly, must 
also be practiced. 

Firefighting Operations 

If a handline is to be used, its entire length should 
be pulled off the reel. This ensures a smooth flow 
of dry chemical and provides enough hose for 
maneuvering at the fire. The handline-nozzle 
lever has two operating positions: When the lever 
is pushed forward, the nozzle is closed. When the 
lever is pulled back, the nozzle is open. 

The flow of dry chemical into the turret noz- 
zle is controlled by a turret control valve. The 
valve must be opened by the turret nozzleman 
when he is in position. (Some turret nozzles can 
be activated and controlled from a remote sta- 
tion. Remote operating procedures are given in 
the manufacturer's instruction manual.) Streams 
from both handlines and turrets are directed onto 
fires in the same way. 

To fight a spill fire, the stream should be aimed 
at the base of the fire and moved back and forth 
in a sweeping action. When a turret and hand- 
lines are used together, the turret stream should 
be used to quickly knock down the bulk of the 
flames. The handlines should be directed at the 
flanks of the fire. 

Hoselines from the fire-main system should be 
run out and charged with water. However, water 
streams should not be directed into the fire unless 
it is absolutely necessary. Initially, they should be 
used to protect personnel from the radiant heat, 
which can be very intense. If possible, the flames 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


should be extinguished or confined to a small 
area by the use of dry chemical only. Then, water 
streams can be directed into the area to cool hot 

In combating a combustible liquid or gas pres- 
sure fire, the streams should be directed into the 
source of the escaping fuel. The velocity of the 
fuel will carry the extinguishing agent to the 
flames. It is important, however, to remember 
that gas leak fires are usually not extinguished, 
but only controlled until the leak can be stopped. 
The flames may have to be extinguished if they 
block the path to the shutoff valve or when lives 
are in jeopardy. If the flames are extinguished, 
the area should be kept saturated with water fog 
until the leak is stopped. 

Blowdown and Recharging 

After the fire is completely extinguished and the 
master has declared the area safe, the skid units 
should be restored to "standby" condition. Dry 
chemical should be blown out of all handlines 
and piping. Otherwise, it will cake up within the 
lines and restrict the flow of agent during the next 
use. The dry chemical tank should be refilled 
with the proper agent. The nitrogen cylinders 
should be replaced, and the remote and pneu- 
matic actuators reset. 

It is very important that this blowdown and 
recharging procedure be performed exactly as 
described by the manufacturer. Some parts of 
the procedure can be dangerous if the operating 
manual is not followed carefully. 

Inspection and Maintenance 

Every skid-mounted unit should be checked each 
week to ensure that it is in operation condition. 
The weekly inspection should include the follow- 

1. Check the dry chemical tank and all com- 
ponents subjected to the weather for me- 
chanical damage and corrosion. 

2. Check the readability of the plates that give 
operating instructions. 

3. Ensure that the cylinder gauges register 
properly, according to the operating man- 

4. Check the dry chemical level to ensure that 
the tank is filled properly. The fill cap, if 
provided, should be hand-tightened only 
when it is replaced. 

5. Check that all reels are in the unlocked 
position. Pull several feet of hose off each 
reel, to ensure that the reel moves freely. 

6. Check the handline nozzles for obstruc- 
tions, and operate their levers to check for 
free movement. In replacing a hose on the 
reel, make sure the nozzle is secured and 
the lever is in the closed position. 

7. Make sure all tank valve handles have their 
ring pins and are sealed in the operating 

Other inspection and maintenance steps may be 
detailed in the operating manual. Replacement 
parts should be installed in strict compliance with 
the manufacturer's instructions. 


Three areas within the galley are especially sub- 
ject to fire. These are 

1. The cooking area, including the frying 
griddles, broilers, deep-fat fryers and ovens. 

2. The area immediately behind the filter 
screens, called the "plenum" 

3. The duct system that vents heated gases. 

Fires in the cooking area can be serious. How- 
ever, since they are out in the open, they usually 
can be extinguished completely. Fires in the 
plenum and the duct system are of most concern. 
Even after such fires are apparently extinguished, 
there may still be some fire hidden from view, or 
the fire may have extended out of the duct and 
into nearby compartments. For this reason, auto- 
matic fire extinguishing systems should be in- 
stalled to protect all parts of the range, plenum 
and ducts. Three types of systems are discussed 
in this section. 

Fire Prevention 

Ventilation plays a critical part in protecting the 
range area against fire. The function of the ex- 
haust blower is not simply to remove odors; its 
main function is to move sufficient air to keep 
the entire facility at a safe operating temperature. 
The blowers and the airflows (under the hood and 
in the ducts) are designed to keep the temperature 
from exceeding 93 °C (200°F). 

Maintenance and cleanliness are also very im- 
portant. Electric circuits and gas lines must be 
kept in good condition. Filters should be cleaned 
often. The filters remove grease and oils from the 
smoke generated by the cooking process. When 
these substances remain on the filters, they react 
chemically. The reactions produce flammable sub- 
stances, which are a fire hazard. In addition, 
clogged filters restrict the flow of ventilating air, 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

so that the temperature rises above the safe level. 
The result is usually a fire. 

Dry Chemical Galley Range System 

The dry chemical galley system is composed of a 
pressurized dry chemical cylinder, piping, noz- 
zles and detectors. There are two sets of piping, 
one in front of the filters over the cooking sur- 
face, and one behind the plenum and in the duct- 
ing (Fig. 9.27). The proper types and locations 
of piping and nozzles are determined by fire pro- 
tection engineers. The nozzles are covered with 
blowout seals so that they cannot become clogged 
with grease. 

Several types of fire detectors can be used. The 
system in Figure 9.27 has several fixed tempera- 
ture fusible links connected by stainless steel 
cable. The links and cable are connected to a 
stretched spring. If any fusible link melts, the 
cable releases the spring, which closes an electric 
circuit. The resulting current opens the valve of 
the dry chemical cylinder, releasing its entire con- 
tents into the system. 

Such galley range systems can usually be acti- 
vated manually, as well as automatically. Manual 

controls are normally located near the range and 
at a remote location, preferably near an exit door. 
Either manual or automatic activation should 
also trigger alarms in the galley and in the engine 

The exhaust blower should not be shut down 
when the system is activated. It helps to dis- 
tribute the dry chemical through the ducting, 
thereby increasing the fire coverage. However, 
the burner gas or electrical system should be shut 
down when the extinguishing system is activated. 

Carbon Dioxide Galley System 

The carbon dioxide system may be used to pro- 
tect galley ranges, deep-fat fryers and ducting. 
The system is composed of one of two CO2 cyl- 
inders, detectors, piping and discharge heads. 
Most automatic CO2 galley systems use fusible- 
link detectors. As with all shipboard systems, a 
manual activating device must be provided; it is 
usually placed at an exit from the galley. 

Fires in the enclosed ducting or plenum are 
extinguished mainly by smothering. However, a 
range top or deep-fat fryer fire cannot be extin- 
guished by smothering alone, because the fire is 


Exhaust Duct 

Control Panel 

Power Shut-Off 

Dry Chemical 


Figure 9.27. Typical automatic dry-chemical galley range system. 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


not confined. The required CO2 concentration 
cannot be maintained in these cases. Rather than 
smothering alone, the CO2 system extinguishes 
fire by a combination of oxygen dilution and 
high-velocity discharge of the gas. (The latter 
action may be compared to blowing out the flame 
of a match with your breath.) 

The position and height of the nozzle over the 
stove, its angle, the velocity of the CO2 discharge 
and the number of nozzles installed are quite 
critical to the effectiveness of the system. It is 
essential that the nozzles are not moved or tamp- 
ered with in any way. 

When activated, some CO2 systems automati- 
cally shut off the supply of power or fuel to the 
galley range; others do not. This supply must be 
shut off in case of fire. If it is not done automati- 
cally, then galley personnel should do so man- 
ually, as part of their emergency procedures. 

Galley Ventilator Washdown System 

The main function of the ventilator washdown 
system is to prevent ducting fires by keeping the 
galley ductwork clean. In the event of a range 
fire, the system also protects the ductwork from 
fire spread. It is, thus, both a fire prevention and 
firefighting system that can help eliminate a 
troublesome fire hazard. 

Ductwork Cleaning Action. When the range is 
being used for cooking, grease-laden air from 
the cooking area enters the ventilator duct. The 
air is forced to curve back and forth around sev- 
eral baffles at high speed (Fig. 9.28). This zigzag 
motion tends to throw the grease and any lint and 
dust out of the airstream and onto the ducting 
and baffles. From there, it flows to a grease-col- 
lecting gutter. When the day's cooking is done, 
the grease is automatically washed out of the col- 
lecting gutter. Nozzles in the ducting spray a solu- 
tion of detergent in hot water onto the gutter. 
The scrubbing action of this spray washes the 
grease through a drain to a holding tank. The net 
result is ductwork that is free of fuel for a fire. 

Ductwork Fire Protection. If fire occurs on the 
range, heat detectors actuate a damper and turn 
on the washdown spray system. These actions 
prevent the fire from entering the ductwork. Ac- 
tivation of a thermostat causes the following 
(Fig. 9.29): 

1. The fire damper baffle is closed. This stops 
the natural draft through the ventilator 
duct and prevents flames and hot gases 
from entering the duct. 

2. The exhaust blowers are automatically 
shut down. 






Figure 9.28. Galley ventilator washdown system. During 
normal operation, grease-laden air passes around a series of 
baffles, where the grease is removed. 



Damper Control 

Figure 9.29. The fire damper system. A. Normal operation. 
B. During a fire. When the thermostat senses fire, the fire 
damper baffle is closed and the spray nozzles are activated. 
This keeps fire out of the ductwork. (Courtesy Gaylord 
Industries, Inc.) 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

3. Water is sprayed through the interior of the 
ventilator duct, to smother any fire that 
may have extended into the duct. The 
cleaning system spray nozzles are used for 
this purpose. The water spray continues as 
long as the temperature in the duct is over 
121 °C (250°F). When the duct cools be- 
low that temperature, the spray system 
goes through one normal wash cycle and 
then shuts off automatically. 

After the fire is extinguished, the system is put 
back into operation by resetting the fire damper 
baffle and turning on the exhaust blowers. 


Although the inert gas system is not a fire extin- 
guishing system, it is designed to prevent fires 
and explosions. With few exceptions, every tank 
ship of 100,000 or more dead weight tonnage, 
and with a keel-laying date of January 1, 1975, 
or later, must have an inert gas system. The sys- 
tem must be capable of supplying to the cargo 
tanks a gas mixture with an oxygen content of 
5% or less by volume. It must be operated as 
necessary to maintain an inert atmosphere in the 
cargo tanks except during gas freeing operations. 
The system must eliminate fresh air in the cargo 
tanks except when they are being freed of gas. 
It must be capable of maintaining an inert at- 
mosphere in tanks that are being mechanically 

The inert gas system is composed of a gas gen- 
erator, a scrubber, blowers, distribtuion lines, 
valves, instrumentation, alarms and controls. 

Inert Gas Generator 

The inert gas generator may be an automatic oil- 
fired auxiliary burner. It must be capable of sup- 
plying inert gas at 125% of the combined maxi- 
mum rated capacities of all cargo pumps that can 
be operated simultaneously. It must also be able 
to maintain a gas pressure of 100 mm (4 in.) of 
water on filled cargo tanks during loading and 
unloading operations. 

Gas Scrubber 

If the inert gas produced by the generator is 
heated or contaminated, scrubbers are required. 
The scrubbers (or other similar devices) must be 
installed to cool the gas and reduce its content 
of solid and sulphurous combustion products. 
Water for the scrubbers must be supplied by at 
least two sources. The use of this water must not 
interfere with the simultaneous use of any ship- 
board firefighting system. 


The system must include at least two independ- 
ent blowers. Together, the blowers must be 
capable of delivering inert gas at 125% of the 
combined maximum rated capacities of all cargo 
pumps that can be operated simultaneously. They 
must be designed so that they cannot exert more 
than the maximum design pressure on the cargo 

Gas Distribution Line and Valves 

The inert gas main must be fitted with two non- 
return devices, one of which must be a water 
seal. This water seal must be maintained at an 
adequate level at all times. 

There must be an automatic shutoff valve fitted 
to the gas main where it leaves the production 
plant. Every shutoff valve must be designed to 
close automatically if the blowers fail. 

Stop valves must be fitted in each branch pipe 
at each cargo tank. These valves must give a 
visual indication as to whether they are opened 
or closed. 


Sensors must be fitted downstream of the blowers 
and connected to the following instruments: 

1. An oxygen-concentration indicator and 
permanent recorder 

2. A pressure indicator and permanent re- 

3. A temperature indicator. 

Each of these instruments must operate continu- 
ously while inert gas is being supplied to the tanks. 
Readouts of oxygen concentration, pressure and 
temperature must be provided at the cargo con- 
trol station and at the location of the person in 
charge of the main propulsion machinery. 

Each ship that has an inert gas system must 
carry portable instruments for measuring concen- 
trations of oxygen and hydrocarbon vapor in an 
inert atmosphere. 

Alarms and Controls 

Every inert gas system must include the following 
alarms and automatic controls; the alarms must 
sound at the location of the controls for the main 
propulsion machinery: 

1. An alarm that gives audible and visual 
warnings when the oxygen content of the 
inert gas exceeds 8% by volume. 

2. An alarm that gives audible and visual 
warnings when the gas pressure in the inert 
gas main downstream of all nonreturn de- 
vices is less than 101.6 mm (4 in.) of 

Fixed Fire- Extinguishing Systems 


3. An alarm that gives audible and visual 
warnings (and a control that automatically 
shuts off the blowers) when the normal 
water supply at the water seal is lost. 

4. An alarm that gives audible and visual 
warnings (and a control that shuts off the 
blowers) when the temperature of the inert 
gas being delivered to the cargo tanks is 
higher than 65.6°C (150°F). 

5. An alarm that gives audible and visual 
warnings (and a control that automatically 
shuts off the blowers) when the normal 
cooling water supply to any scrubber is 


Steam smothering systems for firefighting are not 
installed on U.S. ships contracted on or after Jan- 
uary 1, 1962. Vessels equipped with these sys- 
tems may continue to use them. The systems may 
be repaired or altered, provided that the original 
standards are maintained. 

Steam for a smothering system may be gen- 
erated by the main or auxiliary boilers. The steam 
pressure should be at least 690 kilopascals (100 
psi). The boilers should be capable of supplying 
at least 1.3 kg of steam per hour per m 3 (1 lb of 
steam per hour per 12 ft 3 ) of the largest cargo 


The steam supply line from the boiler to any 
manifold must be large enough to supply all the 
branch lines to the largest compartment and all 
adjacent compartments. The distribution piping 
from the manifold to the branch lines must have 
a cross-sectional area approximately equal to the 
combined cross-sectional areas of all the branch 

lines it serves. There must be provisions for drain- 
ing the manifolds and distribution lines to prevent 
them from freezing. 

The steam piping must not run into or through 
spaces that are accessible to passengers or crew 
members while the vessel is being navigated. The 
piping may, however, run through machinery 
spaces and corridors. Wherever possible, the pip- 
ing for dry-cargo spaces, pump rooms, paint and 
lamp lockers and similar spaces must be inde- 
pendent of the piping for bulk cargo tanks. 

Valves and Controls 

The steam supply line to each manifold must be 
fitted with a master valve at the manifold. The 
branch line to each compartment must be fitted 
with a shutoff valve. The valve must be clearly 
marked to indicate the protected space. 

On vessels the valves leading to cargo tanks 
must be open at all times. Thus, in case of fire, 
it is only necessary to open the master valve to 
ensure a flow of steam into each tank. The valves 
leading to tanks not involved in the fire may then 
be closed. On cargo vessels, the master valve is 
always open, and the valves leading to individual 
compartments are closed. 

All controls and valves for operating the steam 
smothering system must be located outside the 
protected space. They may not be located in any 
space that might be cut off or made inaccessible 
by fire in the protected space. The control valves 
for the pump room extinguishing system must be 
located next to the pump room exit. 

Steam Outlets 

In the pump room, the steam outlets must be 
located just above the floor plates. In cargo holds, 
the outlets must be placed in the lower portion 
of each cargo hold or 'tween deck. 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 


Navigation and Vessel Circular No. 6-72|Change 1). 
United States Coast Guard. February 28, 1977 

Fire Fighting Manual For Tank Vessels. CG-329. 
United States Coast Guard. January 1, 1974 

National Fire Protection Association Standard 12-A, 
Boston, Mass., 1977 

National Fire Protection Association Handbook. 
14th ed. Boston, NFPA, 1976 

A Manual for the Safe Handling of Inflammable and 
Combustible Liquids and other Hazardous Pro- 
ductions. CG-174. United States Coast Guard. 
June 1, 1975 

Bahme, CW: Fire Officer's Guide to Extinguishing 
Systems. Boston, NFPA, 1970 

Bryan, JL: Fire Suppression and Detection Systems. 
Los Angeles, Glencoe Press, 1974 

Haessler, WM: What You Should Know About Car- 
bon Dioxide Fire Extinguishing Systems. Norris 

Industries Fire and Safety Equipment Division. 
Newark, N.J., 1969 

Kidde Instruction Manuals for Smoke Detecting Sys- 
tems and Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishing Sys- 
tem. Walter Kidde and Co., Inc. Belleville, N.J. 

Foam Protection for Tank Vessels (Section X), Na- 
tional Foam System, Inc. Lionville, Pa. 

Design Manual for SK-3000 Dry Chemical Extin- 
guishing System. The Ansul Company. Marinette, 
Wis., 1976 

Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 6-72: 
Guide to Fixed Fire-Fighting Equipment Aboard 
Merchant Vessels. U.S. Coast Guard. Washing- 
ton, D.C., 1972 

Ansul Company Operating and Maintenance Man- 
uals. Marinette, Wise. 

National Foam Systems, Inc. Technical Bulletins, 
Operating and Maintenance Manuals. Lionville, 

Combating th€ fire 

Ship fires are among the most difficult to control. 
The variety of fuels aboard ship and the ways in 
which their combustion products can hamper 
firefighting operations have already been dis- 
cussed. In addition, the ship's configuration com- 
plicates extinguishment. If the fire is located in a 
below-deck compartment, it will be surrounded 
by steel decks and bulkheads; the space will be 
difficult, if not impossible, to ventilate. Materials 
burning in a lower cargo hold may be impossible 
to reach, since everything stowed above the fire 
would have to be removed. This is very imprac- 
tical, especially if the ship is at sea. Fires located 
on weather decks may be easier to reach, but fire- 
fighting operations could be complicated by ad- 
verse wind conditions. 

What is actually burning determines the appro- 
priate type of extinguishing agent, but the location 
of the fire dictates the method of attack. In some 
instances the fire location determines both the 
extinguishing agent and the attack method. Cargo 
hold fires are an obvious example; they are fought 
with CO2 rather than water, even when class A 
fuels are involved. The method of attack is an 
indirect one that is somewhat unique to cargo 
hold fires. 

An important question is: How should the crew 
attack a certain type of fire in a certain location 
aboard ship? Part of the answer has been pre- 
sented in the last two chapters; part is presented 
in this chapter. No one answer or set of answers 
will fit every ship exactly. Instead, the master 
must answer that question for his own ship; and, 
based on the ship's configuration, her crew size 
and the firefighting equipment she carries, a pre- 
fire plan must be developed for each space on the 
ship. A prefire plan is exactly what its name in- 
dicates — a plan for fighting fire that is worked out 
before a fire actually occurs. The concept of pre- 
fire planning is hard to disagree with, yet many 
ships do not have such a plan. 

The firefighting procedures discussed in this 
chapter require teamwork, which can only be 
developed through constant drill. Prefire plans 
should be the basis for weekly fire drills and, thus, 
for developing coordination among personnel. 
This is especially important on ships with a large 
turnover of personnel. 


The initial procedures are those that must be 
performed before actual firefighting operations 
begin. The most important are, obviously, sound- 
ing the alarm and reporting the location of the 

Sounding the Alarm 

The crew member who discovers the fire or the 
indication of fire must sound the alarm promptly. 
This point has been stressed in previous chapters, 
but it bears repeating. A delay in sounding the 
alarm usually allows a small fire to become a 
large fire. Once a fire gains intensity, it spreads 
swiftly. No crew member — no one on a ship — 
should ever attempt to fight a fire, however small 
it may seem, until the alarm has been turned in. 
Of course, if two or more people discover the fire, 
only one is required to sound the alarm. The 
others should stay and attempt to extinguish the 
fire with available equipment. A small fire in a 
metal wastebasket could be covered with a non- 
combustible lid, if readily available, before the 
crewman who discovered it leaves to report the 

All fires must be reported, even if self-extin- 
guished (that is, the fire goes out by itself from 
lack of fuel or oxygen). The resulting investiga- 
tion could uncover defects or conditions which, 

when corrected, would prevent future fires. 




Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Reporting the Fire Location 

The crewman who sounds the alarm must be 
sure to give the exact location of the fire, includ- 
ing compartment and deck level. This is important 
for several reasons. First, it confirms the location 
for the ship's fire party. Second, it gives them 
information regarding the type of fire to expect. 
Third, the exact location may indicate the need 
to shut down certain ventilation systems. Finally, 
it indicates what doors and hatches must be closed 
to isolate the fire. 

Precautionary Measures. If flames can be seen, 
the location of the fire is obvious. However if 
only smoke is evident, the fire may be hidden be- 
hind a bulkhead or a compartment door. Then, 
certain precautions must be observed during at- 
tempts to find its exact location. 

Before a compartment or bulkhead door is 
opened to check for fire, the door should be ex- 
amined. Discolored or blistered paint indicates 
fire behind the door. Smoke puffing from cracks 
at door seals or where wiring passes through the 
bulkhead is also an indication of fire (Fig. 10.1). 
The bulkhead or door should be touched with a 
bare hand. If it is hotter than normal, it is prob- 
ably hiding the fire. 

Once a hidden fire has been located, the door 
to the area should not be opened until help and 
a charged hoseline are at hand. A fire burning in 
an enclosed space consumes the oxygen within 
that space. The fire seeks additional oxygen, and 
a newly opened door presents it with a generous 
supply. When the door is opened, air is pulled 

through the opening to feed the fire. As a result, 
the fire usually grows in size with explosive force. 
Flames and superheated gases are then forced 
violently out through the opening. Anyone in its 
path could be severely burned. If the fire is not 
attacked with a hoseline, it can travel through the 
area uncontrolled. The longer the fire has been 
burning, undetected, the more dangerous the situ- 
ation will be. Therefore, cool the door with water 
before opening. Have everyone stand clear of 
the door to the side opposite the hinges. Always 
open the door from a position clear of the open- 
ing and opposite the hinges. 


Fire travels via the radiation, conduction and 
convection of heat {see Chapter 4). For the most 
part, these processes will extend the fire laterally 
and upward: laterally along passageways and 
ducting, and upward through hatches and stair- 
ways. In certain situations, fire will also travel 
downward, through ducting or through deck 
plates (by conduction). Burning embers, dropping 
from one deck to another, provide a more dan- 
gerous method of downward fire extension 
(Fig. 10.2). 

Every fire will extend to new sources of fuel 
and oxygen if these sources are available. In this 
respect, all fires are similar. However, the path 
through which a particular fire extends will de- 
pend on the location of the fire and the construc- 
tion features of surrounding spaces. These factors 
must, therefore, be taken into account when the 

Door is Warped 
Smoke is Pushing Through Cracks 

Bulkhead is Hot to Touch 

Paint is Discolored or is Blistering 

Figure 10.1. Some signs of hidden fire. The door should not be opened if any of these signs is found. 

Combating the Fire 


By Convection 

By Conduction 

By Dropping 

Figure 10.2. The processes by which fire travels aboard ship. Fire will spread upward and laterally where possible, and down- 
ward in some situations. 

fire is attacked. In addition, the fuel and its com- 
bustion products will affect firefighting operations. 
For these reasons, no fire can be fought rou- 
tinely, although all fires must be fought system- 
atically. The procedures described in the next 
several sections should be part of every firefight- 
ing operation. The particular fire situation will 
dictate the order in which they are to be per- 
formed, whether some must be performed simul- 
taneously, and the amount of effort that should 
be devoted to each procedure. 


Sizeup is the evaluation of the fire situation. The 
on-scene leader should determine, as quickly as 

1. The class of fire (what combustible ma- 
terials are burning) 

2. The appropriate extinguishing agent 

3. The appropriate method of attack 

4. How to prevent extension of the fire 

5. The required manpower and firefighting 

A small fire might be extinguished by the first 
few crewmen to arrive; they would probably per- 
form a partial sizeup and begin the attack instinc- 

tively. Larger fires would require a coordinated 
attack, efficient use of manpower and equipment, 
thus, a more thorough assessment. During sizeup, 
or as soon thereafter as possible, communications 
and a staging area should be set up. 

Communications. Communications with the 
master should be established by phone or by mes- 
senger. Communications with firefighting teams 
must also be established and maintained. Mes- 
sengers would be best for this purpose, since tele- 
phone lines might be destroyed by the fire, and 
firefighters would be moving constantly. An in- 
ternal two-way radio system, if available, could 
be used to coordinate firefighting efforts. 

Staging Area. The staging area should be estab- 
lished in a smokefree area, as near as possible to 
the fire area. An open deck location, windward 
of the fire, would be ideal. However, if the fire is 
deep within the ship, the staging area should be 
located below deck. A location near a ship's 
telephone, if feasible, would be helpful in estab- 
lishing communication links. However, the stag- 
ing area should not be located where it might be 
endangered by the spread of fire. 

All the supplies needed to support the fire- 
fighting effort should be brought to the staging 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

area. These would include backup supplies of 
hose, nozzles and axes; spare cylinders for breath- 
ing apparatus; and portable lights. The staging 
area should also be used as the first aid station. 
The equipment required to render first aid to in- 
jured crewmen should be set up there. 


The attack should be started as soon as possible, 
to gain immediate control and to prevent or mini- 
mize the extension of fire to exposures. (Expo- 
sures are the areas of the ship that are adjacent 
to the fire area on all four sides and above and 
below.) The attack will be either direct or indi- 
rect, depending on the fire situation. Direct and 
indirect attacks differ widely in how they achieve 
extinguishment; both are efficient when properly 

Direct Attack. In a direct attack, firefighters ad- 
vance to the immediate fire area and apply the 
extinguishing agent directly into the seat of the 
fire. There may be no problem in getting to the 
immediate fire area if the fire is small and has 
not gained headway. However, as a fire increases 
in intensity, the heat, gases and smoke increase 
the difficulty of locating and reaching the seat of 
the fire. Once the fire has gained headway, a di- 
rect attack should be coupled with venting pro- 
cedures (see section on Ventilation). 

Indirect Attack. An indirect attack is employed 
when it is impossible for firefighters to reach the 
seat of the fire. Generally this is the case when 
the fire is in the lower portions of the vessel. The 
success of an indirect attack depends on complete 
containment of the fire. All possible avenues of 
fire travel must be cut off by closing doors and 
hatches and shutting down ventilation systems. 
The attack is then made from a remote location. 

One technique involves making a small open- 
ing into the fire space, inserting a nozzle, and 
injecting a spray (fog) pattern into the space. 
Heat converts the fog to steam, which acts as a 
smothering agent. Two things are essential for a 
successful attack of this type. First, the fire must 
be completely enclosed, so that the steam will 
reduce the oxygen content of the air around the 
fire. Second, the fire must be hot enough to con- 
vert the water to steam. 

Another indirect technique employs a smoth- 
ering agent such as carbon dioxide. The use of 
this technique in fighting cargo hold fires has 
already been mentioned. It is discussed in detail 
later in this chapter. 


Ventilation is the action taken to release com- 
bustion products trapped within the ship and vent 
them to the atmosphere outside the ship. Most 
fire fatalities do not result from burning, but 
rather from asphyxiation by combustion gases or 
lack of oxygen. Before smoke or heat becomes 
apparent, deadly carbon monoxide and other 
noxious gases seep into compartments. People 
who are asleep are easily overcome by these gases. 
However, if the fire is vented promptly and prop- 
erly, the smoke, heat and gases can be diverted 
away from potential victims and from uninvolved 

Ventilation is used only when a direct attack 
is made on the fire. During an indirect attack the 
fire area must be made as airtight as possible, to 
keep oxygen out and the extinguishing agent in. 

Vertical Ventilation. The smoke and hot gases 
generated by the fire should be vented to the out- 
side air if possible. As a fire intensifies, the com- 
bustion gases become superheated; if they are 
ignited, they will spread the fire very quickly. In 
the ideal situation, the gases are released at a 
point directly above the fire, as the extinguishing 
agent is brought to bear on the fire (Fig. 10.3). 
This ideal vertical ventilation is just about im- 
possible to achieve aboard ship, since there is 
rarely a direct upward route from the fire to the 
outside. In most instances, at least some hori- 
zontal ventilation is required. 

Horizontal Ventilation. Horizontal ventilation 
is achieved by opening windward and leeward 
doors to create an airflow through the spaces in 
which the combustion products are collecting. 
Fresh air flowing in through a windward doorway 
moves the combustion products out through the 
leeward doorways (Fig. 10.4). The leeward doors 
should always be opened first. Portholes should 
also be opened; however, small portholes are not 
very effective in removing smoke and heat. 

Combination Vertical and Horizontal Ventilation. 

When the fire is below deck, there may be some 
difficulty in moving smoke and heat out of the 
ship. In some instances, a combination of vertical 
and horizontal ventilation will work. A horizontal 
flow of air may sometimes be created over a hatch 
on the deck above the fire. This airflow can pro- 
duce a venturi effect that pulls smoke and heat 
upward from the lower deck (Fig. 10.5)!"A prop- 
erly placed portable fan will help move the air 
more rapidly. The doors to uninvolved areas 

Combating the Fire 


Figure 10.3. Vertical ventilation, directly upward from the fire to the atmosphere. 

Fresh Air 

Figure 10.4. Horizontal ventilation. Fresh air entering through windward doorways and portholes pushes heat and smoke out 
leeward doorways and portholes. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighling and Fire Safely 

Line Above Fire to Stop 
Fire From Traveling Upward 

Figure 10.5. Combination venting. An airflow is created above the fire. It pulls combustion products up from the involved 
deck and out the doorway. 

should be closed, to keep out contaminated air. 
These doors should remain closed until venting 
has been completed. 

Mechanical Ventilation. Smoke-contaminated 
air can be moved out of compartments, along 
passageways and up through deck openings with 
properly positioned portable fans (red devils). 
The fans should be placed to push and pull the 
air in order to establish an airflow from the con- 
taminated area to the outside. In some instances 
the ship's mechanical air intake system can be 
used in conjunction with portable fans. An 
alternative, if power fans are not available, is the 
use of a windsail. The windsail can be rigged to 
force clean air into the contaminated area while 
the ship is under way. The smoke then would ex- 
haust through natural "down stream" opening. 

Protecting Exposures 

Protecting exposures means preventing the fire 
from extending beyond the space in which it 
originated. If this can be accomplished, the fire 
can usually be controlled and extinguished with- 
out extensive damage. To protect exposures, the 
fire must virtually be surrounded on six sides; 
firefighters with hoselines or portable extin- 
guishers must be positioned to cover the flanks 

and the spaces above and below the fire. The offi- 
cer in charge must also consider fire travel 
through the venting system. Crewmen must be 
dispatched to examine and protect openings in 
the system through which fire might enter other 


The rescue of trapped personnel is an extremely 
important aspect of every firefighting operation. 
Rescue may be the first step in the operation, or 
it may be delayed because of adverse circum- 
stances. For example, suppose someone is trapped 
in a compartment that is located beyond the fire. 
If some firefighters can get past the fire while 
others control it, the rescue may be accomplished 
immediately. If the fire cannot be controlled 
easily, it may be best to attack and control the 
fire before attempting the rescue. 

The decision as to when to attempt a rescue is 
a difficult one. If the rescue attempt is delayed, a 
direct attack with fog could push the fire into the 
area where personnel are trapped; an indirect at- 
tack could generate enough steam to scald them. 
On the other hand, a holding action may be 
feasible while an alternative route is used to make 
the rescue. The decision involves the twofold 
problem of protecting lives and protecting the 

Combating the Fire 


vessel. This problem is not always solved by 
assuming that the lives of trapped persons are 
more important than the vessel. The vessel is, 
above all, the sanctuary of the crew. A delay in 
controlling the fire, due to imprudent rescue at- 
tempts, could result in an uncontrollable fire, 
loss of the vessel and forced abandonment. The 
fire situation could force a decision to attack the 
fire in a manner that might be detrimental to 
trapped personnel, but that would save the vessel 
and other crew members. 


Overhaul is begun after the main body of fire is 
extinguished. It is actually a combination of two 
procedures, an examination and a cleanup op- 

Overhaul can be a dangerous procedure. Rec- 
ords show that land-based firefighters are injured 
more during overhaul than during any other op- 
eration. This is attributed to a letdown after the 
fire is controlled, leading to a degree of careless- 
ness and a lack of regard for personal safety. 

Examination and Extinguishment. The objec- 
tives of the examination are to find and extinguish 
hidden fire and hot embers and to determine 
whether the fire has extended to other parts of 
the ship. This is an important aspect of firefight- 
ing that should be conducted as seriously as the 
attack on the fire. Overhaul personnel should 
make use of four senses — hearing, sight, touch 
and smell. They should trace the length of all duct 
systems, look into them, and touch and smell 
them, to determine the extent the fire has traveled. 
They should inspect all overhead spaces, decks 
and bulkheads in the same manner. They must 
be thorough and especially watchful where wiring 
or piping penetrates through bulkheads or decks; 
fire can travel through the smallest crevice. 

Any materials that might have been involved 
with fire, including mattresses, bales, crates and 
boxes should be pulled apart and examined. Ma- 
terials that might reignite, especially bedding, 
baled cotton and bolts of fabric, should be re- 
moved from the fire area. They should be placed 
on a weather deck, with a charged hoseline 
manned and ready to extinguish any new fire. 

Smoke-blackened seams and joints should be 
checked carefully. Areas that are charred, blis- 
tered or discolored by heat should be exposed 
until a clean area is found. If fire is discovered, 
the area should be wet down until it is completely 

Cleanup. At the same time debris should be 
cleaned up and free water should be removed. 

Any unsafe conditions should be corrected. For 
example, hanging lagging should be removed; 
boards with exposed nails should be picked up 
and placed in containers; hanging wires should 
be secured; and all debris should be removed, to 
make the fire area as safe as feasible. 

Dewatering. Free water can impair the stability 
of a vessel. Every effort should be made to limit 
the accumulation of water in large compartments 
and cargo holds. These efforts should begin with 
the use of water patterns that allow maximum 
cooling with minimal quantities of water; prefer- 
ence should be given to fog sprays over solid 
streams. Only as much water as is absolutely 
necessary should be used. 

As soon as water is used for extinguishment, 
unwatering procedures should be started. The 
lack of portable dewatering equipment on mer- 
chant ships may create a problem. If debris clogs 
the fixed piping system, it may be necessary to 
follow a rather complex backflooding procedure 
to clear the suction strainers. 

Structural Weakness. Steel plating and support 
members can be weakened considerably by high 
temperatures. This weakening may not be appar- 
ent unless there is visible deformation. In all cases 
where structural weakness is suspected, a careful 
inspection should be made. Weakened members 
should be supported by shoring or strongbacks. 

Fire Under Control 

A fire may be considered to be under control 

1 . The extinguishing agent is being applied to 
the seat of the fire; i.e., streams from initial 
lines (and backup lines if they were re- 
quired) have been able to penetrate to the 
seat of the fire and have effectively begun 
to cool it down. At this point, men with 
shovels should be able to turn over burned 
material to expose hidden fire. 

2. The main body of fire has been darkened. 
At this point, the fire cannot generate 
enough heat to involve nearby combustible 

3. All possible routes of fire extension have 
been examined or protected. This is, basi- 
cally, a combination of the exposure pro- 
tection and overhaul procedures discussed 

4. A preliminary search for victims has been 
completed. The preliminary search should 
be conducted at the same time as the fire 
attack, ventilation and exposure protection 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

procedures, if possible. As soon as the fire 
is under control, a second and more com- 
prehensive search should be undertaken. 
Areas that were charged with smoke and 
heat must be closely examined. Searchers 
must look in closets, under beds, behind 
furniture and drapes and under blankets. 
An unconscious person must be removed 
to fresh air immediately. If the person is 
not breathing, rescue breathing must be 
started immediately. 

Fire Out 

Before a fire can be declared completely out, the 
master of the vessel must be assured, by the on- 
scene leader, that certain essential steps have been 
taken. These include 

1. A thorough examination of the immediate 
fire area, to ensure that 

a. All paths of extension have been ex- 
amined and opened where necessary. 

b. Ventilation has been accomplished, and 
all smoke and combustion gases have 
been removed. 

c. The fire area is safe for men to enter 
without breathing apparatus. This can 
be verified by the use of a flame safety 
lamp or an oxygen indicator. (While 
an oxygen concentration of 16% will 
support life, it is wise to wait until a 
reading of 21% is obtained.) 

2. A complete overhaul of all burned material. 

3. The establishment of a rekindle watch. 
One crew member (more if the fire has been 
extensive) must be assigned to do nothing 
but check for reignition, and to sound the 
alarm if it occurs. A second crewman can 
be assigned to patrol the exposures and the 
paths of possible extension. 

4. The replacement or restoration of firefight- 
ing equipment. Used hose should be re- 
placed with dry hose. The used hose should 
then be cleaned, flushed, dried and rolled 
for storage. (This is especially important 
with unlined hose, which may be used any- 
where aboard ship except in machinery 
spaces.) Nozzles should be cleaned and in- 
stalled on the dry hoses. 

Portable extinguishers, whether partially 
or fully discharged, should be recharged 
or replaced. 

Breathing apparatus should be cleaned, 
facepieces sterilized and cylinders or can- 
nisters replaced. The entire unit should be 
stowed, ready for the next emergency. Ad- 

ditional cylinders or cannisters should be 
ordered at the first opportunity. 

If the sprinkler system was activated, the 
sprinkler heads (automatic type) should be 
replaced, and the system restored to serv- 
ice. Activated detection systems that must 
be reset should likewise be restored to 

5. A damage control check. A thorough ex- 
amination should be initiated to determine 
if the vessel has been damaged by the fire. 
The high temperatures associated with fire 
can cause decks, bulkheads and other struc- 
tural members of the ship to warp or be- 
come structurally unsound. When this 
occurs, temporary support should be pro- 
vided by shoring. Any other repairs neces- 
sary to the well-being of the vessel should 
be undertaken immediately. Any necessary 
dewatering operations should be started. 

6. A muster should be conducted to account 
for all ship's personnel. 


Soon after the fire is out and the fire protection 
equipment has been restored to service, a critique 
should be held. The critique need not be a formal 
affair; in fact, a good time to hold it is while 
crew members are having a cup of coffee before 
going back to their normal duties. 

The crew has just put out a fire on a ship at 
sea. This is quite an accomplishment, and they 
have every reason to be proud. However, while 
the details are still fresh in their minds, they 
should consider several questions: How could 
they have done better? More important, how 
could the fire have been prevented? If they had 
the same fire again tomorrow, would they fight 
it the same way? Could they have accomplished 
the same result with less physical punishment to 
firefighters? With less damage to the ship? 

All this should be discussed, along with any- 
thing else pertaining to the fire. The officer in 
charge should encourage suggestions and recom- 
mendations, and write them down. Worthwhile 
ideas should then be made a part of the prefire 


Coast Guard regulations require that a fire party 
be organized and trained on every U.S. flag ves- 
sel. The fire party may be broken up into several 
teams with different duties. The leader of the fire 
party should be an experienced officer with the 
authority to administer fire prevention training 
programs and to direct firefighting operations. 

Combating the Fire 


Hose Team 

One of the most important units within the fire 
party is the hose team. A hose team ideally should 
have four members to operate proficiently; the 
Coast Guard recommends at least two people for 
a 3.8-cm (IVi-in.) hoseline, and three people for 
a 6.4-cm (2Vi-in.) hoseline. 

The key member and leader of the hose team 
is the nozzleman, who controls the nozzle and 
directs the stream onto the fire. In many instances, 
the nozzleman must make decisions before an 
officer arrives on the scene. The nozzleman must 
have the training and discipline to advance the 
team close to the fire, to ensure that the water is 
directed into the seat of the fire. This is a respon- 
sible position, and it should be assigned to a crew 
member who has received training in firefighting 
at a maritime facility. The nozzleman should also 
be thoroughly familiar with the ship's design and 
construction features. 

The backup man is positioned directly behind 
the nozzleman. He takes up the weight of the hose 
and absorbs some of the nozzle reaction, so that 
the nozzle can be manipulated without undue 
strain. To be able to maintain his position, he 
must work in unison with the nozzleman. The 
other hose team members are positioned along 
the hose to assist in maneuvering and advancing 
the nozzle. 

It is a good idea to use engine room personnel 
to handle the hoselines assigned to protect engi- 
neering spaces, since they understand the ma- 
chinery and are familiar with that part of the ship. 
In addition, these crewmen will more likely be in 
the vicinity of the fire when it occurs. By the same 
reasoning, the other crew members should be as- 
signed to fire stations near their work stations, 
when possible. 

Advancing the Hoseline. When an emergency 
occurs, the hose should be run out before the fire 
station hydrant is opened. Without water, the 
hose is light and easy to handle; it can be ad- 
vanced quickly. Once the hose is charged with 
water, it becomes heavy and difficult to advance. 
Firefighters become tired from moving the addi- 
tional weight of the water, especially if the hose 
must be manhandled up or down ladders and 
along narrow passageways. If they are wearing 
breathing apparatus, their labored breathing de- 
pletes the oxygen supply more rapidly than 

The hose should be run out as follows: The 
nozzleman and backup man pick up the first sec- 
tion of hose and advance toward the fire. The 
third team member picks up the center section 
and advances it. The fourth team member re- 
mains at the fire station to open the hydrant. 
When the nozzleman is in position, he asks for 
water. As the water fills the hose, the third and 
fourth team members should straighten out any 
kinks and check hose couplings for leaks. Leaky 
couplings should be tightened with a spanner. 
Upon calling for water, the nozzleman should 
open the nozzle slightly, to allow trapped air to 
escape. The nozzle should be closed when water 
begins to flow. The hoseline is then ready for use. 

During drills, hose should be run out, and the 
nozzle should be positioned to attack a simulated 
fire. The training should be as realistic as pos- 
sible. Hose teams should practice maneuvering 
the hose below decks, through passageways, and 
up and down accommodation ladders and nar- 
row hatches. 

Using the Hose Stream. The manner in which 
hose streams are applied depends on the fire situ- 

Figure 10.6. A fog stream is used to push flames, heat and smoke ahead of an advancing hose team. Firefighters must keep 
low to allow the heat to pass above their bodies. 


Marine Fire Prevention. Firefighting and Fire Safety 

ation. The nozzleman must know what type of 
stream to use, and how to use it, under different 
fire conditions. 

Passageway— Compartment Fire. When flames 
have traveled out of a compartment and into a 
passageway, it is essential that the compartment 
be reached. The hose stream must be directed 
into the seat of the fire. The flames in the passage- 
way must be knocked down before the nozzle can 
be positioned properly. This is best accomplished 
by advancing as close to the flames as possible 
and keeping low to the deck (Fig. 10.6). Then 
the nozzle should be opened to the fog position. 
The stream should be moved up and down so 
that the water bounces off the bulkhead and the 
overhead, and into the flames. This will push the 
heat and flames ahead of the nozzleman, who 
should continue to advance until he reaches his 

Steam will be produced when the stream hits 
the flames and hot gases. This and the smoke will 
make visibility very poor. A backup hoseline 
should be brought into position behind the first 
attack line as quickly as possible. The backup 
line can be used to protect the advancing hose 
team, or it can be directed onto the fire if a larger 
volume of water is required to gain control of the 

Fire in a passageway must never be attacked 
from opposite directions. If it is, one of the hose- 
lines will push flames, heat and smoke directly at 
the other hose team (Fig. 10.7). 

Hidden Compartment Fire. To attack a sub- 
stantial fire behind a closed door, the charged 
hoseline should first be positioned outside the 
door. Then the door should be opened only 
enough to insert the nozzle. Using the door to 
protect his body, the nozzleman should sweep a 
fog stream around the compartment. Both the 
nozzleman and the backup man should crouch 

as low as possible, to allow the heat and steam to 
pass overhead (Fig. 10.8). After a few seconds, 
the door may be opened a bit more. If conditions 
permit, the team should enter the compartment 
and advance until they can hit the seat of the fire 
with a straight stream. 

Other Fire Party Personnel 

Other crewmen in the fire party are assigned to 
specific duties or teams. Several crewmen must 
be available to act as searchers. Under the cover 
of hoselines, they search for trapped personnel. 
Still other crew members are assigned to check 
for fire extension, to ventilate the fire area or to 
act as messengers if necessary. 

Protective Clothing 

If a fire has been burning for any length of time, 
it can reach temperatures exceeding 538°C 
(1000°F) and produce severe concentrations of 
smoke and noxious gas. Firefighters who are not 
sufficiently protected against these hazards can- 
not press their attack against the fire. They may 
have to retreat or be burned or overcome. If they 
become casualties, then they reduce an already 
limited firefighting force. 

At a minimum, each member of the hose team 
should be equipped with a water resistant coat 
or jacket, rubber boots, a hard hat and work 
gloves. This clothing will help protect against 
heat, hot water and steam. The approved fire- 
man's suit shown in Figure 10.9 will provide ade- 
quate protection and is recommended as suitable 
for shipboard firefighting operations. 

Respiratory protection is best provided by self- 
contained breathing apparatus. Members of the 
hose team must be trained in the use of this equip- 
ment. They must know its limitations but have 
confidence in its ability to protect them in a hos- 
tile atmosphere. {See Chapter 15 for a discussion 
of breathing apparatus.) 

Figure 10.7. When two hose teams attack a fire from opposite sides, the team with the weaker stream is placed in jeopardy. 

Combating the Fire 209 

Figure 10.8. Fighting a fire in a closed compartment. The door is opened slightly and used as a shield. The fog stream is 
swept back and forth across the compartment. The hose team crouches low. 

In some situations, the first hose team at the 
fire will not have time to don protective clothing 
or breathing apparatus. They may have to make 
the initial attack immediately to keep the fire 
from progressing beyond control. In such situa- 
tions, they must use common sense. It would be 
poor judgment to abandon a firefighting position 
where they were not experiencing any difficulty. 
The position could be held for a short but essen- 
tial time without protective gear. However, if they 
cannot knock down the fire, and heat and smoke 
are threatening their position, they should back 
away from the fire. The nozzleman should use a 
fog stream to block the heat. The team should 
continue to back away until they reach a position 
they can hold without undue hardship. Mean- 
while, a backup team should be donning protec- 
tive clothing and breathing apparatus. The back- 
up team should relieve the men on the line as 
soon as possible. 


In this section, 15 different shipboard fire situa- 
tions are described. The recommended procedures 
for fighting each fire are then detailed, from the 
alarm through overhaul. 

Cabin Fire 

The Fire. The burning material is in a waste- 
basket in a far corner of the cabin. The flames 
have spread to a desk and have ignited drapes 
at a porthole. The cabin door opens into the cabin 
from an inboard passageway. 

Confining the Fire. Upon seeing smoke seeping 
from the door, a crewman sounds the alarm. The 
alarm is acknowledged by another crewman. The 
door is cool to the touch, indicating that the fire 
has not spread across the cabin. The crewman 
who discovered the fire opens the door, notes the 
fire situation and determines that no one is in 
the cabin. He then leaves the cabin and closes 
the door, being careful not to lock it. He has 
taken the first step in confining the fire. 

Sizeup. The crewman's quick assessment of the 
fire situation reveals that 1) rescue is not a prob- 
lem and 2) the burning materials are ordinary 
combustibles, best extinguished by water. 

Attack. The fire station near the cabin includes 
a 9.5-liter (2Vi-gal) water extinguisher. The 
crewman activates the extinguisher outside the 
closed door. When he is sure the extinguisher is 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 



• — 



» »>< 






Figure 10.9. An outfit that meets U.S. Coast Guard require- 
ments for protection against water and heat. (Courtesy C. J. 
Hendry Co.) 

operating, he opens the door, directs the stream 
at the base of the flames first then moves the 
stream upward to hit the higher flames. By plac- 
ing his finger over the tip of the nozzle, he de- 
velops a spray stream that may be a little more 
effective. Because he cannot completely extin- 
guish the fire, he leaves the cabin, again closing 
the door. 

Backup. The firefighting team assigned to the 
location runs out the hoseline and brings the 
nozzle into position outside the cabin door. Upon 
being notified that the fire was not completely 
extinguished, they charge the hoseline with water, 
open the door and direct water into the remain- 

ing flames. This is very important. Whenever 
possible, the initial attack should be backed up 
with a secondary means of attack (Fig. 10.10). 

Protecting Exposures. During the attack, the 
officer in charge sends crewmen into adjacent 
spaces, around, above and below the fire area, 
to check for fire extension. This fire does not ex- 
tend out of the cabin, because it was discovered 
early and extinguished properly. 

Overhaul. The drapes and all other burned or 
charred materials are placed in buckets and thor- 
oughly soaked with water. Other debris and the 
water are cleaned up and removed from the cabin. 
During overhaul, the cabins above, below and 
adjacent to the fire cabin are again carefully in- 
spected for fire travel. 

Engine Room Fire 

The Fire. A bucket of oil spills on solid decking 
and ignites when it contacts a hot manifold. The 
liquid covers about a 0.93-m 2 (10-ft 2 ) deck. 
Flames cover the entire spill and are beginning 
to travel up a bulkhead. 

Attack. The alarm is sounded. The initial attack 
is made with a portable extinguisher (dry chem- 
ical, CO2 or Halon). The objective is to quickly 
knock down the flames (Fig. 10.11 A). 

Confining the Fire. The fire party immediately 
shuts down the venting systems and closes hatches 
and doors in the vicinity of the fire. 

Backup. The engine room is equipped with a 
semiportable extinguishing system. Its hose is run 
out and used to continue the attack if necessary. 
In addition, hoselines from the water-main sys- 
tem are advanced into position to assist in the 

Dry chemical, CO2 and Halon extinguishing 
agents have very little cooling power. It is highly 
probable that metals in direct contact with the 
fire will retain enough heat to reignite the oil 
spill. To ensure cooling and prevent reignition, 
water in the form of low velocity fog is directed 
onto the metal surfaces (Fig. 10.1 IB). This is 
done carefully to keep the oil from splashing and 
to prevent water from being directed into nearby 
electrical equipment. 

Protecting Exposures. While the attack on the 
fire progresses, a second hoseline is run out from 
the fire main. This second line is advanced into 
the boiler room and positioned to cool areas di- 
rectly exposed to the fire. The bulkhead is hot 
to the touch; it is cooled with water fog, for maxi 

Combating the Fire 










1 t 

h> **ji 





'.V ' 

» -ft 


Figure 10.10. Whenever possible, the initial attack should be backed up with another means of attack. 

mum absorption of heat with minimum runoff. 
The stream is directed onto the bulkhead as long 
as steam is produced when the water hits the 
bulkhead. Other spaces adjacent to the fire area 
are protected similarly. 

Ventilation. As the attack is made, doors and 
hatches in the upper parts of the engine room 
(preferably those opening directly to weather 
decks) are opened to vent the products of com- 
bustion. Once the fire is completely out and sur- 
rounding structural members have been cooled, 
mechanical venting is used to remove the com- 

bustion gases and draw in cool air. This is per- 
missible, since the duct is vented directly to the 
outside. In most cases, operation of the exhaust 
fan at the top of the engine room on low speed 
would accomplish the necessary venting. 

Bilge Fire 

The Fire. Flammable liquid in the engine room 
bilge has ignited, creating a substantial body of 
fire that is increasing in size. 

Sizeup. The location of the fire indicates a flam- 
mable-liquid fuel requiring CO2, fog or foam as 

Figure 10.11. Engine room spill fire. A. Initial attack is made with a portable or semiportable dry chemical, CO z or Halon 
; extinguisher. Figure 10.11. B. The attack is backed up with a hoseline used to cool metal surfaces to prevent reignition. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

the extinguishing agent. Because the liquid fuel 
is free to spread as the vessel rolls and pitches, 
the crewman discovering the fire is careful to 
protect his flanks and rear. The fire is large 
enough so that it is beyond the capability of small 
portable extinguishers. 

Attack. The alarm is sounded. The initial attack 
is made with the semiportable CO2 extinguishing 
system. One crewman runs out the line while 
another activates the system. The agent is di- 
rected below the deck plates and into the bilge, 
as close to the fire as possible. To cover the entire 
width of the fire, the nozzle is swept back and 
forth. As the flames in one area are knocked 
down, the stream is directed onto a new area. 
The nozzleman is extremely careful to protect 
his flanks and rear as he advances the nozzle. 

It is essential that all the flames be extinguished 
before the supply of CO2 runs out. If manpower 
is available, portable CO2 extinguishers can be 
used to supplement the primary attack and to 
protect the nozzleman. 

Confining the Fire. During the attack, all doors 
and hatches to the engine room are closed. All 
engine room ventilators are shut down. This con- 
fines the fire and ensures that it will not travel 
outside the engine room. With the engine room 
sealed off, the crew is prepared to use the fixed 
CO2 total-flooding system, should this become 

Backup. The fire party runs out hoselines from 
the fire-main system. The nozzles are positioned 
to protect those fighting the fire, and the lines are 
charged with water. A carefully applied fog pat- 
tern will be used to cool hot metal surfaces re- 
ducing the possibility of reignition. 

The CO2 attack fails to extinguish the fire. The 
hoselines, already in position, are used to attack 
the fire with low-velocity fog applicators. The 
low-velocity fog dilutes the oxygen above the fire, 
knocks down flames, cools metal surfaces and 
generates steam, all of which contribute to ex- 
tinguishment. The applicators can be directed 
through small openings and poked into confined 
areas. In addition, the fog applicator can be 
manipulated so that water is not sprayed on ma- 
chinery unnecessarily. 

Attacks with the semiportable CO2 system and 
fog streams will control and extinguish a bilge 
fire. If they do not, a very serious condition exists: 
The ship's power plant is threatened. Then the 
fixed CO2 extinguishing system must be used. 
The fixed system is regarded as a last resort. How- 
ever, when it must be used, the decision to acti- 
vate the system should not be delayed. It is better 

to make an early decision to use the CO2 flooding 
system than to allow the fire to do extensive dam- 
age to the engine room. If flooding with CO2 
extinguishes the fire, then the engine room is 
lost only temporarily; it can be restored to op- 
erating order. On the other hand, a delay may 
allow the fire to damage machinery and electrical 
equipment beyond repair. The results then are a 
disabled engine room and loss of propulsion. 

Fixed CO2 System. Before the fixed CO2 sys- 
tem is activated, all personnel are evacuated from 
the engine room. Saturation with CO2 will reduce 
the oxygen content below the level required to 
sustain life. The engine room should have been 
sealed during the initial attack. If not, all openings 
should be closed, and ventilation systems shut 
down, at this time. The CO2 system is activated 
on the order of the master or, when designated, 
the officer in charge of the fire party. 

Protecting Exposures. The areas adjacent to 
the fire are continuously observed for fire exten- 
sion and to ensure that CO2 is not leaking from 
the engine room. The crewmen assigned to spaces 
fore and aft of the engine room wear breathing 
apparatus. This precaution is necessary because 
the spaces to be examined may be contaminated 
by smoke and/or CO2. These crewmen are also 
equipped with handlights (flashlights) to improve 

Reentry. The C02-saturated area is reentered 
with caution. Although there are no hard and 
fast rules concerning reentry, many factors must 
be considered. How hot was the fire? If oxygen 
is allowed to reach the fire area, will metal in that 
area be hot enough to cause reignition? Is it essen- 
tial that the engine room be restored as fast as 
possible because of heavy seas? Or are the seas 
calm and without navigational hazards, so that 
entry may be delayed? The engine room should 
not be entered for at least an hour, primarily to 
allow the heat to dissipate. The injection of CO2 
into a sealed area will extinguish a flammable- 
liquid fire almost immediately. However, since 
CO2 has no cooling effect, metal surfaces remain 
hot. It is a "damned if you do and damned if you 
don't" situation; the fire is out, but the threat of 
reignition makes the area dangerous. 

After an hour, entry is attempted by a two- 
man search team dressed in protective clothing 
and using breathing apparatus with lifelines at- 
tached (Fig. 10.12). They enter through the high- 
est access door into the engine room. If they find 
the heat excessive, they will leave the area imme- 
diately and wait at least another 15-30 minutes 
before their next attempt. When they are able to 

Combating the Fire 213 

Figure 10.12. Reentering a space that has been flooded with CCX The breathing apparatus is tested before the space is 
entered. Protective clothing and a lifeline are used. Firefighters work in two-man teams. They move through the entryway 
quickly and close the door immediately to prevent C0 2 from escaping. 

tolerate the temperature, the team proceeds to the 
lower level of the engine room. They use the hose- 
lines from the unsuccessful fire attack to cool 
metal surfaces near the fire. They do not remove 
the facepieces of their breathing apparatus, since 
the atmosphere will not support life. Removal of 
the facepiece would result in almost instantaneous 
collapse and death. (Fig. 10.12). The team keeps 
track of the time they spend in the engine room 
to ensure that they leave before their air supplies 
run out. They are also timed by crewmen outside 
the fire area. After cooling the metal surfaces, the 
men leave the area the same way they entered. 
They remove their facepieces only after leaving 
the engine room and shutting the access door. 

The crewmen selected for this task are thor- 
oughly familiar with the engine room. They are 
so chosen because visibility may be restricted by 
smoke. Visibility will be further reduced by the 
steam generated when the cooling water hits the 
hot metal surfaces. 

Entry at the highest level is recommended be- 
cause CO2 is heavier than air. Entry through a 
door that is level with the fire could allow exces- 
sive amounts of CO2 to be lost when the door is 
opened. The high entry level also immediately 
exposes the crewmen to the highest temperatures 
they will encounter, since the heat rises to the 
upper parts of the engine room. If the men can 
tolerate the heat at the upper level, it will not 
present a problem as they move down. A disad- 
vantage of high level entry is that it forces the 
crewman to climb down and then up ladders. It 
also makes rescue of the team more difficult if 
something should go wrong. As this discussion 
implies, the entire process is dangerous. Crew- 
men engaged in the operation must thoroughly 
understand their duties and ihe problems in- 
volved. They must be fully aware of all safety 

Once the metal has been cooled down, the 
engine room is ventilated with the mechanical 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

venting system. If there was any reason to keep 
an inert atmosphere in the lower portion of the 
engine room, then natural ventilation would be 
employed, and after a short time the upper area 
of the engine room would support life. Since we 
have cooled the potential source of ignition and 
want to regain control of the engine room, me- 
chanical ventilation is indicated. After the space 
has been vented for a reasonable time, a portable 
gas detector is used to determine whether any 
fuel vapors remain. Since none are present, a 
flame safety lamp or portable oxygen meter is 
used to ensure that the engine room contains suf- 
ficient oxygen for breathing. The lamp burns in 
all parts of the engine room, so the crew is al- 
lowed to enter without breathing apparatus. 

Overhaul. The oil remaining in the bilges is 
blanketed with a layer of foam to prevent reig- 
nition until it can be removed. The source of the 
oil leak is found and repaired. 

Boatswain's Locker Fire 

The Fire. A member of the deck gang notices 
smoke coming out of a deck hatch opening in the 
forward section of the vessel. He turns in the 

Sizeup. This hatch leads to the boatswain's 
stores, other storage areas and the chain locker. 
The only access to the area is down a ladder and 
through a passageway. This section of the vessel 
is not protected by a fixed fire-extinguishing sys- 
tem. The smoke is heavy, and visibility is limited. 
Exactly what is burning cannot be determined, 
but the area is used primarily for the storage of 
class A materials. 

Confining the Fire. The crewman closes the 
deck hatch to reduce the supply of oxygen to the 

Precautions. The fire party is dressed in full 
protective clothing and breathing apparatus, since 
heavy smoke and extreme heat can be expected. 

Attack. Hoselines are advanced to the hatch 
and charged. The hatch cover is cooled with 
water and then opened. The nozzleman and 
backup man climb down the ladder with the noz- 
zle, and crewman on deck assist in advancing the 
hose down the ladder. The nozzle is advanced 
toward the glow of the fire. The advancing fire- 
fighters keep low, for better visibility and a lower 
heat concentration. The nozzleman uses short 

bursts of water fog to reduce the heat. Heated 
gases and steam pass over the firefighters' heads 
and move out through the access hatch. When 
the nozzleman is in a position from which the 
stream can reach the fire, he uses a solid stream 
to penetrate into the seat of the fire. When the 
stream hits the fire, steam is generated and visi- 
bility is greatly reduced. He shuts off the nozzle 
to permit the steam and smoke to lift. When visi- 
bility is regained, he moves in and completes the 
extinguishment of the fire. 

Backup. An additional hoseline is positioned 
at the hatch opening and charged. This line can 
be used to protect the initial attack team if they 
are forced to withdraw because of a burst hose 
or excessive heat. 

Protecting Exposures. While the attack is under 
way, other crewmen examine the compartments 
adjacent to the fire. Combustible materials are 
moved away from bulkheads. Heated bulkheads 
are cooled with water in the form of fog. 

Ventilation. The fire area is ventilated after the 
fire is out. Since the area is not served by a me- 
chanical ventilation system, portable fans are 

Overhaul. Because of the quantity and nature 
of the materials stowed in a boatswain's locker, 
overhaul is extensive. All charred material is 
moved to weather decks and thoroughly soaked. 

Paint Locker Fire 

The Fire. Smoke is discovered issuing from a 
paint locker in the machinery spaces, through a 
partially opened door. This paint locker has a 
manual CO2 system. 

Sizeup. If there is not much smoke, the fire is 
in the early stages. Large volumes of dense smoke 
indicate that the fire has been burning for some 

Attack 1 (Light Smoke). The alarm is sounded. 
The door is opened further, and the locker is 
visually examined to determine what is burning. 
A smoldering class A fire (rags, rope, paint 
brushes) is extinguished with a multipurpose port- 
able dry chemical or water extinguisher. 

Backup. A hoseline is run out and charged with 
water, to be used to wet down any smoldering 

Combating the Fire 


Attack 2 (Heavy Smoke). The door and vents 
are closed, and the manual CO2 system is acti- 

Backup. A hoseline is run out and charged with 
water, as a precautionary measure, for the pro- 
tection of exposures and to cool off paint locker 

Confining the Fire. 

the door was closed. 

The fire was isolated when 

Protecting Exposures. All sides of the paint 
locker are continuously examined to ensure that 
the fire is not extending. 

Ventilation. The locker is not opened or venti- 
lated until all bulkheads, decks and overheads 
are cool to the touch. Then, with a charged hose- 
line in position, the door is opened and the com- 
partment is allowed to ventilate long enough for 
a normal level of oxygen to return to a small 
space. Test for a safe oxygen level. 

Overhaul. Fire-damaged material is removed 
from the locker. Expended CO2 cylinders are 
replaced. The hoseline is kept in readiness until 
overhaul is complete and CO2 protection is re- 

Galley Fire 

The Fire. A fire involving the deep fryer on the 
galley stove has extended to the duct system. 

Sizeup. The alarm is sounded. Sizeup indicates 
that a class B fuel is involved. There is an ex- 
posure problem, because the fire has entered the 
venting duct. 

Attack. Using an appropriate portable extin- 
guisher (CO2, dry chemical or Halon), galley per- 
sonnel first direct the extinguishing agent onto 
the burning oil. They are careful not to spatter the 
burning liquid. Then, with a sweeping motion, 
they direct the agent into the hood and duct area 
(Fig. 10.13). Since the range is fueled with gas, 
they shut off the fuel supply to the pilot lights 
and the burners. (The pilot light was extinguished 
in the attack.) 

The firefighters do not shut off the exhaust fan 
in the duct over the range. They use it to pull the 
extinguishing agent into the duct and spread it 
through the duct. However, once the flames are 
knocked down, they turn the exhaust fan off. If 
CO2 is used, the exhaust fan must be secured. 
After the flames are out, water spray must be 
used to cool metal surfaces. 

Backup. A hoseline is run out to the galley 
door and charged with water. The hoseline is thus 
in position to support the attack or to cool down 
hot metal surfaces. 

Confining the Fire. All ventilation to and from 
the galley is shut down. 

Protecting Exposures. The galley exhaust duct 
system is examined, from beginning to end, for 
fire travel inside and outside the ducting. Every 
compartment through which it passes is checked. 
A hoseline is positioned where the duct vents to 
the outside, in case fire shows at that point. 

After the visible flames are extinguished and 
the metal surfaces have been cooled, the duct 
power venting system is turned on. Since the fire- 
fighters suspect that there is fire in the duct, they 
remove the grease filters. With the fan in opera- 
tion, they direct a fog stream up the duct. The 
fan helps pull the water into the duct. This cools 
the metal ducting and pushes heat and smoke 
out of the duct. The duct inspection plates are 
opened t^ check for fire. 

Ventilation. After the fire is completely out, the 
smoke and heat are removed from the galley by 
mechanical ventilation. 

Overhaul. All grease residues are cleaned off 
the stove, hood and ducting. The filters are 
cleaned or replaced. The range is restored to 

Fire in an Electrical Control Panel 

The Fire. Smoke is discovered issuing from the 
rear of the main electrical control panel in the 
engine room. The alarm is sounded. 

Sizeup. This is a class C fire. The rear of the 
panel is not readily accessible because of the 
sheet metal construction of the cabinet. The in- 
sulation on live electrical wires is burning. As the 
wires get hotter, their resistance increases* and 
additional heat is generated; this can extend the 
fire and cause irreparable damage to electrical 

* The resistance of pure metals — such as silver, cop- 
per and aluminum — increases as the temperature in- 
creases. {Electricity for Marine Engineers, p. 68, pre- 
pared by the MEBA Training Fund.) 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Grease on Wall of Duct Provides 
Fuel for Fire 

Blisters and Hot Surface 
Indicate Fire Traveling 
Through Duct 

Inspection Plate 


Exhaust Fan 

Grease-Saturated (or Missing) 

Screens Allow 

Fire to Enter the Duct 

When Using C0 2 Shut Off Exhaust Fan. 

Attack the Fire at the Surface 
First. Then Direct the Extinguishing 
Agent into the Duct. When Using Halon or 
Dry Chemical do not Shut Off Exhaust 

If Fire Continues into the Duct 
System, Flush the System 
With Water 

Figure 10.13. 

the duct. 

Fighting a galley range fire. 1. Attack the fire at the surface first, then 2. direct the extinguishing agent into 

Attack. The fire party immediately attempts to 
deenergize the circuit or the equipment. This 
serves the double purpose of protecting fire- 
fighters from electrical shock and reducing the 
ability of the fire to extend. 

The initial attack is made with a CO2 or Halon 
extinguisher, either portable or semiportable (Fig. 
10.14). There are several reasons for using these 
agents. First, the person charged with deenergiz- 
ing the equipment may not have completed his 
assignment. Since COu and Halon are not con- 
ductors of electricity, those attacking the fire are 
protected from electrical shock, provided they do 
not touch the equipment. Second, these agents do 

not leave a residue and will not damage delicate 
electrical components. Third, firefighters cannot 
easily get at the fire, because of the cabinet; the 
extinguishing agent must be applied through the 
ventilation slots. A gas will more readily flow 
through these small openings. If CO2 or Halon is 
not available, a dry chemical extinguisher may be 
used. However, dry chemical leaves a residue that 
could damage electrical contacts and could be 
difficult to clean up. 

Backup. The initial attack is backed up with 
additional portable or semiportable extinguishers 
approved for use in class C fires. The Coast Guard 

Combating the Fire 


Figure 10.14. Fire in an enclosed electrical cabinet should be attacked with C0 2 or Halon. The agent should be directed into 
the unit through the cabinet vents. 

regards any fire involving electrical equipment 
as a class C fire, even if the equipment is de- 

Confining the Fire. The fire is isolated by deen- 
ergizing the equipment and knocking down the 

Protecting Exposures. All wiring and equip- 
ment near the fire is checked for fire extension. 
All equipment that is electrically connected to the 
involved panel is also examined. Electric cables 
are traced along their entire length, especially 
where they pass through decking and bulkheads. 
It is found that the fire was confined by quick 
deenergizing of the electrical equipment, extin- 
guishment of the flames and natural cooling of 
hot components. 

Ventilation. The burning insulation has given 
off irritating and toxic fumes. The ventilation 
system was shut down when the alarm was 
sounded. It is reactivated as soon as the fire is 
out. If this cannot be readily accomplished, the 
firefighter should be equipped with protective 
breathing apparatus. 

Caution. If the machinery space is small and 
several semiportable CO2 extinguishers are used, 

the oxygen content in the air may be reduced 
enough to make breathing difficult. Then protec- 
tive breathing apparatus should be used during 
the attack, until ventilation has been accom- 
plished. If the ventilation system cannot be re- 
activated, anyone entering the fire area should 
wear such breathing apparatus. 

Overhaul. Overhaul procedures are carried out 
by engine department personnel. These crewmen 
are best able to open up fire-damaged equipment 
with minimum damage to that equipment. After 
overhaul, when the fire is completely out, the in- 
volved equipment is inspected and repaired. Then 
the power is restored. 

Cargo Hold Fire on a Break-Bulk 
Cargo Ship 

The Fire. The smoke detection system alarm in- 
dicates smoke in no. 2 hold, lower 'tween deck. 
The vessel is 3 days out of port and 4 days from 
her destination. There are no nearer ports. Fair 
weather is the forecast for the next 48 hours. 

Sizeup. The ship's manifest and cargo stowage 
plan are consulted. They disclose the following 
information regarding no. 2 hold: 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

• The lower hold contains heavy machinery 
in wood crates. 

• The lower 'tween deck contains baled rags, 
cartons of paper products and bags of resin. 
(The alarm system indicates this area as the 
fire location.) 

• The upper 'tween deck contains cartons and 
crates of small automotive parts and rubber 

Smoke is observed coming out of the ventila- 
tors for no. 2 hold. The main deck over the for- 
ward port section of the hold is much warmer 
than the surrounding deck areas. 

The sizeup points out several important con- 
siderations regarding cargo hold fires and how 
they should be fought. For a direct attack with 
hoselines, the cargo above the fire must be moved 
so that the lower hatches can be opened. This 
would take at least several hours; and time is 
important! Every second of delay allows the fire 
to gain in intensity. It could become uncontrol- 
lable while the cargo is being moved. Suppose 
CO2 were injected into the fire hold while crew- 
men were attempting to reach it for a direct at- 
tack. Eventually, the cargo hatch would have to 
be opened for the hoselines. Some CO2 would 

escape, air would enter the hold, and the smother- 
ing effect of the CO2 would be destroyed. 

In a direct attack, it would be difficult to bring 
water to bear on the seat of the fire. If the fire 
were below the top layer of cargo, then more 
cargo would have to be moved to reach the fire. 
Pouring large amounts of water onto the burning 
area would not ensure extinguishment. In addi- 
tion, the runoff could cause a stability problem 
and could damage cargo. 

For all these reasons, fire in a loaded cargo 
hold should be fought indirectly, using a carbon 
dioxide flooding system. The agent can be brought 
to bear on the fire rapidly. When properly used, 
CO2 has exhibited a high success rate for con- 
trolling and, in many instances, totally extinguish- 
ing hold fires. The master must have patience 
and confidence that the fire can be contained and 
extinguished with CO2. 

Attack. An indirect attack is employed. The 
hold is first sealed off; the seal will be maintained 
until the vessel reaches port, where shoreside fire- 
fighting units are available. The following actions 
are taken (Fig. 10.15): 

• All hatch covers are checked to ensure that 
they are securely dogged down. 

• Air Exhaust 

Air Supply 

Motor-Driven Air Supply 
Controllable From Bridge 

Smoke Accumulator 
and Discharge 
Outlet for C0 2 

Figure 10.15. Cargo hold layout. 

Combating the Fire 



(Fire in Lower Tween Deck, #2 Hold) 

DAY 1 DAY 2 




I oU 


• — 

• - 

• ^ 

i en .- - 



150 - 


» ^^/ m 


• ^i 

• _ 

1 on 

i Ai 
1 1 n 

1 nn 



7n — — — 


i • 


• ■ 

» • 

> • 

' • 





' • 



► • 


CO 2 










TIME 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900 2000 ( #1400 1500 1600 1700 


« t t JucDMnmcTCD Jto iiddcd tiaiccm r\cn\s 

• • • • A 





Figure 10.16. Temperature graph for recording information regarding an indirect attack on a hold fire with the C0 2 total- 
flooding system. 

• One or more hoselines are run out on deck 
and charged. The lines will be used to cool 
hot spots on deck and (if necessary) on the 
exterior of the hull. 

• Ventilator dampers are closed, and openings 
are covered with canvas that will be wetted 
down at frequent intervals. 

• Instructions for the ship's C0 2 system are 
studied to ensure that the proper number 
of CO2 cylinders are discharged into the 
right compartment. 

As the CO2 is discharged into the lower 'tween 
deck, crew members are stationed at vents, hatch 
covers and entrances to adjacent holds. They 
check for heat or smoke that is being pushed out 
by the CO2. These signs indicate points where 
CO2 could leak out or air could leak in. The leaks 
are sealed with duct seal or strong cargo tape. 
When the attack is started, the time, temperatures 
(readings from thermometers placed on hot spots 
on bulkheads of adjoining holds and/ or compart- 

ments) and amount of CO2 discharged are re- 
corded on a line graph (Fig. 10.16). This infor- 
mation will be used to check the progress of the 
fire and determine how well it is being controlled. 
Temperatures will be entered on the graph hourly, 
and the time and amount of each additional CO2 
discharge will be recorded. 

Patience is required when a fire in class A ma- 
terials is being extinguished with CO2. The proc- 
ess is slow. The oxygen content of the atmosphere 
in the hold must be reduced to 15% to extinguish 
flaming fire, and much lower to extinguish smol- 
dering materials. The temptation to take a peek 
and see how things are going must be avoided; 
no opening must be made to release heat or 
smoke. If the hatches are opened, air is allowed 
to enter the hold and precious CO2 will escape. 
This changes the atmosphere in the hold, per- 
mitting the fire to rekindle. Since the supply of 
CO2 on a ship at sea is limited, none can be 
wasted. Crew members must be continually alert 
to detect any leaks from the involved cargo space. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Confining the Fire. By sealing the hold, the 
crew took the first step in confining the fire. The 
holds fore and aft of the fire are now checked. If 
any bulkheads are hot, combustibles located near 
or against them are moved, or the bulkheads are 
cooled with water fog (Fig. 10.17). 

Exterior bulkheads (in this case the hull of the 
ship) are checked visually from the deck. Any 
blistering or discolored paint is investigated by a 
crewman in a boatswain's chair, lowered over the 
side (sea conditions permitting). Some of the hull 
plating is hot, indicating it is in contact with fire. 
A stream of water is allowed to flow down the 
side of the ship to cool these spots. 

The deck over the fire is watched, especially 
where containers are stored over the hot spots. 
Hazardous cargo stored on deck near the fire is 
moved to a safer area. If this were not possible, 
the deck would have to be cooled constantly. 

It is not possible to check the area directly 
under the fire, except by checking the bulkheads 
in the adjacent holds. 

Protecting Exposures. The holds fore and aft 
of the fire were checked for hot spots before the 
CO2 was discharged. However, the application of 
CO2 was not delayed for this examination. Pyro- 
meters are placed on the hottest spots on decks 
and bulkheads, at each level of the hold (Fig. 
10.17C). Where hot spots are not present but the 
bulkhead is to be monitored for temperature, the 
pyrometers are placed midway between the deck 
and the overhead. The temperatures are read 
hourly, to monitor the progress of the fire. Pyrom- 
eters are secured to the bulkhead with cargo 
tape or duct seal if they are not of the magnetic 
type. Hoselines are positioned on deck, ready to 
be used in cooling bulkheads if required. 

Once the CO2 is discharged, leakage from the 
fire hold may make the adjacent holds untenable 
without breathing apparatus. The oxygen content 
of these holds is checked continually, to ensure 
the safety of crewmen performing monitoring 

Ventilation. Absolutely no ventilation is at- 
tempted until the ship is in port and additional 
help is available. By the time the ship arrives in 
port, temperatures in the hold will have abated 
and will have remained fairly constant for a period 
of 24 hours. The hatch cover is then partially 
(and cautiously) opened. Charged hoselines are 
in position, and men with breathing apparatus are 
ready to advance the hoselines if some smoldering 
fire still exists. 

Natural ventilation is employed to make the 
upper 'tween deck tenable. The inert atmosphere 
in the lower 'tween deck and lower hold is main- 

Overhaul. After the upper 'tween deck has been 
declared safe for men by a marine chemist (or a 
qualified ship's officer if a marine chemist is not 
available), offloading is begun. Charred material 
is kept separate from other cargo, placed on a 
noncombustible deck and wet down if necessary. 
The upper 'tween deck is cleared of all material 
involved in the fire, and the area over the hatch 
covers is cleared. Then the lower 'tween deck is 
opened. Again men with breathing apparatus 
stand by, ready to advance charged hoselines if 

When the hold is declared safe, the cargo in- 
volved in the fire is offloaded. Sufficient addi- 
tional cargo is offloaded to ensure that there is 
no hidden fire. The hold is completely ventilated, 


Hot Spot 



Figure 10.17. A. If possible, cargo should be moved away from hot bulkheads. B. Hot bulkheads may be cooled with water 
fog, applied until steam is no longer produced. C. Pyrometers are placed halfway between the deck and overhead. 

Combating the Fire 


and the CO2 system is restored. The fire area is 
carefully examined for structural damage. Then 
the hold is reloaded with cargo that was not in- 
volved in the fire. 

Tanker Fire 

The Fire. During the transfer of gasoline from 
no. 3 center tank to a shoreside facility, a cargo 
hose ruptures at the flange on the ship. The gaso- 
line spills on deck and immediately catches fire. 

Sizeup. The cargo transfer was just started, so 
the cargo tanks are nearly full. The wind is light 
and blowing across the starboard quarter, toward 
shore. The scuppers have been plugged, and as 
yet no gasoline has entered the water. The alarm 
was given promptly, and all crew members are 
aware of the fire and have manned their firefight- 
ing stations. 

Attack. The general alarm and the ship's whistle 
are sounded to alert shoreside personnel and 
nearby ships. Help is immediately requested from 
local fire departments. 

At the same time, the cargo pumps are shut 
down to stop the flow of fuel to the fire. Although 
some fuel will continue to drain from the cargo 
hose and pipelines, the amount is small compared 
to what the pumps would feed into the fire. 

Crewmen activate the nearest foam monitor 
between the fire and the deckhouse, on the wind- 
ward side of the fire. The monitor has a greater 
reach and volume than the handlines. The op- 
erator directs the foam onto a nearby vertical 

surface, so it runs down and forms a blanket on 
the burning gasoline. An alternative method is to 
lob the foam onto the near edge of the fire and 
move the nozzle slowly from side to side. This 
also allows the foam to build up a continuous 
blanket. A foam handline is run out and used to 
blanket any area that the monitor cannot reach. 
A hoseline equipped with a fog nozzle is run out 
and charged to protect the crewmen on the foam 
monitor from excessive heat (Fig. 10.18). Fire- 
fighters are careful not to destroy the foam blan- 
ket by haphazardly directing water into the foam. 
An unbroken blanket of foam is maintained over 
the gasoline spill until all sources of ignition are 

If small open patches of fuel are allowed to 
continue burning, their heat will start to break 
down the foam blanket. The patches will grow in 
size, and eventually fire will again cover the en- 
tire surface of the spill. The same thing will hap- 
pen if the fire is not completely extinguished be- 
fore the supply of foam is depleted. Thus, the 
entire surface of the flammable liquid must be 
blanketed with foam, and the blanket must be 
maintained until the fire is out. 

It may be difficult to maintain a full foam 
blanket where the foam can spread out in all di- 
rections, as on a weather deck. If the spill is large, 
a lot of foam will be needed; a shipboard foam 
system does not provide an inexhaustable supply. 
This problem can be solved, at least partially, by 
shutting off the fuel source as quickly as possible. 

If the fire is extinguished by the foam, crew- 
men should be careful not to disturb the foam 

Figure 10.18. 1. With the cargo pumps shut down, the spill fire is attacked from the windward side with a foam monitor. 
2. Foam handlines are used to cover areas that the monitor cannot reach. 3. A water fog nozzle is used to protect personnel. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

blanket by walking through it unnecessarily. 
Hoselines should be kept available for immediate 
use; deck plates and other structural metal will 
be hot, and reignition could occur. Any burning 
paint, hose or gaskets should be extinguished with 
a fog stream applied carefully so as not to break 
up the foam blanket. 

If the foam attack is not successful, the fire can 
be controlled and extinguished with fog streams. 
Several hoselines should be positioned to sweep 
the burning area with fog. The attack should be 
started from the windward side; this allows the 
wind to carry the fog into the fire, providing 
greater reach. The wind also carries heat and 
smoke away from the firefighters. As the streams 
are swept from side to side, they should be kept 
parallel with the deck. The nozzlemen should 
advance slowly; they must not move into the fire 
too rapidly, or the flames may get around their 
flanks and behind them. They must not advance 
to the point where reflash could envelop them in 
flames. Water fog will knock down and push 
flames away, but it will not provide a smothering 
blanket. The possibility of reignition must be con- 
sidered at all times. 

Even after the fire is extinguished, the fog 
streams should be used to sweep the fire area and 
other hot surfaces, to cool them down. The water 
will flow over the side, so it can be used without 
restriction. It is better to apply too much water 
fog than to risk reignition. The water must be 
applied until three things are accomplished: 
1) the supply of fuel to the fire is shut off, 2) all 
metal surfaces are cool to the touch and 3) the 
flammable liquid is diluted or washed overboard. 

If the foam and fog attacks both fail and the 
fire continues to increase in size, the safety of the 
crew must then become the prime consideration. 
The attack should be abandoned, and the ship 
evacuated. Firefighting operations should not be 
continued to the point at which crewmen are 
trapped and have no avenue of escape. 

Confining the Fire. The fire is isolated by 
quickly covering it with a blanket of foam and 
promptly securing the ship's cargo pumps. As 
soon as the fire in the vicinity of the cargo valves 
is extinguished, crew members, protected by fog 
streams, close all valves and ullage openings. 
Openings in the deckhouse are closed and pro- 
tected with hoselines. Ventilation intakes drawing 
air from the vicinity of the fire are shut down. 
Electrical equipment in the vicinity of the fire is 

Protecting Exposures. The ship and the shore- 
side complex are threatened by the fire. Other 

ships tied up at the same or adjacent docks are 
also jeopardized. These ships began preparations 
to get under way when the general alarm was 

At the oil storage depot, water spray and foam 
systems were activated to cool tanks and piping. 
Hoselines with fog nozzles were advanced and 
charged for the same purpose. Additional foam 
equipment and foam concentrate were requested 
by the involved ship and were brought to the 

Overhaul. Once the fire is extinguished and the 
leak secured, the remaining spilled gasoline is 
cleaned up. The foam blanket is maintained until 
the gasoline is removed or recovered. Then, all 
cargo hoses are checked or replaced. Shoreside 
fixed and portable foam monitors are kept in posi- 
tion until all gasoline fumes have dissipated. 

To allow an examination of the spill area under- 
neath the pier, the tanker is warped to another 
position away from the cargo handling area. The 
foam supply is replenished without delay, and the 
ship's fire protection system is restored to duty. 
Then cargo offloading operations are resumed. 


A fire involving ordinary combustibles in a mod- 
ern, well-built container will frequently extinguish 
itself by consuming all of the oxygen in the con- 
tainer. In the following examples we will assume 
that this did not happen. 

Container Fire on Deck 

The Fire. A 12.2-m (40-ft) aluminum container 
stowed on deck in the forward section of the ship 
is giving off smoke. The aluminum is discolored 
from heat. 

Sizeup. The container is in the center of a three- 
tier stack and is surrounded on three sides by 
other containers. It was packed at a stuffing shed 
at the terminal and can be expected to contain 
a variety of materials, none reported to be 

Attack. The alarm is sounded. Crewmen check 
the container labels and the cargo manifest to 
determine the contents of the involved container 
and adjacent containers. At the same time, a hose- 
line is advanced to the involved container and 
charged. It is used to cool down the container 
with fog. The nozzleman stands back so he will 
not be scalded by the steam that is generated. A 
second hoseline is run out to the adjacent con- 
tainers. Neither hose stream will reach the seat 

Combating the Fire 


of the fire; however, they will help contain the 
fire while preparations are made for final extin- 

The cargo manifest indicates that water is the 
proper extinguishing agent. Now crewmen chisel 
to punch a hole about 2.54 cm (1 in.) in diameter 
near the top of one side of the container, close to 
the hottest area. A piercing applicator (Fig. 9.5) 
or the pike end of a fireaxe could also be used. A 
short applicator is attached to a combination noz- 
zle, and the low-velocity head is removed. The 
applicator is inserted into the hole, and the nozzle 
is opened. The nozzleman floods the entire con- 
tainer, even though this may not always be 

If the cargo in the container is very valuable 
and can be damaged by water, C0 2 or Halon can 
be introduced into the container through the 
opening. Six or more portable 6.8-kg (15-lb) CO2 
extinguishers should be used for the initial dis- 
charge. The opening should then be plugged, and 
additional CO2 discharged hourly, until the fire 
is out. 

Confining the Fire. The fire is confined as long 
as it does not extend from the container. Hose- 
lines are used to cool the outside of the container 
and prevent the fire from burning through until 
the proper extinguishing agent has been applied 
to the inside of the container. 

Protecting Exposures. The cargo in adjacent 
containers and the cargo in the hold below the 
main deck are exposed to the heat of the fire. A 
hoseline is used to protect the adjacent containers 
and to cool the deck. If the fire were intense and 
a container located right on the deck were in- 
volved, it would be advisable, as a precautionary 
measure, to inspect the compartment immediately 
below the main deck. The fire could extend down- 
ward by conduction. 

Overhaul. The container is opened, and its con- 
tents are removed and examined. Any fire that is 
discovered is soaked with water. This step may be 
delayed until the container has been unloaded in 
port. However, the crew must ensure that the fire 
is completely out. This would require the use of 
additional water, directed into as well as on the 
outside of the container. 

Container Fire in a Hold 

The Fire. The smoke detection system indicates 
smoke in no. 4 hold, lower section, starboard 
side. The ship is at sea, and the nearest port is 
3 days away. 

Sizeup. The no. 4 hold is fully loaded with con- 
tainers, and there are two tiers of containers on 
top of the hatch cover. 

Attack. The alarm is sounded. The fire party 
opens the emergency escape hatch and notes a 
minimum of smoke and no heat. Visibility within 
the hold is fair (15 m (50-ft)). The on-scene 
leader declares that the hold can be entered. Two 
crew members, familiar with the stowage of con- 
tainers on the ship, are equipped with breathing 
apparatus, lifelines and portable lights. 

The crewmen enter the hold. When they reach 
the lower level, they still encounter light smoke 
and no heat so they decide to proceed. A hoseline 
is lowered to them, and crewmen on deck are 
ready to pay out additional hose as needed. 

The two-man team locates the burning con- 
tainer. They first cool the outside of the container 
with water fog. Then they make an opening into 
the container, insert the applicator and discharge 
water into the container. The applicator is held 
in place until sufficient water has entered the con- 
tainer. Then the team examines the involved con- 
tainer and adjacent containers for hot spots. Since 
several hot spots are found, the involved container 
is flooded again with water; an additional hoseline 
is advanced into the hold, and water fog is used 
to cool the hot spots on adjacent containers. When 
additional examinations indicate that the fire is 
out, the hoselines are withdrawn, the hold is se- 
cured and the detection system is restored to 

If the initial examination had disclosed a con- 
siderable amount of smoke and heat, with less 
than 15 m (50 ft) of visibility, the hold would 
have been sealed. It then would have been flooded 
with CO2 as previously described. 

The fire confinement, exposure protection and 
ventilation procedures are the same as for the 
cargo hold fire described earlier in this chapter. 

Overhaul. No attempt is made to overhaul the 
containers until the ship is in port. At the dock, 
the containers are unloaded without the need for 
crewmen to enter the hold to attach the lifting 
mechanism. If the CO2 total-flooding system had 
been activated, the inert atmosphere could be 
maintained during the unloading. Charged hose- 
lines are positioned at dockside to fight any reig- 
nition that might occur when the containers are 

LNG Spill Involving a Leak 

Liquefied natural gas t is a hydrocarbon fuel com- 
posed mostly of methane. It burns cleanly, with 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

little or no visible smoke. The flame height is 
greater than that of other hydrocarbon fuels, and 
the radiant heat produced is much more intense. 
In the liquid state, LNG weighs about half as 
much as water; its liquefication temperature is 
approximately — 162°C (— 260°F). Its volume in- 
creases 600 times as it changes from a liquid at 
its boiling temperature to a gas at atmospheric 
pressure and 15.6°C (60°F). When the tempera- 
ture of the vapor rises to approximately — 112°C 
(— 170°F), it weighs the same as air. It is trans- 
ported in the liquid state for economic reasons. 

LNG is colorless, odorless and severely dam- 
aging to the eyes and throat. The liquid causes 
frostbite on contact with the skin. It causes em- 
brittlement fractures in ordinary steel but may be 
safely handled in stainless steel, certain nickel 
steel, certain copper alloy and aluminum con- 
tainers. It is usually odorized by adding methyl 
mercaptan as an aid in detecting leaks of the 
vapor. The ambient vapor is not irritating to the 
eyes or throat. 

Many safeguards are built into ships that trans- 
port LNG, to combat spills and fires. These ves- 
sels are equipped with deck water spray systems 
to control spills, prevent brittle fracture of the 
deck plating and facilitate fast warmup of the 
vapors to minimize the fire hazard from cloud 
drift. The spray system is also used to help pre- 
vent ignition. If ignition does occur, the spray 
system will provide a water curtain to protect 
vital areas, such as the bridge and gas control 
room, from the intense radiant heat of the fire. 
It also will cover most piping and tanks with a 
cooling barrier of water. The radiant heat could 
build up enough pressure in uncooled tanks and 
piping to cause them to rupture. 

Every LNG ship is equipped with enough large 
dry chemical skid units (Fig. 10.19) to protect the 
entire weather deck area in case a fire occurs and 
extinguishment is desired. The dry chemical 
would be used to extinguish a small spill fire where 
the LNG spill could be controlled. If a large spill 
were to occur, as from a high energy impact (col- 
lision), fire would be almost a certainty. The 
spread of fire would be controlled with dry chem- 
ical, while the fire was allowed to burn itself out. 
The water spray system would be used to prevent 
other tanks from becoming involved. 

t See Chapter 5 for a discussion of liquefied natural 
gas (LNG) and Chapter 9 for a discussion of the spe- 
cial fire protection systems installed on LNG tankers. 
Because LNG constitutes an almost unique spill or fire 
hazard, the material in those chapters will be reviewed 
and enlarged upon here. 

Special protective clothing must be worn by 
personnel handling LNG spills. This clothing 
must consist of at least rubber gloves, a face shield 
and protective clothing. At least two self-con- 
tained breathing apparatus should be available 
on the vessel. Proximity- and entry-type suits for 
approaching an LNG fire, closing a valve or other 
necessary actions may also be provided. Such 
equipment should be readily available, and per- 
sonnel should practice donning the gear quickly 
as preparation for emergency situations. 

The Spill. During offloading, a section of pip- 
ing develops a leak. A quantity of LNG spills 
onto the deck. 

Sizeup. The spill is small, and the liquid is being 
vaporized rapidly by the continuous flow of water 
spray on the decking below the loading arm. 
(This is standard practice while LNG is being 
loaded or discharged.) The wind is blowing off- 
shore, taking the vapors away from the vessel and 
the shore installation. There are no other vessels 
in the vicinity. 

Confining the Spill. The source of the spill is 
isolated by means of control valves on each side 
of the leak. Ignition is prevented by actuating the 
water spray system. The crew and the shore in- 
stallation are alerted to the emergency, and all 
pumping equipment and ventilation intakes are 
shut down. 

Protecting Exposures. The steel deck and shell 
plating are protected by the water spray system. 
Personnel involved in controlling the leak don 
protective clothing. Other crew members run out 
and charge hoselines, and place water monitors at 
the ready. The dry chemical hose reels are ad- 
vanced but not pressurized. (They will be pres- 
surized only if the LNG ignites.) 

Attack and Overhaul. With the source of the 
spill shut off, the water spray vaporizes the liquid 
and/or flushes it over the side. When all the LNG 
has been removed, the leak is repaired. Then all 
emergency equipment is secured, and normal off- 
loading operations are resumed. 

LNG Spill Involving Fire 

Let us now suppose that fire occurs on the same 
vessel, at the same dock, with the wind blowing 
from the water and exposing the shore facility. 

The Fire. During offloading, a pipe on the ves- 
sel ruptures. The subsequent spill catches fire. 

Sizeup. The fire is small but spreading. A light 
wind is blowing the flames across the deck of 

Combating the Fire 














Sq b 

i * 

























Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 

the ship toward the shore installation. There are 
other ships in the vicinity. Under present regu- 
lations, no other ships would be permitted at the 
same dock while LNG is loaded or unloaded. 

Confining the Fire. The alarm is sounded. The 
cargo pumps are shut down, and the deck water 
spray system is activated. The crews of other 
ships at the pier and shore personnel are alerted 
to take emergency measures to protect their ves- 
sels and facilities. The proper valves are shut 
down to stop the leak and hoselines are run out 
and charged with water. Two teams using water 
fog advance along with the person designated to 
close the isolation valves, to protect him from the 
radiant heat. All deck openings are closed, and 
all ventilation intakes are secured. 

Attack. The hose reels and the dry chemical 
system nearest the spill are run out and charged 
with dry chemical to the nozzle. Since extinguish- 
ment is desired, the dry chemical hoselines are 
used. To extinguish a spill on the loading arm, 
the turret monitor for the dry chemical unit on 
the dock side of the ship is used. It can be actu- 
ated locally or remotely, to discharge the agent 
from the turret in a fixed pattern. 

Protecting Exposures. The deck water spray 
system protects the cargo tanks, piping and deck- 
house. The protective spray system on the shore 
installation is also activated. 

The ship's cargo hoses are disconnected. The 
master requests a tug to move the vessel. If the 
fire is extinguished, the request can be cancelled. 
However, it is important that the ship be ready 
to move as soon as possible. 

Overhaul. Once the leak is isolated and the fire 
is extinguished, the remaining LNG is washed 
overboard. If the spill is very large and the wind 
is blowing toward the terminal facility or the ves- 
sel's housing, it may be desirable to let the fire 
burn under controlled conditions until all the 
LNG is consumed. However, a small spill would 
not normally present a hazard after extinguish- 
ment, if the water spray system is operating. 
Moreover, the longer the structural metal is ex- 
posed to high heat, the greater is the chance of 
structural damage. Thus, a small spill would usu- 
ally be extinguished immediately. 

LNG Spill due to a High Energy Impact 

As of this writing, there has not been a recorded 
high energy impact involving an LNG ship. How- 
ever, given the planned construction of 100 LNG 
ships worldwide within the next decade, it is con- 

ceivable that such a collision could occur. We do 
not know what would actually happen during and 
after such a collision, so the following case is 
mostly speculation. In this hypothetical case, very 
little is said concerning the second vessel involved 
in the accident. The type of vessel, its cargo and 
the experience and training of its crew would, of 
course, affect firefighting efforts. For example, we 
assume below that the two vessels become locked 
together. The crew of the second vessel would 
actually do everything in their power to move 
away from the LNG vessel. Moreover, they would 
attempt to fight the fire on their ship with the 
firefighting systems and devices carried on board. 
However, given these limitations to our hypo- 
thetical situation, we can suggest what might 

The Fire. An LNG vessel is hit broadside with 
sufficient force to penetrate the double hull and 
LNG container. It is believed that the second 
vessel would have to be moving at a speed of at 
least 28-37 km/hr (15-20 knots). The two ves- 
sels remain locked together. The escaping LNG 
fills the void space surrounding the tank and, in 
contacting seawater, commences to boil very vio- 
lently. It produces a gas overpressure in excess of 
the pressure that can safely be relieved through 
the void relief valves on spherical tank ships only 
and the hull opening. At the time of the collision, 
the LNG gas is ignited. Shortly thereafter, the 
pressure buildup results in further rupture of the 
hull, with fire spreading into the sea with the 
spilled LNG. The second vessel is totally engulfed 
in flames from the LNG, while the LNG vessel 
experiences fire only in the area of the collision. 

Sizeup. Of the five LNG tanks on the vessel, 
only one tank is breached. Each tank contains 
25,000 m 3 (approximately 150,000 barrels) of 
LNG. The wind is blowing across the LNG ship 
and down the length of the other vessel. The ves- 
sels are in open sea, with no land or other vessels 
in the vicinity. The alarm is sounded. 

Confining the Fire. The deck water spray sys- 
tem is activated. Hoselines are run out and 
activated with high-velocity fog to supplement 
the fixed-spray system. Hose-reel lines are run 
out from the dry chemical units but are not 
pressurized at this time. Since the other vessel 
is engulfed in flaming vapors and must be as- 
sumed to be immobilized, the LNG vessel main- 
tains its propulsion and steering systems in opera- 
tion. They are needed to jockey the two vessels 
as necessary to alter the present relative wind 
position temporarily to effect a rescue, if possible, 

Combating the Fire 


of the other crew. This action could also increase 
the intensity of heat and flame hitting the unin- 
volved LNG tanks, perhaps beyond the ability 
of the water spray system to protect these tanks. 
As a result, additional LNG tanks could become 

Protecting Exposures. Four LNG tanks are in 
danger of becoming involved. At present, they 
are being protected by the water spray system. 
Not much can be done to aid the other vessel, 
beyond rescue of its crew. The fire on the second 
vessel cannot be combated until the spilling LNG 
is completely consumed. The rate of release of 
LNG from the hull will determine how long it 
will take for the contents of the involved tank to 
be consumed. 

Attack. The situation requires that efforts be 
directed toward controlling the spread of the fire, 
while the LNG from the involved tank is con- 
sumed. This is accomplished by 1) effecting a 
position for rescue of the other crew, and then 
maneuvering to change the relative wind more 
toward the beam (to decrease the heat intensity 
on the uninvolved tanks; and 2) continuing 
to cool adjacent structures. Additional cooling is 
provided by fire-main hoselines and deluge water 
flow from the fire-main monitors. No attempt is 
made to extinguish the fire. 

At least several hours will be required for all 
the LNG in the involved tank to burn up. During 
this time, there is no relaxation of efforts to con- 
trol the fire and keep it from spreading. 

Overhaul. Eventually, the spill rate begins to 
decrease. When this becomes evident, the fire- 
fighters advance as many water fog applicators 
as possible to the fire. The fog streams are di- 
rected at the breach in the hull, so that flames 
will not flash into the double hull as the liquid 
flow diminishes. Further, they use the vessel's 
inert gas system to make the breached void inert 
(as well as the LNG tank as it is draining). This 
minimizes the danger of explosion when all the 
liquid has drained and only gas is left. They con- 
tinue this cooling after the flames on both vessels 
have been extinguished, and until all metal struc- 
tures are too cool to cause reflash. 

As the two vessels move against each other, 
the friction could provide sufficient heat for re- 
flash, so the contact area is carefully observed. 
Water is sprayed until all danger of reflash has 
passed. Maintaining the tank and void inert also 
aids in preventing reflash. 

When it is considered safe to do so, the two 
vessels are separated. During this operation, the 
crews again carefully guard against explosion. 

The LNG vessel is able to maintain stability 
within a safe range; its structural integrity is not 
decreased by the lengthy burnout. These are, of 
course, predictions. They may be valid only if 
maneuvering and structural cooling procedures 
are accomplished as described above. 

Comments on High Energy Impact without Fire. 

It is highly unlikely such an impact could occur 
without a fire. Since it is conceivable, we must 
consider the effect of the vapor cloud drifting 
toward an inhabited area. All present predictions 
of possible effects of vapor cloud drift are based 
on instantaneous release of the total content of 
the tank. This in itself is unrealistic, as the breach 
in the hull would not normally release all the 
LNG at once. If it did happen, a drifting vapor 
cloud of such magnitude could present a fire 
hazard to large inhabited areas. However, it is 
more likely that a small cloud would form and 
would dissipate within a few hundred yards of 
the vessel. Deliberate ignition of the vapor cloud 
to prevent a catastrophe might well be a self- 
sacrificing gesture (ignition stops the forward 
drift of the vapor cloud). It probably would not 
be necessary, though, given the present design of 
LNG vessels and the existing navigational safe- 

Fire on a Passenger Ferry 

The Fire. Fire in a passenger vehicle is filling 
the vehicular alley with smoke. Some people are 
leaving their cars, while others are blowing their 
horns to attract attention. 

Sizeup. The car is on the main deck of a drive- 
on-drive-off passenger and vehicle ferry. The fire 
is in the engine compartment of the car. There 
are 7 cars in front of the involved car, and 10 
cars behind. Three passengers in the involved 
car are able to leave it. There are two passenger 
decks above the main deck. The vehicular alley is 
open at either end, with two crossovers to adja- 
cent vehicular alleys. There is a walkway running 
the entire length of the vehicular alley. 

Attack. The alarm is sounded. The water spray, 
or manual sprinkler, system for the involved 
alley is activated. This suppresses the fire while 
hoselines are advanced into position. It also re- 
duces visibility and tends to keep the passengers 
in their cars. One crewman immediately takes a 
portable extinguisher (CO2, dry chemical or 
Halon) to the involved auto. He cannot readily 
open the hood, so he directs the stream into the 
engine compartment through the radiator grill 
and from below on either side of the engine. A 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

hoseline is run out and charged. Under its pro- 
tection, the passengers are removed from the car 
and taken to the forward part of the vessel (into 
the wind). 

Confining the Fire. The cars to the rear are the 
most threatened, but neither they nor the burning 
car can be moved. The fire can best be prevented 
from spreading by quick extinguishment using 
portable extinguishers and hoselines. 

Protecting Exposures. The water spray system 
and the hoselines provide sufficient protection for 
exposed vehicles. The passengers of exposed cars 
are taken from the vehicle alley until firefighting 
operations are completed. 

Ventilation. The ferry's speed is reduced, and it 
is maneuvered broadside to the wind. This re- 
duces the draft that would tend to accelerate the 
fire. Once the fire is out, the original course is 
resumed; the natural draft quickly removes the 
smoke and heat. 

Overhaul. The engine compartment is over- 
hauled by disconnecting the battery, ungrounded 
strap first. Any smoldering insulation is wet down. 
Hot spots are cooled with spray from a partially 
opened nozzle. Some gasoline has spilled, and it 
is flushed from the deck. Upon docking, if there 
is any suspicion of flammable vapors in the alley, 
the cars should not be driven off the ferry. In- 
stead, they should be pushed or pulled off by the 
crew or shoreside help. 


A comprehensive fire prevention program is of 
prime importance in the day-to-day operation of 
any vessel. However, there may be a time when, 
in spite of all the crew's precautions, they are 
faced with a hostile fire aboard ship. Weekly fire 
drills should have provided crewmen with the 
skills they need to control and extinguish the fire 
and conclude their voyage successfully. 

At the first indication of fire, the alarm must 
be sounded. Then the fire must be located; some- 
times this will be easy and at other times it may 
be quite difficult. However, the alarm will bring 
people to help locate the fire. 

After the fire is located, the firefighters must 
determine what is burning to know what extin- 
guishing agent or agents to employ. The extent 
of the fire and the best method of attack must 
also be determined. Whatever the method of 
initial attack may be, it should be backed up with 

a second, and more substantial, means of attack. 
For example, a small fire might be attacked ini- 
tially with portable extinguishers. Then charged 
fire-main hoselines or a semiportable system 
would be advanced as backup if the initial attack 
fails to control the fire. An initial attack with a 
semiportable system would be backed up with 
charged hoselines; an initial attack with hoselines 
would be backed up with more or larger hose- 
lines. However, water must be used prudently on 
a vessel, because of the stability problems that it 
can cause. 

The fixed extinguishing system is, in most 
cases, a backup that should be used only as a 
last resort. This is especially so in the case of an 
engine room fire. Use of the fixed CO2 system 
requires that the engine room be evacuated, and 
the loss of power and steering for a long period 
of time may lead to worse problems than the fire. 
However, when the last resort is the only remain- 
ing hope, it must be used. Fixed systems may be 
used for the initial attack on cargo hold fires be- 
cause they are effective in such confined spaces 
and because it is not essential that anyone enter 
the holds during a voyage. 

Fires directly involving hazardous materials 
generally produce dangerous fumes. The ma- 
terials may also react violently to normal extin- 
guishing agents. When a ship's fire party is in 
doubt as to the correct procedures for fighting a 
fire involving a hazardous substance, the Coast 
Guard may be consulted. The Coast Guard will 
provide information concerning the proper pro- 
cedures and safety precautions. Here are three 
organizations that may be contacted: 

• The National Response Center, located in 
Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, 
D.C. The tollfree telephone number is 

• The Chemical Transportation Emergency 
Center (CHEMTREC). The tollfree tele- 
phone number is (800) 424-9300. 

• The Chemical Hazards Response Informa- 
tion System (CHRIS) of the Coast Guard, 
located in Washington, D.C. The telephone 
number is (202) 426-9568. 

The fire must be confined to the space in which 
it originated. This may be accomplished by con- 
trolling the flow of air to and from the fire area; 
by cooling the adjacent bulkheads, deck and over- 
head; and by directing an extinguishing agent 
onto the fire to reduce its intensity or its ability 
to radiate heat to other combustibles. Trapped 
victims must be found and removed to safety or 
protected with hoselines or ventilation until the 

Combating the Fire 


fire is under control. The exposures, the six sides 
of the box that contains the fire, must be checked 
and protected. 

Then, finally, after the fire is out, the overhaul- 
ing begins. The fire debris must be examined, 
bit by bit, to ensure that there are no smolder- 
ing embers. All paths of extension must be 

checked. If the fire has been extensive, a fire 
watch should be set. All firefighting equipment 
must then be placed back in service, and any 
structural damage must be rectified. The cause 
of the fire should be determined, as a first step 
in preventing the recurrence of the same type of 


Fire Fighting Manual for Tank Vessels, C.G. 329 
U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, 
Washington, D.C. 

Marine Officers' Handbook, Edward A. Turpin and 
William A. MacEwen, Cornell Maritime Press, 
Inc., Cambridge, Maryland. 1965. 

Damage Controlman, U.S. Navy Training Manual, 
U.S. Navy Training Publication Center, Wash- 
ington, D.C. 1964. 

Fire Fighting — Ship, Bureau of Ships Manual, Chap- 
ter 93, U.S. Navy, Washington, D.C. 

Proceedings of the Marine Safety Council, CG-129, 
U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, 
Washington, D.C. 

Fire Chiefs Handbook, 4th ed., James Casey, Dun- 
Donnelley Publishing Corporation, New York, 


Protection of TugboaU, 
TouiboaU & Barges 

Millions of tons of cargo are transported on rivers, 
lakes, canals and intercoastal waterways each day. 
The vast majority is carried on unmanned barges 
without propulsion, pushed or pulled by tugboats 
or towboats (Figs. 11.1 and 11.2). Barge trans- 
portation has become international with the intro- 
duction of Lash and Seabee vessels. These ships 
carry barges and their contents to almost every 
corner of the world. More and more freight is 
being transported by ocean-going barges and tug- 
boats, and both tugs and barges are increasing in 
size, carrying capacity and speed (Fig. 11.2). 

Every conceivable raw material, commodity 
and manufactured product is transported by 
barge. Many of these materials are highly com- 
bustible; other types of hazardous cargo include 
explosives, radioactive materials, corrosives, irri- 
tants and poisonous materials. The remainder are 
mostly ordinary class A combustibles, which can 
easily become involved with fire. Yet with all 
these millions of tons of cargo, carried day in and 
day out in all weather conditions, there is a very 
low incidence of major accidents and fires. 


Safety is a matter of vital and continuing concern 
to the barge and towing industry — concern for 
the welfare of the men and women employed 
aboard towboats; concern for the general public 
living and working along waterways; and concern 
for the safety and integrity of the cargo. Although 
the industry has a remarkable safety record, it 
continues to work toward improving that record. 
Industry representatives cooperate fully with the 
responsible agencies, particularly the U.S. Coast 
Guard. Towboat and barge personnel are trained 
in the practical aspects of safety and fire preven- 
tion. General safety and firefighting theory and 
tactics are an important part of the curriculum 

at industry training schools. Many barge and 
towboat owners conduct private safety training 
schools along with on-the-job training sessions; 
some arrange for crewmen to take courses at 
state fire training schools for "hands-on" learning. 
In addition, the American Waterways Operators, 
Inc., publishes basic safety and fire prevention 
literature, safety posters and checkoff forms for 
barge safety inspections {see Table 11.1 at end 
of this chapter). 

The teaching of safety is essential if crewmen 
are to have the proper attitude toward safety; it 
is the crew who must make safety work, day after 
day. Some of the ways in which crewmen can 
help make tugboats, towboats and barges safer 
for all concerned are as follows: 

1. Avoid exposure to dangerous situations 
whenever possible. Lost or broken equip- 
ment can be replaced — you cannot. 

2. Do not unnecessarily expose yourself to 
the chance of falling overboard. When- 
ever possible, work where you are pro- 

3. Don your life jacket and work vest prop- 
erly; keep them fully fastened when there 
is any chance you may fall overboard. 

4. Never stand when riding in a skiff or 
small boat. 

5. Avoid going out on the tow alone after 
dark. If you must do so, advise the pilot- 
house watch before going out, and report 
your return. 

6. Keep guardrails and lifelines in place and 
pulled up snugly. Do not hang or sit on 

7. Do not lean against lock walls, docks or 
other shore structures while you are on 
the boat or the barges. 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 11.1. Towboats and barges move millions of gallons of combustible petroleum products on rivers, lakes and waterways 
every day. (Courtesy American Waterways Operators, Inc.) 

8. Always carry loads on your outboard side. 

9. Use a pike pole to handle lines or wire 
beyond the edge of the boat or barge. 

10. Observe "No Smoking" areas carefully. 
Smoking is never allowed in bed, in paint 
lockers, at oil or fueling docks or on the 
decks of petroleum or flammable-cargo 
vessels. Discard cigarette butts in the 
proper receptacles. Never throw burning 
material over the side. 

1 1 . Learn the locations of fire hydrants and 
portable extinguishers, and know how to 
use them. Report every fire immediately 
upon discovery. 

Figure 11.2. Each year there is an increase in the amount 
of cargo moved along coastal waters by ocean-going tug- 
boats and barges. (Courtesy American Waterways Operators, 

12. Except in an emergency, never run or 
jump on the job. Never engage in horse- 
play on the boat or tow. 

13. Stay alert at all times. Watch for tripping 
hazards, open hatches and slick spots on 

14. Always close open manhole covers, or 
place guards around them if they must 
remain open. 

15. Never walk on dry cargo barge hatch 

16. Keep your hands and feet away from 
places where they are liable to be crushed. 

17. Always wear goggles or eyeshields when 
you are chipping, burning, grinding or 
scraping, or when your eyes are exposed 
to wind-blown dust or other irritants. 

18. Do not wear loose and ragged clothing 
around rotating or moving machinery. 

19. Make sure portable ladders are securely 
set. Watch out for cracked or broken 
rungs and rails. 

20. Keep all areas of the deck (including 
gangways, walkways and outside stair- 
ways) free of oil, grease, debris, ice and 
other foreign substances. 

21. Stand clear of all lines and cables under 
tension. Do not straddle lines that are 
being tightened. 

22. Always place ratchets to tighten lines 
pulling inboard. 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 


23. Do not make a line fast to a bitt or tim- 
berhead on which there is already a line. 

24. Keep your fingers out from between bitts 
or timberheads and the wires or ropes 
being handled. 

25. When you are feeding a line onto a bitt 
or timberhead, always work from the 
"dry" side. Stay clear of "working" lines. 

26. Do not stand in the bight of a line at any 

27. Never swim off a boat or barge. 

28. Always lift loads by bending your knees. 
If the load is too heavy, get some help! 

29. Know the safe and proper way to do your 
job. If in doubt, ask your supervisor. 

30. Report all injuries immediately to the 
proper authority. 

3 1 . Always use your approved flashlight when 
you are on deck after dark. 

32. Keep all portable gangways and walk- 
ways secured so they will not slip when 

33. If you notice that any item of equipment 
is damaged, or discover any hazardous 
or dangerous condition, report it to your 
immediate supervisor. 

34. Beware of hanging fenders from moving 
towboats as they come alongside station- 
ary tows, docks, pilings or sea walls. 


Tugboats and towboats are both used to move 
barges, in addition to their harbor duties. Owing 
to their construction, tugboats are better adapted 
to the towing of barges in open water, where they 
are subjected to heavy winds and waves. Ocean- 
going tugboats range in size up to 356 metric tons 
(350 gross tons). Their lengths range from 30.5- 
45.7 m (100-150 ft), and their engines from 
1120-6710 kilowatts (1500-9000 hp). Tows are 
normally pulled, but in the newer integrated tug- 
barge configurations the barges are pushed {see 
Fig. 11.2). 

Towboats are the power units that propel single 
barges or multiple-barge tows made up of 40 or 
more barges. These vessels are designed to work 
in the protected waters of rivers and canals. Spe- 
cial rudder arrangements, and one to four pro- 
pellers (powered by individual diesel engines) in 
a Kort nozzle, provide the control necessary to 
navigate the restricted channels of rivers and 
canals. A tow of about 10 tank barges represents 
about 13,600,000 liters (3,000,000 gal) of pe- 

troleum products; this is a common towing as- 
signment for such vessels. 

Some of the most common sizes of towboats 
and tugboats are shown in Figure 11.3, and tow- 
boats up to 58 m (190 ft) in length, with 16.5-m 
(54-ft) beam, 2.6-m (8.6-ft) draft and up to 7.5 
megawatts (10,000 hp) have recently been put in 
service. Modern tugboats and towboats are pow- 
ered by diesel engines. They are both outfitted 
with the same basic types of fire protection equip- 

Automatic Fire Detection Systems 

While not normally used, the fire detectors used 
on tugboats and towboats are almost always set 
up to activate an alarm rather than a fire extin- 
guishing system. There are two reasons for not 
installing automatically operated extinguishing 
systems in engine rooms: 

1. A system that automatically floods the en- 
gine room with an extinguishing agent can 
jeopardize the lives of personnel in that 

2. The flooding of an engine room would 
cause the loss of propulsion. During a criti- 
cal navigating maneuver, this could result 
in a serious accident. 

Detectors are sometimes used to trigger fire- 
fighting systems in such spaces as paint lockers, 
lamp lockers and small storage rooms, as these 
spaces are not usually occupied. Wherever an 
automatic system is used, the proper warning de- 
vices should be installed, and warning signs 
posted {see Chapter 9). 

On tugboats and towboats, automatic fire de- 
tection systems are used primarily in engine 
rooms. The detectors most often employed are 
pneumatic detectors and combination heat and 
smoke detectors. 

Pneumatic Detectors. In the pneumatic detector, 
heat from a fire causes air within a diaphragm 
or hollow metal tube to expand. The resulting 
pressure is used to actuate switches that will turn 
on alarm bells, shut off power venting systems 
and close dampers. Pneumatic detectors are very 
reliable, because they have few moving parts. 
They should be tested at least quarterly to ensure 
proper operation. 

Heat and Smoke Detectors. Some newer ves- 
sels are equipped with combination heat and 
smoke detectors. These devices are extremely 
sensitive, and they react faster than the pneumatic- 
type detectors. The detectors are placed in engine 
rooms and in living areas. In some systems, the 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safet v 




Locking Device 


Figure 11.3. A modern integrated Tug Barge system. 

detectors transmit an electrical signal to an 
annunciator when they sense fire or smoke. The 
annunciator display board indicates, with lights, 
the location of the detector that sent the alarm 
and the cause of the alarm. Smoke is indicated 
by an amber light, and flaming combustion by a 
red light. An audible alarm is sounded simultane- 
ously. The detectors and circuits can be moni- 
tored. A breakdown in the system is indicated on 
the annunciator display board by a blue or white 
light and a buzzer that is distinctly different from 
the audible fire alarm. 

Combination heat and smoke detectors are 
sometimes installed as individual self-contained 
units. When such a unit senses smoke or fire, it 
sounds an audible alarm and flashes a light. {See 
Chapter 6 for a detailed discussion of fire detec- 
tors and detection systems.) 

Fixed Fire-Extinguishing Systems 

Fire-Main System. The fire-main system is the 
basic firefighting system for tugboats and tow- 
boats. In most systems, 6.4- or 7.6-cm (2 J /2- or 
3-in.) piping carries water from the pumps to the 
fire stations. The water pumps have capacities 
ranging from 570-1900 lit/min (150-500 gal/ 
min). Generally, two pumps are installed, with 
one in service and one as a backup pump. Be- 

cause tugboats and towboats do not always have 
enough space to separate the pumps, they may 
both be located in the same general area. 

The fire stations are usually located at the 
main deck level, on exterior bulkheads. Each fire 
station has a water outlet with a control valve 
and a 3.8-cm (1 1/2 -in.) connector. The connector 
is often fitted with a wye gate so that two 3.8-cm 
(lV^-in.) hoselines can be connected into the fire 
station. A wide variety of nozzles are used since 
some towboats are not required to carry specific 

The most widely used nozzle is similar in op- 
eration to a garden hose nozzle; it produces a 
good fog stream and a straight stream. Plastic 
combination nozzles are also being used on some 
vessels. They can provide a solid stream and 30° 
and 60° fog streams. The ability to vary the width 
and type of stream is advantageous in firefighting 
operations. Straight streams have greater reach 
and penetration which allow the attack to be 
made from a distance. Fog streams have excellent 
heat absorption qualities, and their conical shape 
protects firefighters from the fire's heat when a 
close-in attack is necessary. 

Some older vessels still carry smooth-bore noz- 
zles that are both inefficient and dangerous. If the 
smooth-bore nozzle of a charged hoseline is 
dropped and becomes free, the nozzle will whip 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 


back and forth and can cause injury if it hits a 
crew member. If the nozzleman is forced to re- 
treat and abandon the hose, he may not be able 
to shut off the water flow. There is a proposal to 
do away with this type of nozzle in the marine 

Some towboats and tugboats do not have a 
fire-main system (see Chapter 9). Their only 
firefighting water supply is a pipe outlet with a 
connection for a deck washdown hose. While this 
setup is very ineffective, it can be used to extin- 
guish fire if the attack is made early, while the 
fire is small. Firefighters would have to advance 
close to the fire, because the nozzle will probably 
produce a poor water stream. (See Chapter 10 for 
a description of the use of water streams to at- 
tack fire.) 

Engine Rooms. Fixed carbon dioxide (CO2) or 
Halon 1301 total-flooding systems are installed 
in the engine rooms of some tugboats and tow- 
boats. These systems are similar to those de- 
scribed in Chapter 9, but are smaller in scale. 
When fire is discovered, the system is activated 
from outside the engine room by pulling two re- 
lease cables in the proper sequence. The cable 
pulls are usually located just outside the door- 
way(s) leading from the engine room to the main 
deck or passageway. Before the CO2 is released 
into the engine room, a warning horn sounds. 
The engine room must be evacuated at that time, 
because the CO2 will lower the oxygen content 
below the level necessary to sustain life. For effec- 
tive extinguishment, openings to the engine room 
must be secured and made as airtight as possible. 
This is especially important on towboats, where 
there are large windows in the bulkheads and sky- 
light vents in the overhead. (See Chapter 10 for 
a description of the use of the CO2 total-flooding 
system in an engine room.) 

Paint and Lamp Lockers. Small CO2 or Halon 
1301 flooding systems are often used to protect 
paint and lamp lockers and deck gear-storage 
spaces. These small systems may or may not be 
activated by fire detectors. Normally, they are 
activated manually. However, if a system can be 
operated automatically, a discharge warning horn 
or bell must be part of the system. If a space is 
protected by an automatic extinguishing system, 
its doors should be kept closed when it is unoc- 
cupied. An open door would allow the gas to 
flow out of the space if the system were activated. 
If a locker is protected by a manual system, a 
separate detection system sounds the alarm when 
it senses fire. Then the space must be checked for 
occupants before all openings are closed to con- 

tain the extinguishing agent. An external means 
of closing vents and louvers and an excess pres- 
sure release device are required for each small 
compartment protected by gas extinguishing 
agents. The system is activated with the usual pull 
cables. (If the fire is small, crewmen should at- 
tempt to extinguish it by some means other than 
the gas flooding system, which will discharge 
45.4 kg (100 lb) CO2 or Halon into the locker.) 

Semiportable Systems 

Semiportable carbon dioxide extinguishing sys- 
tems are used to fight fires in engine rooms. The 
usual system consists of one or two 22.7- or 
45.4-kg (50- or 100-lb) cylinders, a length of hose 
and a horn-type discharge nozzle. The nozzle 
handle is long, and the nozzle control lever can 
be locked in the open or closed position. With 
the lever locked in the open position, the long 
horn can be used to discharge CO2 into places 
that are difficult to reach. 

Semiportable Halon systems are also used. This 
system usually consists of one or two cylinders 
of agent at a pressure of about 1310 kilopascals 
(190 psi) at normal temperatures. For faster re- 
lease, as in the case of explosion suppression sys- 
tems, the gas is pressurized with nitrogen to pres- 
sures as high as 6900 kilopascals (1000 psi). The 
agent is directed onto the fire with an on-off noz- 
zle connected to the cylinders by a length of 
rubber hose. (See Chapter 8 for a detailed de- 
scription of both CO2 and Halon semiportable 

Cautions. Small tugs and towboats have small 
engine rooms. The rapid discharge of several 
CO2 cylinders into a confined space could lower 
the oxygen content to a dangerous level. The per- 
son using the extinguisher could pass out and be 
injured as he falls. Humans are also affected by 
exposure to small concentrations of CO2, even 
though the oxygen content of the air may not be 
reduced to the danger level. If a fire persists and 
CO2 must be used in a small area, crewmen must 
wear breathing apparatus, and work in two-man 
teams if possible. 

Carbon dioxide extinguishers must not be used 
to purge fuel tanks. Recently an explosion oc- 
curred when a CO2 extinguisher was used to 
purge a small fuel tank. It has been known for 
some time that the flow of CO2 through the dis- 
charge nozzle produces static electricity. Usually 
this is not considered to be dangerous during fire- 
fighting operations, however, during the purging 
the discharge horn was close enough to the fuel 
tank rim to permit a static spark to jump from 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

the horn to the tank, ignite the vaporized fuel and 
cause the explosion. 

Portable Extinguishers 

Tugboats and towboats are required to carry port- 
able fire extinguishers capable of extinguishing 
class A, B and C fires. (See Chapter 8 for a full 
description of such extinguishers.) 


In this section, two fire situations and the recom- 
mended firefighting procedures are described 
from the alarm to overhaul. The terminology and 
the procedures detailed in the Firefighting Pro- 
cedures section of Chapter 1 should be reviewed 
at this time. 

Electrical Fire on a Harbor Tugboat 

The Fire. The main generator is giving off 
dense smoke, and the insulation on the windings 
is starting to burn. 

Sizeup. The vessel is under way with a tow. 
The generator is supplying electricity for the tug's 
lighting, radar and communication needs. The 
generator is located in the engine room on the 
port side aft. 

Attack. The alarm is sounded. The circuit 
breaker is tripped to take the generator off the 
line. This should be done from the engine room, 
if possible; otherwise, the breaker on deck or in 
the pilothouse can be tripped. The diesel engine 
driving the generator is shut down to protect 
crew members attacking the fire. The auxiliary 
generator is started to provide electricity for the 
engine room lights, the navigation equipment and 
the general service pump. 

One crewman advances a portable CO2, dry 
chemical or Halon extinguisher as close as pos- 
sible to the generator. He directs the stream into 
the generator windings. 

Confining the Fire. The fire was confined by re- 
moving the electrical load and shutting down the 
generator drive engine. This prevents the produc- 
tion of additional heat and the overheating of 
wires that run to other areas. 

Protecting Exposures. Crewmen remove what- 
ever combustibles they can carry from the vicinity 
of the generator. Since the entire engine room is 
exposed, the best protection is to quickly knock 
down the flames and cool the generator. Once 
the generator is taken off the line and the driving 
mechanism secured, the fire can be controlled. 

Ventilation. The burning insulation gives off 
large quantities of irritating smoke. Mechanical 
ventilation is used to clear the engine room after 
the fire is extinguished. 

Overhaul. A great deal of heat remains in the 
copper generator components. This is absorbed 
by wet canvas and burlap, placed on the outside 
of the generator housing. 

Fire in a Deck Gear-Storage Space 

The Fire. Cordage, wooden tackle and burlap 
waste are burning on the deck inside the storage 
space. The fire is extending up the forward bulk- 
head. The alarm is sounded. 

Sizeup. The storage space is on the main deck; 
it runs 7.62 m (25 ft) across the beam of the 
vessel and is about 4.6 m (15 ft) wide with a 
2.4 m (8 ft) overhead. It is entered through port 
and starboard doors. A small vent is located in 
the overhead. In addition to deck gear, the stor- 
age space contains cartons of toilet tissue and 
paper towels and some lumber. The main body 
of the fire is located about 2.4 m (8 ft) from the 
starboard doorway. The space is not equipped 
with a CO2 or Halon flooding system. 

Attack. Since firefighters are able to enter the 
space, an attack is made with a portable extin- 
guisher. A dry chemical extinguisher could 
quickly knock down the flames if properly ap- 
plied. However, it might not extinguish the fire 
completely, because class A combustibles tend to 
smolder. A portable water extinguisher could do 
the job if the stream is properly applied, but an 
extensive fire may be beyond the extinguisher's 

Backup. Hoselines are positioned at the two 
doorways to back up the extinguisher. The hose- 
lines are charged to the nozzle. The fire is so in- 
tense that the crewman with the extinguisher is 
forced to retreat. An attack must be made with a 
hose stream. The port-side hoseline will be used, 
so that the stream does not push the fire across 
the entire compartment. 

The port-side line (line 1 in Fig. 11.4) is ad- 
vanced to the space. The nozzleman uses a spray 
pattern and crouches low. He sweeps the overhead 
with a short burst as he enters, to cool off the 
hot gases. Then he advances into the space, di- 
recting short bursts of fog at the base of the 
flames. The starboard door is opened to allow the 
heat and smoke to vent outside. The starboard 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 237 




































Figure 11.4. Standard dimensions and power of towboats and tugboats (including ocean-going 
tugs). (Courtesy American Waterways Operators, Inc.) 

hoseline (line 2) is used to knock down any flame 
that is pushed out the door. It is not at any time 
directed into the door. Its function is only to pre- 
vent the extension of flames outside the door. 

Protecting Exposures. All areas adjacent to the 
fire are checked. If fire has entered these areas 
this fire must also come under attack. If fire has 
not entered the area but bulkheads are hot, com- 
bustibles must be moved away from the bulk- 

head and the bulkhead cooled with a fog stream. 

Overhaul. Once the fire is knocked down and 
darkened, the burning material is pulled apart 
and wet down. When it can be picked up, it is 
taken out on the deck and saturated with water. 
The spaces adjacent to the storage space are care- 
fully inspected for fire extension. All materials 
that are stowed against or near the bulkheads are 
moved to allow a complete inspection. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safely 


At one time or another, barges carry almost every 
conceivable type of flammable cargo. A tow may 
consist of similar barges that are all carrying the 
same commodity, or a variety of different types 
of barges carrying different cargoes. In the latter 
case, the diversity of cargoes and storage methods 
can complicate firefighting operations. 

Types of Barges 

The hulls of most inland waterway barges are 
similar in length, width and draft because they 
all must be able to navigate the same waterways. 
The final configuration of a barge is, however, 
determined by the cargo it will carry and the size 
of the locking system. 

Open-Hopper Barge. This type of barge is used 
primarily to move sand, gravel, rock, coal, logs, 
lumber and fertilizer. With slight modifications, 
it can be used to transport almost any solid com- 
modity, in bulk or packaged. The hopper barge 
is usually a double-skinned, open-top box; the 
inner shell forms a long hopper or cargo hold 
(Fig. 11.5). 

Covered Dry-Cargo Barge. This barge is simi- 
lar to the open-hopper barge, but it is equipped 

Figure 11.5. Location of the fire and placement and use of 
hoselines. Note that line 2 is directed so that its stream 
does not block the flow of combustion products out of the 

with watertight covers for the entire cargo hold 
(Figs. 1 1.5 and 1 1.6). It is generally used to carry 
grain products, coffee, soybeans, paper and paper 
products, lumber and building materials, cement, 
iron and steel products, dry chemicals, aluminum 
and aluminum products, machinery and parts, 
rubber and rubber products, salt, soda ash, sugar 
and sometimes packaged goods. 

Tank Barges. Three basic types of tank barges 
(Fig. 11.5) are used for the transportation of 
liquids. On single-skin tank barges, the bow and 
stern compartments are separated from the mid- 
ship by transverse collision bulkheads. The entire 
midship shell of the vessel constitutes the cargo 
tank. For strength and stability, this huge tank is 
divided by bulkheads. The structural framing for 
the hull is inside the cargo tank. 

Double-skin tank barges have, as the name 
implies, an inner and an outer shell. The inner 
shell forms the cargo tanks; the tanks are free of 
internal structural members and thus are easy to 
clean and to line. Double-skin barges are used 
to transport poisons and other hazardous liquids 
that require the protection of a void space be- 
tween the outer and inner shells. 

Barges with independent cylindrical tanks (Fig. 
1 1.7) are used to transport liquids under pressure 
or liquids that are offloaded by pressure. In some 
cases, cylindrical tank barges are used to carry 
cargoes at or near atmospheric pressure when spe- 
cial tank lining or insulation is required. The 
barge itself is generally of the open-hopper type, 
with the tanks nested in the hopper. The tanks 
are then free to expand or contract, independently 
of the hull. For this reason, cylindrical tank 
barges are preferred for high temperature cargoes 
such as liquid sulphur and refrigerated cargoes 
such as anhydrous ammonia. 

The three most common sizes of tank barges 
are shown in Figure 11.5. More than 3200 tank 
barges, with a total cargo capacity of over 
(6,300,000 tons) are in service today. The ma- 
jority are used for the transportation of petroleum 
and petroleum products — approximately (214,- 
000,000 tons) annually. 

Since 1946, movements of bulk chemicals by 
barge have been increasing steadily. Chemicals 
now comprise one of the most important liquid 
commodities transported by water. The U.S. 
Coast Guard lists approximately 400 chemicals 
that are transported or proposed for transport by 
barge. Some examples are anhydrous ammonia, 
which is transported under a pressure of 1724 
kilopascals (250 psi) or refrigerated to — 33°C 
(— 28°F); liquefied sulphur, which is moved at 
127-138°C (260-280°F); and liquefied methane, 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 239 


Length Breadth 

(Feet) (Feet) 




















































Figure 11.6. Three common barge configurations. (Courtesy American Waterways Operators, Inc.) 

which is transported at — 161 °C (— 258°F). 
Barge-mounted tanks are used to transport liquid 
hydrogen at -252°C (-423°F) and liquid oxy- 
gen at -183°C (-297°F). 

Chemicals and chemical products now make 
up about 3% of the total cargo transported by 
barge. The number of chemicals and the volume 
carried are both expected to continue to increase. 

Deck Barge. This is a hull box, generally with 
a heavily plated, well-supported deck. Deck 
barges usually carry machinery, vehicles and 
heavy equipment (Fig. 11.8). 

Other Barges. Among the various other types 
of barges (Fig. 1 1.8) are rail carfloats, scows and 
barges of special construction. The latter include 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 11.7. Typical covered dry-cargo barge with rolling 
weathertight hold cover. (Courtesy American Waterways 
Operators, Inc.) 

Figure 11.8. Giant independent cylindrical tanks are nested 
into open-hopper barges for transporting chemicals. (Cour- 
tesy American Waterways Operators, Inc.) 

self-unloading barges for cement and grain, der- 
rick and crane barges and those designed to carry 
special cargo such as the Saturn space vehicle. 

Lash and Seabee barges are, essentially, inland 
waterway barges of the hopper type, with cargo 
hold hatch covers. They carry almost every type 
of material except bulk liquids. They are equipped 
with special fittings with which they are loaded 
into ocean-going vessels especially designed to 
carry barges. 

Ocean-going barges are similar in configura- 
tion to inland barges. They are usually larger 
than inland barges, since they are not restricted 
by the need to navigate inland waterways. 

Fire Protection 

The fire protection equipment carried aboard 
barges is very limited. In almost every case, it 
consists only of two portable fire extinguishers. 
Barge owners try to conform to the Coast Guard 
regulation requiring that these extinguishers be 
provided and maintained. However, the barges 
are often left unattended at dockside, where they 
are subject to vandalism and theft. As a result, 
the portable extinguishers are often missing, and 
the barge is left without any fire protection. 

On some large fuel barges, the small pump 
room is protected by a CO2 flooding system. The 
system usually consists of two 22.7-kg (50-lb) 
cylinders, piping and discharge horns. The cylin- 
ders are secured to the outside pump room bulk- 
head. When fire is discovered, the system is ac- 
tivated manually. 

Early discovery of a barge fire is another prob- 
lem, since barges are unmanned and do not have 
fire detection systems. A fire that starts after a 
barge is loaded will probably not be discovered 
until it has reached an advanced stage. (See Chap- 
ters 1 and 2 where fire prevention and safety 
practices during loading are outlined.) 

A fuel barge must be loaded and unloaded in 
strict compliance with all safety regulations. The 
barge must be manned and properly grounded, 
and all spark-producing tools must be removed. 
Smoking and the use of open lights are absolutely 
forbidden. All hatch covers should be closed. 
Open hatches allow volatile fumes to cascade over 
the coaming onto the deck (Fig. 11.9). If the 
fumes are ignited, fire could flash back into the 
tank, causing a massive fire and explosion. 
Soundings should be taken through the ullage 
ports, where the flame screen which must always 
be installed will help prevent fire from flashing 
back into the tank. 


There are two situations in which a tugboat or 
towboat crew should fight a barge fire: 

1. When the fire is small, so that it can be 
fought with portable extinguishers or with 
a hoseline from the tow vessel 

2. When the involved barge is so positioned 
in the tow that the fire is an immediate 
threat to the tow vessel 

Small Barge Fire 

A small fire involving barge cargo can usually be 
extinguished with portable appliances. The fire 
debris should be thoroughly overhauled. Any ma- 

Protect ion of Tugboats, Tow boats & Barges 























f *—- ||B55fiS55 


pi[J ! ill 1 1 J|H 








(Railroad Cars) 









■••^£tffi& ^=%i 

. ~ -M^^jifta' 

^c<£t^iB^^^&w a * 






















Figure 11.9. Three less common barge configurations. (Courtesy American Waterways Operators, 

terial or section of the barge in the vicinity of the 
fire should be carefully examined and wet down 
with water. This is vital, to ensure that no smol- 
dering embers are left to reignite the fire. If the 
material that was burning can be carried easily, 
it should be taken to the towboat deck and wet 
down with a hoseline. As another precautionary 
measure, a crewman should be stationed at the 
site of the fire for several hours to watch for signs 

of active fire. 

If there is any doubt about the fire being com- 
pletely out, the barge should be dropped from 
the tow as soon as possible. If there is a choice, 
the barge should be towed to a terminal, where 
land-based firefighters can position their appa- 
ratus and equipment. The local fire department 
and the U.S. Coast Guard should be notified, so 
they can prepare to receive the barge. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Protecting the Tow Vessel 

When flames from a burning barge jeopardize the 
tow vessel, that vessel must be protected; it is the 
only source of power for maneuvering the tow. 
Hoselines should be positioned to attack the main 
body of fire and protect the tow vessel itself. Two 
lines should be used to knock down the flames; 
a third line should be positioned to protect the 
other firefighting personnel with a fog pattern 
and to cool exposed surfaces on the tow vessel 
(Fig. 11.10). 

If possible, the tow should be maneuvered so 
that the flames, heat and smoke are carried away 
from the tow vessel. If the hoselines cannot keep 
the fire from the tow vessel and maneuvering is 
restricted, the tow vessel should release the tow 
and then move to control it from another position. 
The tow must be controlled until it can be 
grounded. A tow that is burning out of control 
can be disastrous to other vessels and to shore 

Extensive Barge Fire 

If a barge fire cannot be extinguished by the tow 
vessel's crew, the barge should be grounded or 
secured to the shoreline if possible. This action 

1. Isolate the barge from the towboat. (If the 
burning barge can be separated from the 
other barges in the tow, the fire will be 
isolated and confined to one barge.) 

2. Minimize the danger of the barge becom- 
ing a navigational hazard. 

3. Make the barge accessible to land-based 
firefighters if it is grounded on or close to 
the shore. 

When an involved barge is to be grounded, the 
tow operator should notify his company, the U.S. 
Coast Guard (captain of the port) and the local 
land-based fire department. The exact location 
of the burning barge and, if possible, the nature 
of the burning cargo should be provided. This 
information is very valuable to responding Coast 
Guard and fire department units as well as other 
emergency and environmental agencies. 

The location should be given in as much detail 
as possible; e.g., "The barge is tied against the 
east bank of the river at the 98.7 mile marker. 
We can see a gravel road." On the basis of this 
information, the local fire department may be 
able to determine whether they can reach the site 
with fire apparatus. If the location cannot be 
reached by land, the fire department can notify 
the U.S. Coast Guard of that fact. 

Figure 11.10. Volatile fumes can be seen leaving the open 
fuel-barge hatch. Hatches must be closed during loading 
and offloading. 

Knowledge of the fuel is important for two 
reasons. First, it indicates the extinguishing agent 
that must be used. Water could be drafted 
(pumped) at the site to fight a class A fire. But 
for a class B fire, foam would have to be carried 
to the site. Second, the fuel type indicates the 
need for special precautions; e.g., if the burning 
material were a chemical that produced toxic 
fumes, protective clothing and breathing appa- 
ratus would have to be provided for firefighters. 
If the burning barge were near a populated area, 
emergency evacuation procedures might have to 
be initiated; or, if the barge were carrying ex- 
plosives, the area would be evacuated and other 
vessels would be warned to stay clear of the area. 

Fires on Ocean-Going Barges 

Ocean-going barges can become involved with 
fire, and shore line communities are rarely willing 
to allow a burning barge to be grounded on their 
beaches. The firefighting equipment carried by a 
large sea-going tug is only slightly more effective 
than that of a large towboat. The difference is 
simply the tug's ability to pump water at a greater 
volume and pressure. 

Being in open water is of some help, since the 
tow can be maneuvered freely to take advantage 
of the wind. However, a rough sea can make 
maneuvering difficult and dangerous. 

It is extremely important that the fire and the 
tug's position be reported immediately, whether 
the fire is on the tugboat itself or on a barge. If 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 


Figure 11.11. When fire threatens the tow vessel, it must be protected. Lines 1 and 2 attack the fire directly; line 3 protects 
firefighters and the tow vessel. Quick beaching of the tow is imperative. 

assistance is required, it will be on its way as 
soon as possible. Meanwhile, other vessels can 
be warned to keep clear if a burning barge or 
loose barges present a navigation hazard. 

Tugboat in Pushing Position. Fire on a barge 
that is being pushed can endanger the tugboat. 
The fire is fairly close to the tug, and it has a 
path by which to travel to the tug. If a decision 
is made to fight the fire, the barge should be posi- 
tioned so the wind carries the flames, heat and 
smoke away from the tug. If the fire is at the far 
end of the barge, away from the tug, then the tug 
should be positioned to bring the wind directly 
from the stern (Fig. 11.11). This should force 
the fire away from the tug and slow its travel 
along the barge. At least two handlines from the 
tug should be run out to attack the fire. If the tug 
is equipped with a deck monitor, it can be used 
in the attack. 

When the fire is near the tug end of the barge, 
the wind should be brought across the tug's beam 
or from the stern quarter (Fig. 11.12). Handlines 
should be run out to attack and flank the main 
body of fire. The deck monitor can also be used, 
if available. 

When there is no wind, the tow should first 
be brought to a stop. Then it should be moved 
slowly to create a slight airflow that causes the 

flames, heat and smoke to move in a direction 
favorable to firefighting and away from the tug- 
boat (Fig. 11.13). 

During the firefighting operation, the tug 
should be prepared for a stern tow. If the fire 
cannot be controlled, the tug should break away 
from the pushing position and take the barge on 

Figure 11.12. When the fire is at the far end of the barge, 
the wind should be brought astern of the tug. The fire 
should be attacked with at least two hoselines. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 11.13. When the barge fire is near the tug, the 
barge should be maneuvered so the wind pushes the fire 
away from the tug and toward the shortest paths of pos- 
sible fire travei. 

so that the fire does not endanger the tug. The 
burning barge may be released from these tow 
positions, but a towline should be maintained to 
keep the barge under control. Nearby tugs with- 
out tows can assist in this by approaching from 
windward and getting lines on the barge. 

The tug should move out of the main channel. 
The burning barge may be grounded if there is 
shallow water nearby that can be reached without 
jeopardizing the tug, other vessels or shore in- 
stallations. The barge may be grounded on an 
empty beach. However, if explosives, volatile 
fuels or toxic chemicals are involved, this may 
be unwise; the beaching could endanger nearby 
buildings and people. 

The important thing is to control the burning 
barge — with a towline or by grounding or beach- 
ing — until a fireboat reaches the scene. If no fire- 
boat is available and there is nowhere to ground 
the burning barge safely, the barge should be 
towed to open water and allowed to burn itself 

a towline astern. The barge must be kept under 
control with a towline so that it does not become 
a navigation hazard. 

Towline Astern. Fire on a barge on a long tow- 
line astern does not threaten the tugboat. The 
fire is essentially isolated. It may consume the 
cargo on the barge, but it is not a threat to life. 
The tugboat crew should not attempt to attack 
the fire, for several reasons. Since it is important 
to keep the towing rig intact, the tug cannot 
maneuver freely. Even if the tugboat managed to 
reach the barge, the transfer of crewmen to the 
barge would be dangerous and it would be diffi- 
cult to get hoselines into position. Because of the 
risks involved, the crew should not attack the fire. 
Instead, they should report the fire and their posi- 
tion and request assistance. 

In Harbor. The fire and the tug's position should 
be reported immediately. If the tow is being 
pushed or is alongside, it should be maneuvered 

No Wind 

Bring Tow 
to a 
Dead Stop 

Figure 11.14. If there is no wind, the tug must be maneu- 
vered to create a favorable air movement. 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 245 

Table 11.1. Standard Vessel Safety Inspection Checkoff Form.* 



Floors in good condition — free of slippery spots, slippery rugs or 

other articles 

Stairtreads in good condition & adequately non-slip 

Handrails in place & secure 

Electrical equipment grounded 

Fan blades guarded 

Adequate number of ash trays 

"No Smoking" areas clearly defined 

First aid cabinet adequately stocked 

General housekeeping satisfactory 


Floors in good condition — free of slippery spots, slippery rugs or 
other articles 

Stairtreads in good condition & adequately non-slip 

Handrails in place & secure 

Stove in good working order, free of grease & stove guard in use 

Electrical equipment grounded 

All utensils & related items safely stored 

Ice box alarm tested — or does door open outward 

Stores stacked safely — heavy items toward bottom 

General housekeeping satisfactory 


Decks & steps clear of oil and grease 

Stairtreads in good condition & adequately non-slip 

Handrails in place & secure 

Bilges clean 

Equipment guards in place 

Tools in good repair & properly stored 

Power tools grounded 

Lifting gear functioning properly 

Goggles provided at grinder with instructions to use 

Container provided for rags 

Engine room supplies properly stored 

Escape hatches clear & accessible 

Any unnecessary tripping hazards 

General housekeeping satisfactory 


Extinguisher provided at each designated station 
Extinguishers tested annually (note date & recharge on each) 
Extinguishers weighed periodically (note date on each) 
Fixed CO2 system inspected & tested (note date last tested) 
Fire hose & nozzle provided & connected at each station 
Fire hose in good condition 
Spanner wrench provided at each hydrant 
Fire axes in good repair & properly positioned 

"Courtesy, American Waterways Operators, Inc. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Table 11.1. Standard Vessel Safety Inspection Checkoff Form.* — continued 



Are warning signs in good condition & properly located? 

a. No Smoking 

b. No Visitors 

c. No Open Lights 

Are decks kept clean, oil-free & clear of hazards? 

Are void hatch/manhole covers securely dogged? 

Are tank hatches in good condition with good paint-free packing 
to ensure a gas-tight seal? 

Are butterworth plates & other deck openings in good condition 
with all bolts or camlocks in place and with a proper gasket? 

Are there sufficient ullage screens in good condition on board for 
each ullage opening? 

Are pressure/vacuum valves in good working order with flame 
arrestors in place & in good condition? 

Are adequate number of portable fire extinguishers aboard & 
in good condition & properly charged? 

Are fire hoses of sufficient number & length, properly stowed 

and in good condition? 

Are proper number & type of nozzles aboard, in correct location & 

in good condition? 

Are proper number of fire axes, suitably located and 

in good condition? 

Are cargo pump emergency stops in good operating condition? 

Are they clearly marked? 

Are machinery guards in place & in good condition? 

Are mooring lines in good condition & of sufficient length? 

Are proper gangways/access ladders aboard, of sufficient length, 

clean & in good condition? 

Are running lights, mooring lights & warning signals in good 

condition & properly displayed? 

Is electric wiring, including electrical portable cords, and 
speaker wires in good condition? 

Are sufficient portable fenders provided? 

Where fitted, are pump room ventilators in good operating order? 

Are pump engine spark arrestors properly maintained? 

Are storage spaces free of an accumulation of flammable material? 

Is absorbent material available to control minor deck spills? 

Are cargo pump glands & seals tight and in good condition? 

Are tank ladders in good condition? 

Are all handrails & stanchions in place and in good condition? 




Alarm bells & lights tested 

Fire stations properly marked & numbered 

Fire pumps functioning properly 

Fire station bill properly posted 

Note date of last fire drill 


All decks & stairways free of slippery areas 

All ladders & stairway treads in good repair and adequately non-slip 

Handrails in place & secure 

Protection of Tugboats, Towboats & Barges 247 

Table 11.1. Standard Barge Safety Inspection Checkoff Form.* — continued 



Lifelines in good condition & in place 

Manhole covers in good condition & in place 

Life boat in good condition 

Life boat boom operable & in good condition 

Life rings in good condition & in place 

Life ring lights operable & properly secured 

Equipment guards in place 

Stores stacked safely — heavy items toward bottom 

Any unnecessary tripping hazards 

If fresh air breathing apparatus is required: is it in good condition 

(note date last tested) 

Work vests & life jackets in good condition and in sufficient number 

Deck fittings in good condition 

Deck wires, ratchets & lines in good condition 

All navigation lights operable 

Gasoline storage in safe, open area 

General housekeeping satisfactory 



Big Load Afloat, American Waterways Operators, Fire Protection Handbook, 14th edition, National 

Inc., 1973. Washington, D.C. Fire Protection Association. 1976. Boston, Mass. 

Safety Manual, American Waterways Operators, Waterfront Fires, Robert E. Beattery, National Fire 

Inc., 1977. Washington, D.C. Protection Association. 1975. Boston, Mass. 

Protection of Offshore 
Drilling Rigs & 
Production Platforms 

Offshore oil-drilling rigs and production rigs have 
varied configurations. The size and shape of each 
unit and the components that make it up depend 
on its function, the site at which it will be used 
and how it will be transported to that site. Off- 
shore units are generally divided into two broad 
classes, mobile drilling units and fixed drilling or 
production platforms. 

Mobile units are rigs that can be towed or can 
move under their own power from one location to 
another. When a self-propelled mobile unit is 
under way, the U.S. Coast Guard considers it to 
be subject to all maritime regulations, including 
navigational and fire protection regulations. Thus, 
the discussions and descriptions contained in the 
first 10 chapters of this book apply to all self- 
propelled mobile units. 

Fixed units are rigs that are permanently se- 
cured to the seabed (Fig. 12.1), e.g., artificial 
islands, fixed structures and mobile units that are 
resting on the seabed. Thus, an offshore platform 
whose jacket (steel base) is secured to the seabed 
is a fixed unit. Fixed units are governed by (and 
must conform with) the Rules and Regulations 
for Artificial Islands and Fixed Structures on the 
Outer Continental Shelf (U.S. Coast Guard pub- 
lication CG320) and regulations contained in 
Oil, Gas, and Sulphur Leases in the Outer Conti- 
nental Shelf, Gulf of Mexico Area (U.S. Depart- 
ment of the Interior). 


A manned offshore unit is the workplace, home 
and recreational area for its crew. The machinery 
spaces, processing and support equipment and 
the living, recreation and galley spaces are com- 
pacted into the smallest, most effective area pos- 
sible. This is a potentially dangerous situation, 

since the crew is always close to hazardous drill- 
ing or production operations. Yet a safe environ- 
ment must be maintained for and by the people 
who work on the unit. Every member of an off- 
shore crew must think safety, work safely and 
remain constantly conscious of the hazards of his 


Safety is more than simply being careful. It in- 
cludes knowing what is unsafe and how to avoid 
the careless actions and inactions that can make 
an area unsafe. Poor safety practices result from 
a lack of safety knowledge; carelessness results 
from a disregard for that knowledge. Both can 
lead to disaster. 

A crewman who operates a piece of welding 
equipment without training may not know the 
safety rules. A person who smokes in a "no 
smoking" area may be acting in direct violation 
of safety rules he knows and understands. A 
supervisor who sees that a valve is leaking but 
does nothing to ensure that it is repaired may 
only be accused of inaction. However, the fires 
and injuries that can result from these practices 
will not be affected by any subtle differences in 
intent. Safety requires the full and continuous 
participation of every offshore worker. 

Fire Prevention 

Fire prevention on a drilling or production unit 
requires a twofold effort. The unit is subject to 
both the hazards of a ship and the hazards of 
similar land-based installations. As on a ship, 
careless smoking, hot work (burning and weld- 
ing), and improper maintenance and electrical 
malfunctions are the most common causes of fire. 
Safety rules and regulations, common sense 
and complete cooperation in fire prevention pro- 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Figure 12.1. A fixed offshore unit of recent design. The 
platform is supported by a steel base fastened to the seabed. 

grams are the crew's main defenses against the 
outbreak of fire (see also Chapters 1, 2 and 4). 
A continuing education program and visual re- 
minders will help maintain an awareness of the 
need for extreme care at all times. 

The main causes of fire can be eliminated. 
Workers can refrain from smoking in bed and in 
restricted areas. They can ensure that all safety 
regulations (including an inspection of the area 
and providing a fire watch) are followed before 
and during burning and welding operations (Fig. 
12.2). These operations should conform to Coast 
Guard regulations and the recommendations set 
forth in the Manual of Safe Practices in Offshore 
Operations. The offshore unit and its machinery 
can be maintained properly and carefully. All 
maintenance work should conform to the require- 
ments of the owner and recognized industrial 
organizations such as the American Association 
of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (AAODC), the 
American Institute of Electrical Engineers 
(AIEE), the American Petroleum Institute (API) 
and the American Society of Mechanical Engi- 
neers (ASME). These nonprofit organizations can 
provide up-to-date technical data and recom- 
mended safe practices for the operation and 
maintenance of all mechanical and electronic 

Oil Spills* 

As Fire and Safety Hazards. It is hardly neces- 
sary to remind anyone in the petroleum industry 

* The discussion on oil spills is adapted from the 
Manual of Safe Practices in Offshore Operations, 2nd 
revision. Offshore Operators Committee, 1972. 

Figure 12.2. Heat and sparks from welding and burning 
operations could cause a fire if proper precautions are not 

that any oil outside a pipeline or other equipment 
designed to contain, process or use oil is a fire 
hazard and can result in serious injury, loss of 
life and/or extensive property damage. It must 
also be recognized that leaking or spilled oil on 
floors, decks, ladders, stairways or walkways 
presents slipping and falling hazards that can lead 
to serious injuries or fatalities. 

Prevention of Spills. Pollution prevention de- 
mands individual effort. Pollution may occur 
through accident or the malfunction of equip- 
ment, but it often occurs because of poor house- 
keeping or failure to follow good operating prac- 
tices. Here are some guidelines that will help 
prevent injuries and fires: 

1. Good housekeeping — keep it clean. As 
previously mentioned, loose oil is a fire 
and safety hazard. Oil on decks in open 
sumps, in buckets, dripping from loose 
connections — any oil outside its proper 
container — is a fire hazard and can easily 
be ignited by sparks from various sources. 
Whenever any oil is spilled, it should be 
cleaned up immediately; oil on walkways 
can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, ac- 
cidents. Oily rags should not be left lying 

Protection of Offshore Drilling Rigs & Production Platforms 



around or be allowed to accumulate any- 
where but in a suitable container. 
Connections. All pipeline and hose con- 
nections should be made in accordance with 
the best oil field practice. A leak in either 
a pipeline or a hose should be repaired 
immediately. Otherwise, the pipeline or 
hose should be taken out of service until it 
can be repaired or replaced. Open-ended 
lines should be closed by blind flanges or 
bull plugs to prevent accidental discharge; 
if this is not practical, drip pans and sumps 
should be provided. 

Drip Pans. Drip pans or their equivalents 
should be placed under any equipment 
from which pollutants may escape into the 
surrounding water. This equipment should 
include, but should not be limited to, 
pumps, prime movers, broken connections 
and sampling valves. Permanent drip pans 
must be piped to sumps that are protected 
against the occurrence of fire and pollu- 

Sumps. Adequate sumps and drainage sys- 
tems must be installed wherever there is a 
possible source of pollution. Drip pans, 
bleed-off lines, gauge columns and such 
devices should be piped to sumps. Sumps 
should be designed to accommodate normal 
drainage. They should be located as far as 
practical from any source of ignition. 
Sumps should be covered, so that no spark 

can fall into or ignite the oil they contain. 
Satisfactory means must be provided to 
empty the sumps to prevent overflow. 

Emergency Remote Shutoffs 

The emergency remote shutoff system is, in es- 
sence, a fire and spill prevention system. Remote 
shutoff stations are located throughout the off- 
shore rig. If a production pipeline is ruptured 
allowing the production to escape, the lever at 
any remote station may be pulled and automati- 
cally closes a set of valves, shutting down the 
production flow. At the same time, the produc- 
tion pumps are deenergized and a second set of 
valves is opened to allow vapors to bleed into the 


Since fire is a continuous threat to offshore units 
and to those who man them, most units have 
automatic fire detection systems. The detection 
devices in these systems are usually pneumatic 
tube detectors, heat and smoke detectors and 
combustible-vapor detectors. In most cases, the 
detectors are wired to sound the alarm when they 
are actuated; they are also set up to activate 
automatic fire extinguishing systems in unat- 
tended spaces. Manual fire alarm systems are also 
installed on most offshore rigs, and fire can be 
reported via the telephone and intercom systems. 


Flexible Plastic Tubing 

Hole in Tubing Filled With 
Air or Gas Under Pressure 







by^rigfV • 

System o 


Figure 12.3. Fire detection loop system. A. Plastic tubing whose hollow core is filled with gas or air under pressure. B. When 
the tubing is severed, the pressure is lost. The reduced pressure allows switches to activate emergency equipment, including 
alarms, extinguishing systems, generators and product control valves. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Fire Line Automatic System 
(Pneumatic Tube Fire Detector) 

The fire line automatic system is used to detect 
fire in open spaces and to activate alarms and/or 
firefighting equipment automatically. A fire line 
system is a flexible plastic or metal tubing that 
is strung around the outside of the entire struc- 
ture, to form a loop. The tubing has a hollow core, 
which is filled with gas or air under pressure 
(206.84 x 10 3 pascals (30 psi)). The ends of the 
tubing are connected to pressure switches that 
can activate alarms and other devices electrically 
(Fig. 12.3). 

How the System Works. When any portion of 
the tubing is burned through by fire, the air or 
gas inside the hose is released. The pressure in 
the tubing decreases, allowing pressure switch 
contacts to move and close electric circuits. These 
circuits may be set up to activate the fire alarm 
system, automatically shut down valves in pipe- 
lines, shut off remote emergency valves to in- 
coming product, deenergize product pumps and 
energize fire-main pumps. 

The fire line system is simple in design and 
very reliable. Its primary drawback is its vulner- 
ability to false alarms. It will activate the equip- 
ment that it controls whenever the plastic hose 
is severed; e.g., when it is accidentally cut or 
damaged by abrasion. 

Several fire line loop systems may be installed 
on an offshore unit. The additional loops would 
be used to protect specific areas; e.g., if the plat- 
form has several deck levels, a separate loop 
may be used for each deck. The pressures within 
the loops can be supervised individually at a cen- 
tral console (Fig. 12.4). 

A separate fire line loop can be used at the 
well head location. The well head loop can be set 

Figure 12.4. A central console is used to monitor all the 
fire loop systems installed on a rig. 

Figure 12.5. A spray nozzle primed to discharge a large 
volume of water into the well head area in case of fire. 

up to activate the fire pumps and open a deluge 
valve, allowing a large volume of water to be 
pumped to the well head area and discharged 
through water spray nozzles (Fig. 12.5). (Well 
head protection is discussed in more detail later 
in this chapter.) 

Other areas that may be protected by indi- 
vidual fire line loops are compressor and gen- 
erator rooms. The loops in these rooms are 
made up of metal tubing rather than plastic tub- 
ing, and use fusible metal plugs. When fire oc- 
curs, the plugs melt, allowing the air or gas to 
escape and the pressure in the tubing to drop. In 
addition to sounding the alarm, the loss of pres- 
sure can be used to shut down machinery and 
equipment in the protected space. 

Heat and Smoke Detection System 

Heat and smoke detectors are not used on all 
manned units. When they are used, they are in- 
stalled primarily in living spaces, spaces housing 
electronic gear and storage areas. They cannot be 
used in outside areas, where winds might carry 
away the heat and smoke of a fire. 

In living spaces, heat and smoke detectors are 
normally used only to actuate an alarm when 
they sense fire. In an electronic gear room, they 
may be used to activate an automatic Halon or 

Protection of Offshore Drilling Rigs & Production Platforms 


CO2 flooding system, in addition to sounding the 
alarm. In the latter case, the detection system can 
also be wired to cut off the power, shut down 
exhaust fans and close ventilation openings. 

Combustible-Gas Detection System 

Combustible-gas detectors are used extensively 
on drilling and production units. These sensors 
are placed in such areas as switch gear, compres- 
sor and generator rooms, as well as in living 
spaces (Fig. 12.6) and galleys. They can also be 
installed to protect product pipelines, manifolds 
and well heads. Briefly, the combustible-gas de- 
tection system sounds the alarm when it senses 
the buildup of dangerous concentrations of flam- 
mable vapors. (See Chapter 6 for a more detailed 
description of the system.) 

Manual Fire Alarm System 

Whether or not fire detection systems are in- 
stalled on an offshore rig, it is imperative that the 
crew be watchful for the occurrence of fire. Many 
times, an alert crewman discovers fire before even 
the most sophisticated fire detector is actuated. 
In spaces that are not protected by such devices, 
the crewman is the fire detector. When fire is dis- 
covered, the alarm should be sounded immedi- 
ately, and firefighting procedures begun. Every 


Figure 12.6. A combustible gas detector installed in living 
space. The detector senses the presence of flammable vapors 
in the surrounding air. 

Figure 12.7. Emergency alarm box. The Fire and Abandon 
alarms can be sounded by pushing the proper buttons. 

new crew member should be shown the locations 
of emergency alarms and taught how to use them. 

The fire alarm system most commonly used on 
offshore units is an electrical system powered by 
the generator. Batteries serve as the emergency 
power source. Fire alarm boxes (Fig. 12.7) are 
located on all levels of the unit, in open and en- 
closed spaces. Each alarm box has three buttons — 
yellow (or orange), red and black. 

The yellow (or orange) button is pushed to 
sound the fire alarm. This activates a siren that 
produces a warble, or double-pitch sound. At the 
sound of the alarm, each crewman should report 
directly to his fire emergency station, as given in 
the station bill. 

The red button activates a steady pitched siren 
that alerts the crew to prepare to abandon the 
unit. Crew members must proceed to the posi- 
tions assigned them in the station bill for this 

The black button shuts off the emergency sig- 
nal. It is used only in the event of a false alarm or 
accidental activation of an alarm. 

Telephones are usually located near alarm 
boxes; they can be used to communicate the de- 
tails of the emergency to the person in charge or 
the fire control team. A public address system 
can also be used to communicate with most parts 
of the rig. 


In general, the fire protection systems installed 
on self-propelled mobile units are similar to those 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

installed on ocean-going vessels. The propulsion 
plant space may be protected by a CO2 flooding 
system and a semiportable system. A fire-main 
system must be installed, and it must conform in 
all respects to Coast Guard regulations govern- 
ing similar systems on ships. (See Chapter 9.) 

The systems installed on fixed offshore units 
tend more to automatic detection and extinguish- 
ment than the systems that protect their land- 
based counterparts. The reason is obvious: There 
is no land-based fire department to respond to an 
alarm from an offshore rig. The crew must fight 
the fire alone, using the equipment installed on 
the rig. 

Actually, as compared to land-based installa- 
tions, the typical manned drilling or production 
unit is well protected against fire. Most of the 
firefighting equipment described in Chapters 8- 
10 is available on most rigs. If this equipment is 
used properly, the crew should be able to control 
most fires. Many oil and gas companies conduct 
comprehensive training in both fire safety and 
fire control. Personnel assigned to offshore units 
are generally required to demonstrate a knowl- 
edge of firefighting equipment and an ability to 
use the equipment against various types of fire. 

Fire-Main System (Fixed Units) 

The fire-main system is a system of piping that 
carries water from the pumps to fire stations lo- 
cated throughout the unit. In warm climates, the 
piping is filled with water. In cold climates, the 
piping is either dry or filled with a mixture of wa- 
ter and antifreeze. Although a single-main system 
may be used, most units have loop-type systems. 
(See Chapter 9.) Two diesel-powered pumps (one 
as the primary supply, and the second as backup) 
supply seawater to the system at sufficient vol- 
umes and pressures to produce good hose streams 
for firefighting. 

Fire stations are located so that the hose stream 
from one station will overlap the hose stream of 
the adjacent station for complete coverage of a 
fire at any point on the unit. At each fire station, 
a 152-305 m (50-100 ft) length of 3.8- 6.4 cm 
(1 V2- or IVi-'m.) hose, with a nozzle, is connected 
to the pipe outlet. A valve at the outlet controls 
the flow of water to the hose; during use, the 
valve should be fully opened. 

Adjustable fog nozzles are used on most fixed 
units. (Note: These nozzles are not currently per- 
mitted by USCG regulations. A regulation has 
been proposed, but to date, nothing has been 
finalized.) This type of nozzle can deliver a solid 
stream or either of two fog patterns. When the 
control lever is pushed all the way forward, the 
nozzle is closed (Fig. 12. 8 A). When the lever is 
pulled back, water is discharged from the nozzle; 
the further back the lever is pulled, the greater 
the water volume (Fig. 12.8B). The water stream 
pattern is selected by rotating the nozzle barrel; 
a straight stream is obtained by rotating the bar- 
rel clockwise and fog patterns are obtained by 
rotating the barrel counterclockwise to the 30° 
or 90° setting (Fig. 12.8C). 

The fog cone discharged from the nozzle is a 
fine spray that can knock down a sizable fire when 
properly applied. Although the cone is hollow, it 
can absorb large amounts of heat, which makes 
it ideal for cooling down hot surfaces. A wide fog 
cone is also excellent protection for firefighters 
approaching an extremely hot fire. In open areas, 
the fog pattern can be used continuously during 
the approach to the fire. However, in enclosed 
passageways, a continuous fog stream will push 
the fire ahead into unburned areas of the struc- 
ture. In such a case, the fog stream should be 
applied intermittently, in short bursts. (See 
Chapter 10.) 

Figure 12.8. The adjustable fog nozzle can deliver a solid stream or two different fog patterns. A. The fully closed position. 
B. The fully open position with the stream selector set for a solid stream. 

Protection of Offshore Drilling Rigs & Production Platforms 


Figure 12.8C. The adjustable fog nozzle will deliver a 30 c 
or 90° fog pattern as well as a solid stream. 

Foam Stations. Foam stations (Fig. 12.9) are 
sometimes located at fire-main stations, so that 
either water or foam may be applied from the 
station. If foam is to be used, the fog nozzle is 
removed from the hose and replaced with an 
aspirating-type foam nozzle. (See Chapter 8 for a 
discussion of the operation of this nozzle.) The 
water control valve is opened; then the eductor 
valve is rotated to the foam position so that foam 
concentrate is picked up and mixed with water 
in the hoseline. 

Monitor Nozzles. Monitor nozzles are placed in 
fire-main systems to produce heavy streams of 
water for fire attack or for cooling exposures. A 
monitor nozzle can be operated easily by one 
crewman and can produce a 1892-7570 1pm 
(500-2000 gpm) fog stream. A stream of that 
size can knock down and extinguish an extensive 
fire and can also be used to cool metal supports 
and deck surfaces during a fire, to prevent weak- 

ening and buckling of the structure. Monitor 
nozzles can attack and control a large fire from 
a relatively safe distance, especially from the 
windward side of the fire. They can also be used 
to protect firefighters who are advancing to the 
fire with handlines. On units with expanded-metal 
decks, the use of large volumes of water is not 
dangerous, since the water runs off rapidly and 
does not cause a weight problem. 

A distinct advantage is gained when monitor 
nozzles are positioned so they can reach the heli- 
copter pad (Fig. 12.10). In the event of an acci- 
dent involving a helicopter fire on the pad, heavy 
streams (preferably fog streams) can be directed 
from one or more monitors to blanket the entire 
landing pad in water. The water will either ex- 
tinguish the flames or keep them under control 
until hoselines or dry chemical extinguishers can 
be advanced for a close-in attack. 

Carbon Dioxide and 

Halon 1301 Flooding Systems 

Carbon dioxide (C0 2 ) and Halon 1301, total 
flooding systems are generally installed in gen- 
erator and compressor rooms and spaces housing 
electronic equipment. These systems are also oc- 
casionally used to protect storage spaces on plat- 
form structures. Either system consists of a group 
of cylinders containing the extinguishing agent, 
a manifold, piping, valves and discharge nozzles. 
The system may be set up for manual activation or 
automatic activation by fire detectors. 

Figure 12.9. Some fire stations have a foam concentrate 
storage tank as an integral part of the fire-main system. By 
opening the eductor valve the hoseline is supplied with 
a foam solution. 

Figure 12.10. Monitor nozzles, positioned 
helicopter pad, can apply large volumes of 
safe distance. 

to reach the 
water from a 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

When the system is activated (either manually 
or automatically), the extinguishing agent is first 
discharged into a time delay. This delays the dis- 
charge of the agent into the protected space for 
about 20 seconds. During this period, a warning 
alarm sounds. All personnel must evacuate the 
space immediately, closing the door tightly as 
they leave. In most systems, exhaust fans and 
dampers are closed automatically by pressure 
switches that are actuated by the agent when it is 
discharged. The reasons for evacuating and totally 
closing the protected space prior to the discharge 
of the agent have been discussed in earlier chap- 

Foam Systems 

Oil storage tanks, including the "gun barrel" tank, 
can be protected by any of several types of foam 
systems. The tank construction usually deter- 
mines which system affords the best protection. 
Fixed roof storage tanks (the tanks used on off- 
shore units) can be protected by either subsurface 
foam injection systems or tankside foam chamber 

Subsurface Foam Injection System. In the sub- 
surface system, mechanical foam is produced by 
a high-back-pressure foam maker located at a dis- 
tance from the tank site. The foam is forced 
through piping into the bottom of the tank. It 
bubbles up to the surface of the stored liquid 
product, where it forms a floating vaportight blan- 
ket (Fig. 12.11). The foam blanket extinguishes 
the fire. 

Subsurface systems can only be used to pro- 
tect tanks containing petroleum products. Polar 

solvents and water-miscible fuels will break down 
the foam, destroying its effectiveness. 

Foam Chamber System. This system makes use 
of one or more foam-dispensing chambers. The 
chambers are installed on top of the shell of the 
tank, near the roof joint. Two types of chambers 
are used. One type deflects the foam onto the 
inside wall of the tank, so it cascades down onto 
the surface of the burning liquid. The other type, 
called a Moeller chamber, directs the foam onto 
the liquid surface via a flexible tube. 

Piping connects the foam chambers to a foam 
house at a remote location; the chambers are nor- 
mally empty. When a fire is to be extinguished, 
foam solution is produced at the foam house and 
pumped to the foam chambers. The foam is 
aerated in the chambers to form a mechanical 
foam and is then dispensed onto the burning fuel. 

Fires involving polar solvents must be extin- 
guished with a foam that is compatible with these 
liquids. The foam manufacturer's recommenda- 
tions regarding the type of foam concentrate, its 
strength (3% or 6%) and the rate of injection 
should be followed carefully. 

Fighting Storage Tank Fires. If fire develops in 
a storage tank, the foam system should be used 
for the initial attack. Monitor or handline water 
streams should be directed onto the tank shell as 
soon as possible. Cooling the tank shell helps 
prevent the temperature of the liquid product 
from increasing rapidly. It also cools the metal at 
the liquid surface; this helps the foam blanket 
form a tight seal. If the metal in this area is ex- 
cessively hot, the water in the foam will boil off 
and the foam blanket will break down. 


\ II 

I / / Air Inlet 


Foam Solution 

Mechanical Foam 


Figure 12.11. In the subsurface foam injection system, mechanical foam is forced up through the contents in the tank to 
form a floating blanket that smothers the fire. 

Protection of Offshore Drilling Rigs & Production Platforms 


Water Spray System 

Water spray systems are used on some offshore 
units to protect the well head and adjacent areas. 
Each system consists of a piping arrangement, 
valves, spray discharge heads and water pumps. 
For manual operation, the water flow control 
valve must be opened, and the water pumps 
started. These are time-consuming operations 
that allow the fire to increase in size and intensity. 
Automatic operation is thus desirable; it can be 
attained by using a fire loop detection system to 
activate the water spray system. 

When fire is detected by an automatic system, 
the fire pumps are activated and a deluge valve 
is simultaneously opened. (A deluge valve is a 
fast opening device that allows the full volume 
of water to flow without delay.) Water pumped 
into the system is discharged through spray heads 
in a pattern that provides an umbrella of water 
over the area. Exposures are protected from 
radiant heat by water that is directed onto walls 
and/or equipment to keep their surfaces cool. 

If a fire involves product that is escaping from 
a ruptured pipeline or a leaky connection, the 
spray system should not be shut down until the 
flow of product is stopped. Even if the spray sys- 
tem extinguishes the fire, it should be allowed to 
operate as long as product is moving to the site 
of the fire. This serves two purposes: It prevents 
the product from reigniting, and it cools metal 
structures in the fire area. 

Automatic Sprinkler System 

The living, recreation, office and galley spaces on 
a fixed offshore unit can be protected by an auto- 
matic sprinkler system. The system would consist 
of piping, fusible-link sprinkler heads, valves, 
pumps and a pressure tank. 

When fire causes one or more sprinkler heads 
to open, the initial water supply comes from the 
pressure tank. As the water flows out of the tank, 
alarms can be actuated by the water itself or by 
the pressure drop in the tank. The same action is 
used to start the fire pump, which supplies addi- 
tional water to the system. Most fires can be 
brought under control by the water discharged 
from one or two sprinkler heads. The system 
should not be turned off until the fire is definitely 
out or until a hoseline can be positioned to handle 
any remaining fire. After a system has been used, 
it should be restored to operation according to 
the manufacturer's directions. 

Sprinkler systems are very reliable if they are 
well maintained. When a system fails to operate 
properly, it is usually because the wrong valves 
are closed. To avoid this, all valves should be 

marked with their operating positions (such as 
"Keep open at all times") and, if necessary, sealed 
in the proper position. 


Offshore units are unique in their structural de- 
sign, and they present special firefighting prob- 
lems. In land-based structures and on ships, the 
floor or decking is generally solid; this structural 
feature prevents or slows the vertical travel of 
fire. Most platforms have expanded-metal sup- 
ports and decks, often four or five levels high. 
This open decking not only allows fire to travel 
upward, but it also allows fire to drop downward. 

The problem can be a very serious one. For 
example, suppose a fire originates in some oil 
drums stored on a middle deck level. The fire 
will travel upward by convection and radiation 
and extend to structures and materials above the 
fire area. At the same time, burning liquid can 
drop through the decking and ignite combustibles 
on the deck below. Moreover, expanded metal is 
highly susceptible to heat, and the decks may ex- 
pand, warp out of shape and lose their strength. 

Such a fire must be attacked rapidly at its point 
of origin. However, the crew should also position 
hoselines above and below the fire deck, to ex- 
tinguish fire that might extend to those areas and 
to keep the metal decking cool. If monitor nozzles 
are available, a "blitz" attack can be made. In a 
blitz attack, firefighters hit the fire with every- 
thing at their disposal. Finesse is not important 
in this situation; getting the fire out is the impor- 
tant goal. Water damage need not be considered, 
since the large volumes of water will simply 
plunge into the sea. 

Helicopter Fires 

Serious fires can originate on the helicopter pad, 
which is often placed directly above living and 
office spaces. The deck of the pad is solid metal or 
wood, and access is usually by a single staircase. 
A crash, with a resulting fire, could cause burn- 
ing fuel to spill off the pad. The fuel would run 
down the side walls of the structure, carrying fire 
downward for several decks. Such a fire would 
test the knowledge and experience of even the 
best-trained firefighters. 

The fire should be attacked at each burning 
level, preferably with fog streams. The streams 
should be directed first at deck level and then 
worked upward, with a sweeping motion, across 
the flames. Dry chemical can also be used to 
knock down the flames quickly, but water streams 
are necessary to cool hot surfaces (to prevent re- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

flash). A combined dry chemical and water at- 
tack would be effective, since the two agents are 
compatible. The fire on the pad must be attacked 
and extinguished, since it is the source of the 
fire and the spilling fuel. As long as the pad fire 
continues to burn, any spilled fuel will cause 
problems as it runs downward. 

If anyone is trapped in the helicopter or iso- 
lated on the landing pad, the attack at the pad 
level becomes imperative. If a rescue is possible, 
the initial attack on the pad fire can be made with 
portable dry chemical or AFFF (Aqueous Film- 
Forming Foam) extinguishers. The dry chemical 
or foam can be used to knock down flames and 
open a path to the aircraft. The firefighters should 
advance at a steady pace, with the wind at their 
backs, directing the agent with a sweeping mo- 
tion. They must be wary of reflash, and not move* 
in so fast that the fire burns behind them. The 
use of dry chemical alone to fight the fire is an 
emergency measure; handlines should be ad- 
vanced and placed in operation as quickly as 
possible. The cooling effect of water is essential 
to extinguish the fire and to minimize reflash. 

A good standard procedure is to station per- 
sonnel with portable dry chemical or AFFF extin- 
guishers at the ready for all landings and takeoffs. 
An immediate attack on a fire resulting from a 
crash could save lives and keep the fire from 
increasing in size and intensity. Helicopter and 
landing deck operations should conform to the 
recommendations published in the Manual of 
Safe Practices in Offshore Operations. 

Fires in Living Spaces 

Fires in living spaces on an offshore unit should 
be attacked basically as described in Chapter 10. 
The only difference would be in the confinement 
and overhaul procedures. There are "dead spaces" 
in walls and partitions and between ceilings and 
roofs on offshore units. These spaces provide a 
channel for fire travel not usually found on ships. 
They must be checked carefully for fire extension, 
since they can allow fire to persist undetected for 
some time. Dead spaces must be opened fully 
during overhaul if they show any signs of heat 
or fire. 

Well Head Fires 

Some well head fires are readily controlled by the 
crew, especially when down hole safety devices 
function properly. When safety devices fail, the 
fire may be beyond the capability of platform 
crews to extinguish. Destructive explosions, usu- 
ally damaging to the structure, often accompany 
the outbreak of the fire. Fire detection and fire 

extinguishing systems may be disrupted; for ex- 
ample, automatic valve-closing devices may fail 
to work, or the fire main may be damaged beyond 
use. When the situation threatens the crew's 
safety, abandonment procedures should be ini- 
tiated without delay. 

Even when the firefighting systems survive the 
explosions, they may be incapable of extinguish- 
ing a well head fire. The escaping fuel results in 
an extremely intense fire, like a gigantic blow- 
torch. If the flames are directed horizontally to- 
ward the platform, the situation is untenable. 
However, if the flames are directed upward, heat 
will be convected up and away from the platform. 
Even then, the radiant heat is intense enough to 
endanger all exposures. If a decision is made to 
stay on the platform, the exposures must be pro- 
tected by cooling with water streams. The water 
should be applied directly onto the surfaces of 
the exposures. Heavy stream monitor nozzles 
should be used to protect exposures wherever pos- 
sible. The water spray system at the well head 
(if there is one) should be used to keep that area 
cool. If the flames are extinguished but the flow 
of fuel is not stopped, additional explosions could 
occur as the fuel reignites. 

There is no easy way to determine when to 
abandon an offshore rig, and when the crew can 
safely stay to fight a fire. Many factors must be 
considered. However, one rule should remain 
foremost during the decision-making process: 
Protect the lives of the crew. If the situation is 
judged to be dangerous to personnel, then the 
unit should be abandoned. In any case, it may 
be wise to evacuate all personnel who are not 
needed to combat the firp 

Support Vessels 

The supply and rig tender vessels that service off- 
shore units carry portable fire extinguishers, fire- 
main systems, CO2 flooding and semiportable 
systems and dry chemical semiportable systems. 
Most of these systems are manually operated, al- 
though newer vessels may have automatic extin- 
guishing systems activated by detection devices. 
Fire detectors may be found on some rig tender 
vessels, primarily in paint and lamp lockers. They 
are wired to sound the alarm when fire occurs 
and, in some instances, to activate a 22.7 or 45 kg 
(50 or 100 lb) CO2 cylinder to flood the locker. 
(Automatic fire extinguishing systems are not in- 
stalled in rig tender engine rooms for the reasons 
given earlier in this book — the need to evacuate 
the space and the loss of propulsion. For these 
same reasons, the manual CO2 flooding system 
is used only as a last resort. See Chapters 6, 8 and 

Protection of Offshore Drilling Rigs & Production Platforms 


9 where all these fire protection systems have been 

Dry Chemical Semiportable Extinguisher. Rig 

tender vessels often carry combustible products 
and liquids on their open deck spaces, aft of the 
bridge. Among these combustible materials are 
drilling mud, lubricating oils for machinery and 
a wide array of supplies. On some rig tenders, a 
226.8 kg (500-lb) dry chemical semiportable ex- 
tinguisher is located on the main deck, near the 
cargo. This extinguisher is used as the primary 
attack unit for fires involving the deck cargo. 

Before the dry chemical extinguisher is acti- 
vated, the hose should be run out to its full length, 
with the nozzle closed. Then the nozzle should 
be positioned to attack the fire. The unit may 
be activated by pulling the manual release lever, 
allowing nitrogen to flow from its cylinder into 
the dry chemical tank. The nitrogen pressurizes 
the dry chemical, but a "burst-disk" delays the 
release of the chemical to give it time to become 
fluidized. When the tank pressure reaches 1379 x 
10 3 pascals (200 psi) the disk bursts, and both 
nitrogen and dry chemical are released into the 
hoseline. (Nitrogen is an inert gas that contributes 
to the extinguishment of the fire.) 

The attack should be made from windward, if 
possible. The nozzle should be directed with a 
wrist-flicking motion, to sweep the agent across 
the flames. It should be kept parallel to the deck 
or pointed slightly downward. If the nozzle is 
pointed upward, the dry chemical will block the 
nozzleman's vision; in addition, some of the agent 
will pass over the flames and do no good. Smaller 
portable extinguishers can be directed onto the 
flames on either side of the main attack path. 

Dry chemical can knock down a fire quickly, 
which makes it an ideal initial attack agent. How- 
ever, the dry chemical attack must be backed up 
with a secondary means of extinguishment. The 
compatibility of dry chemical and water makes 
hoselines the obvious choice as a backup. (Al- 
though foam is usually recommended for class 
B fires, water, especially when applied in a fog 
pattern with sufficient volume, has the capacity to 
extinguish sizable flammable liquid fires.) If the 
burning material and the deck are not cooled with 
hoselines, a reflash may occur. Since the fire is 
on an open deck with drainage into the sea 
through scuppers, large amounts of water can be 
applied from several hoselines without affecting 
the vessel's stability. 


Fire Protection Handbook. 14th ed. NFPA, Boston, 

Manual of Safe Practices in Offshore Operations. 
2nd revision. Offshore Operators Committee, 1972 

Bryan, JL: Fire Suppression and Detection Systems. 
Los Angeles, Glencoe Press, 1974 

Rules and Regulations for Artificial Islands and 
Fixed Structures on the Outer Continental Shelf 

Oil, Gas and Sulphur Leases in the Outer Conti- 
nental Shelf, Gulf of Mexico (U.S. Department 
of the Interior Publication) 

fire SaMij 

Pari III 

The four chapters in this final part deal with the safety of ship's personnel 
during and after emergencies. Chapter 13 covers the organization and train- 
ing of personnel to handle emergencies in an orderly and efficient manner. 
This is an extremely important first step toward minimizing the hazards of 
any emergency situation and ensuring the safety of those involved. Chapter 
14 is a fairly complete discussion of first aid techniques that may be applied 
aboard ship. Chapters 15 and 16 cover the personal safety equipment and 
safety devices carried on U.S. flag vessels. The equipment and devices de- 
scribed in those chapters have been mentioned in several earlier chapters. 

Organization & 
Training of Personnel 
for Emergencies 

Every land-based emergency service, such as a 
fire department or police department, is carefully 
organized to accomplish its goals. These goals 
are accomplished when certain people properly 
perform certain assigned tasks. Thus, the emer- 
gency service must first be organized in terms of 
personnel; responsibilities and duties must be 
clearly set forth and a chain of command, with a 
single, ultimately responsible chief officer, must 
be established. Then the service must be organized 
in terms of tasks; personnel must be trained to 
know what to do in an emergency, when to do 
it and how to use the necessary equipment. 

Aboard a ship, the crew constitutes the emer- 
gency services — in particular, the fire department. 
There already is a normal chain of command on 
every vessel — from the master through his offi- 
cers to their departments. This chain of command 
does not change during emergency situations; 
the master and his department heads remain re- 
sponsible for the efforts of the crew. The station 
bill lists the duties of crew members during emer- 
gencies; drills and training sessions are held to 
ensure that the crew will be capable of performing 
these duties properly if the need should arise. The 
equipment needed to carry out these duties is 
carried on board. Thus, all the elements of an 
emergency service are available. The effectiveness 
of the crew as a firefighting force depends only 
on how well these elements are assembled. 


The organization of personnel aboard ship re- 
sembles in many ways the organization of a large 
industrial plant. In an industrial plant the general 
manager is the top executive; he carries out the 
policies of the owners — the corporation. How- 
ever, he and the corporation are subject to federal, 
state and local laws affecting the plant and its 

employees. The plant manager is assisted by his 
subordinates and is responsible for their perform- 
ance. These subordinates are the heads of such 
departments as personnel, production, transpor- 
tation, engineering and security. 

Aboard ship, the master is the top "executive." 
Like the plant manager, the master follows the 
instructions of the owners. He, too, is subject to 
applicable laws. The laws that govern the mas- 
ter's operations are the maritime laws as set forth 
in the laws Governing Marine Inspection and 
U.S. Coast Guard rulings and regulations. Since 
the maritime laws and regulations are designed 
to provide safety at sea for passengers, crew and 
ship, they are quite strict; inevitably the master 
is charged with the responsibility for violations. 

Aboard ship, the master's authority is second 
only to God's (an old mariner once said that is so 
only because God has seniority). The master's 
authority is derived from government regulations 
and the instructions of the ship owners. However, 
the ship owners can in no way authorize a ship's 
master to act contrary to any federal regulations. 

The responsibilities of the master are tremen- 
dous. Under ancient but still valid laws of the sea, 
he is responsible for practically every action taken 
aboard his ship, by himself or by his subordinates. 
While he may delegate his authority, he cannot, 
in any way, relieve himself of responsibility for 
the acts of those whom he authorized to act. 

The master is not, however, alone as he paces 
the bridge of his ship. As assistants, he has the 
chief mate and other deck officers and the chief 
engineer and other engineering officers. These 
people demonstrated their competence and ability 
in difficult and searching examinations, before 
they were granted licenses. In addition, each offi- 
cer was required to serve in various subordinate 
ranks before sitting for the Coast Guard license 
examination. Although a master must have 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

proven qualifications, he may depend on com- 
petent assistants to help him in carrying out his 
many duties. In this regard, the law holds each 
licensed or documented seaman responsible for 
his actions in carrying out his duties. 

Like an industrial plant, a ship is organized 
into various departments, each under control of 
a department head — the chief mate, chief engi- 
neer and chief steward (Fig. 13.1). The chief 
mate is second to the master in the chain of com- 
mand. Aside from being responsible for carrying 
out the orders of the master, he is usually in 
charge of safety, lifesaving and firefighting equip- 
ment and the training of the crew. He coordinates 
the work of his department and the lifesaving 
and firefighting drills. However, instructional ses- 
sions and training drills are planned with the 
master, who is responsible for training in the use 
of firefighting, lifesaving and other emergency 
equipment. The master should place in the log 
an entry indicating that he has reviewed and ap- 
proved the training plans. Another entry should 
be made to note that the actual drills have been 

During the planning of drills and training ses- 
sions, the chief mate should consult with the chief 
engineer, especially when the engine room is se- 
lected as the location of a fire drill. The chief 

engineer is jointly responsible, with the master, 
for training the crew in the use of all emergency 


The station bill is a muster list required by federal 
regulations. It lists the special duties and duty 
station of each member of the crew during emer- 
gencies, and the signals for these emergencies 
(Fig. 13.2). In one column are listed the duty 
station and duty assignment of each member of 
the crew during a fire or other emergency situa- 
tion; in another column are listed the boat station 
and duty assignment of each crew member during 
an abandon ship procedure. 

Normally, the master draws up the station bill 
when he takes command of a vessel. The station 
bill is then used for all voyages of that vessel 
under his command. The master makes an intro- 
ductory statement and signs the station bill be- 
fore sailing. He then ensures that copies are 
posted in conspicuous locations in the vessel, par- 
ticularly in the crew quarters. 

Locator Numbers 

The makeup of a ship's crew changes somewhat 
with each voyage, but the emergency duties and 










2nd MATE 

1st ASST. 


3rd MATE 

2nd ASST. 



3rd ASST. 


Figure 13.1. The chain of command aboard ship. 

Organization & Training of Personnel for Emergencies 


CO 848 (Ilev. 10-5*)) 





(Name of ship) (Name of company) 

FIRE AND EMERGENCY— Continuous blast on ship's whistle and general alarm bells for a period of at least 10 seconds. 
ABANDON SHIP — More than 6 short blasts and 1 long blast on the whistle and the same signal on the general alarm bells. 
MAN OVERBOARD— Hail, and pass the word "MAN OVERBOARD" to the bridge. 
DISMISSAL—From FIRE AND EMERGENCY stations, 3 short blasts on the whistle and 3 short rings on the general alarm bells. 


Lower boats — 1 short blast on whistle 

Stop lowering boats — 2 short blasts on whistle 

Dismissal from boat stations — 3 short blasts on whistle 


1 . Entire crew shall familiarize themselves with the location and duties of their emergency stations immediately upon reporting on board. 

2. Each crew member shall be provided with an individual supplementary station bill card which must show in detail the special duties to perform. 

3. Entire crew shall be instructed in the performance of their special duties and crew on watch will remain on watch on signal for emergency drill. 

4 Every person participating in the abandon-ship drill will be required to wear a life preserver and entire boat crew shall assist in removing covers 
and swinging out boats. 

5. Emergency Squad will assemble with equipment at scene of action immediately upon the emergency signal. 

6. Stewards' department will assemble ana direct passengers, properly dressed and wearing life preservers, to embarkation stations. 
Person discovering FIRE shall immediately notify the bridge and fight the fire with available equipment. 
Immediately upon the FIRE AND EMERGENCY signal, fire pumps to be started, all watertight doors, ports, and air shafts to be closed, and all 

fans and blowers stopped. Fire hose to be led out in the affected area as directed. 
Upon hearing the signal, "MAN OVERBOARD," throw life ring buoys overboard, stop engines and send lookout aloft. Emergency boat crew 

consisting of all seamen shall immediately clear lee boat for launching. 
During periods of low visability, all watertight doors and ports below the bulkhead deck shall be closed, subject to the Master's orders. 




No. | 










Chief Mate. 

2d Mate 

3d Mate 

Radio Operator... 


Able Seam »" 

..uie Seaman. 

Ordinary Seaman 
Ordinary Seaman 
Ordinary Seaman 

On the bridge. In command, all operations. 
At scene of emergency. In charge. 
On the bridge. Relieve the watch. 
Prepare all lifeboats for launching. In charge. 
Radio room. At instruments. 
Emergency squad. Provide life lines, 
—"squad. Relieve the wheel. 

^-ovide extra length of hose «nd spanner. 

Assist 3d Mate pi^ r 
Bridge. Act as messenger. 
Emergency squad. Act as messenger. 
Assist 3d Mate prepare lifeboats for launching. 


Lifeboat No. 1.. 


Lifeboat >to. 2_. 


Lifeboat No. 3— 


Lifeboat No. 4.. 


Lifeboat No. 1.. 


Lifeboat No. 1__ 


Lifeboat No. 2.. 



.^uoat No. o- 


Lifeboat No. 4.. 


Lifeboat No. 1__ 


Lifeboat No. 2.. 

In command. On bridge in charge all operations. 
In command. In charge launching lifeboats amidship. 
In command. On the bridge. Relieve the watch. 
In command. In charge launching lifeboats aft. 
Attend Master's orders and instructions. 
2d in command. Attend forward gripes and falls. 
2d in command. Attend forward gripes and falls. 

— ... .. <*ua attend du&i r 
Release boat chocks and secure drain cap. 
Lead out and attend boat painter. 
Lead out and attend boat painter. 





Chief Engineer.. 

1st Assistant 

2d Assistant 

3d Assistant 

Jr. Engineer 

Jr. Engineer 

Jr. Engineer 


2d Pumuin"- 



Wiper.. _ 




In charge of Engine Department. 

Engine room. In charge. 

In charge of fire room and steam smothering apparatus. 

Attend main steam smothering line. 

Attend CO 2 or foam smothering system. 

Attend CO 2 or foam smothering system. 

Engine room. At fire pumps. 

Assist 2d Assistant Engineer m fire room. 

T-'mprGency squad. Assist with f»- 

* * rn«i" *■ 

x .._ _ -..gineer. 

Fire room. Assist -_ ..distant Engineer. 
Emergency squad. Provide inhalator. 
Engine room. Act as messenger. 
Assist 3d Officer prepare lifeboats for launching. 
Emergency squad. Assist with fresh air mask. 
Emergency squad. Assist with inhalator. 




Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


Lifeboat No 


■. .. - ~ T , 

4 . 

i^neboat iNo. ■». 
Lifeboat No. 3. 
Lifeboat No. 2. 
Lifeboat No. 1. 
Lifeboat No. 1. 
Lifeboat No. 2. 
Lifeboat No. 1. 

Assist in general operations. 

Assist in general operations. 

Assist in general operations. 

Assist in general operations. 

Turn out forward davit and assist at forward falls. 

Turn out forward davit and assist at forward falls. 

Turn out forward davit and assist at forward falls. 

Release after gripes and attend after falls 

Lead out and attend ^n^t painter. 

Turn out davits and assist at tai*^. 
Turn out davits and assist at falls. 
Turn out after davit. 
Stand by life ring buoy, ready for use. 
Stand by life ring buoy, ready for use. 
Turn out davits and assist at falls. 




Chief Steward 

Chief Cook 

2d Cook 

Arouse, warn, and direct passengers. 
Secure galley. 

Assist Chief Cook secure galley. 
Close all ports and rlom- - ' '-••-.<• 

In charge. 


Lifeboat No. 1.. 
Lifeboat No. 3.. 
Lifeboat No. 4.. 
T ifehnot * T - ' 

Arouse, warn, and direct passengers. 
Lead out and attend boat painter. 
Lead out and attend boat painter. 

J ''n.vit. 

In charge. 






...uuae, ... — ^-' a ' 

.— o alt. 


LiteDoat No. 4.. 

Turn out after davit. 

Assist 3d Mate prepare lifeboats for launching. 


Lifeboat No. 3.. 

Stand bv life ring buoy, ready for use. 

Assist 3d Mate prepare lifeboats for launching. 


Lifeboat No. 4.. 

Stand by life ring buoy, ready for use. 

Note.— For additional information see notice entitled STATION BILLS, DRILLS AND REPORTS OF MASTERS, Form 809 A. 


This specimen station bill has been prepared for freight and tank ships that carry a crew of 35 to 58 persons, which vessels are equipped with 4 
lifeboats. In view of the various types of fire fighting and lifesaving equipment on board vessels of this class, this specimen is to be used only as a guide 
in making up suitable station bills in compliance with the regulations. Copies of this specimen may be obtained from the office of the Officer in Charge 
Marine Inspection, U. S. Coast Guard. ' 


lft- 34270-3 

Figure 13.2. Typical ship's station bill. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

station assignments remain the same. Thus, sta- 
tion bill assignments are not made by name, but 
by locator number. As a crewman signs aboard 
a ship, he is given a number; his emergency duties 
and station are then the ones that are listed on 
the station bill for that number. Some steamship 
lines call the locator number the articles number. 
At least one line refers to it as bunk number, 
feeling perhaps that a crewman might forget his 
articles number but would remember his bunk 
number. Whatever it may be called, this number 
identifies the duties and station of each officer 
and crewman in emergency situations. 

Emergency Stations and Duties 

Thus the particular station to which an officer 
or crew member reports and the duties he is ex- 
pected to perform depend on both his locator 
number and the type of emergency that must be 
dealt with. The loud ringing of general alarm 
bells and the sounding of the whistle indicate 
whether he is to report to his fire and emergency 
station or his abandon ship station. 

The emergency duties assigned to a particular 
crewman should, whenever possible, be similar 
to the normal work activity of that person. For 
instance, stewards department personnel should 
be assigned to assist passengers; deck department 
personnel should be assigned to run out hose and 
lifeboats; and the engineering department should 
be assigned to run out hoses in the machinery 
space, with which they are most familiar. 


Fire and Emergency Stations. The fire signal is 
a continuous blast of the ship's whistle for not less 
than 10 seconds supplemented by the continuous 
ringing of the general alarm bells for not less 
than 10 seconds (Fig. 13.3). The NFPA recom- 
mends that a vessel in port and not under way 



Continuous Ringing 
of Ceneral Alarm for 
at Least 10 Seconds 

■po- iy 

Figure 13.3. Ship's fire signal. 

sound five prolonged blasts on the whistle or siren 
to alert other ships and shore authorities that 
there is fire aboard. However, the proper fire sig- 
nal is prescribed by the authorities of each port. 
When fire is discovered aboard a ship that is in 
port, it is imperative that the local fire depart- 
ment be summoned. Ship-to-shore radio, tele- 
phone or a pierside fire alarm box may be used for 
this purpose. 

Ship's officers should be aware of the fire alarm 
procedures at each of the ports visited by their 
ship. When a ship is approaching port with fire 
aboard, the port's fire department and the U.S. 
Coast Guard should be notified by radio of that 
fact as contained in 33 CFR 124.16. The Coast 
Guard might want to give the ship special moor- 
ing instructions and the fire department can have 
specialized firefighting equipment ready, if 

Dismissal from fire and emergency stations is 
signaled by the sounding of the general alarm 
three times supplemented by three short blasts on 
the whistle. 

Boat Stations and Abandon Ship. The fire and 
emergency signal is sounded by the officer of the 
deck when fire is discovered. However, the sound- 
ing of the boat stations and abandon ship signal 
should be authorized only by the master (or by 
his replacement in case of illness or injury). The 
abandon ship signal is more than six short blasts 
and one long blast on the ship's whistle and on 
the general alarm bell. The master designates 
which boats are to be used. His instructions are 
communicated to officers and crew either by 
loudspeaker or by passing the word, or both. 

The sounding of the boat stations and abandon 
ship signal does not authorize the lowering of 
boats. On the sounding of the alarm, those as- 
signed to boat stations (by the station bill) must 
move quickly to those stations and await further 
instructions. One short blast on the whistle is the 
signal to lower away. Two short blasts on the 
whistle is the signal to stop lowering the boats. 
Dismissal from boat stations is signaled by three 
short blasts on the whistle. The U.S. Coast Guard 
Manual for Lifeboatmen, Able Seamen and 
Qualified Members of the Engine Department 
(CGI 75) contains detailed information on aban- 
don ship procedures and lifeboat operation. 

A decision to abandon ship because of fire 
should not be made hastily, even when the fire 
is severe. Vigorous and intelligent firefighting, 
maneuvering of the ship to take advantage of the 
wind until help arrives and the use of CO2 flood- 
ing systems are alternatives to abandon ship pro- 
cedures. In its Fire Fighting Manual for Tanker- 

Organization & Training of Personnel for Emergencies 


men (CG329), the U.S. Coast Guard cautions 
against recklessly abandoning a burning vessel. 
The manual points out that more lives have been 
lost by launching the boats too soon and by crew- 
men going over the side in panic than by remain- 
ing on board. It continues with the advice to fight 
the fire always, even if only as a rear guard action 
to increase the chances of survival. 

Man Overboard. The man overboard signal is 
a hail and shout by the person who saw the vic- 
tim fall: "Man overboard, port (or starboard) 
side!" The word should be quickly passed to the 
bridge. The person who witnessed the fall should 
try to keep the victim in sight while heaving life 
rings overboard in his general direction. Standard 
procedures for recovering a person overboard are 
described in the Merchant Marine Officers' Hand- 
book, Knight's Modern Seamanship and Manual 
for Lifeboatmen, Able Seamen and Qualified 
Members of the Engine Department (CGI 75). 


An emergency squad is a group of crewmen se- 
lected by the master for their special training to 
deal with emergencies. The chief mate (assisted 
by the boatswain) is normally in command of the 
emergency squad. The rest of the squad should 
be made up of crewmen trained in the use of fire, 
emergency and rescue equipment. Candidates for 
the emergency squad would be crew members 
who are highly knowledgeable in emergency pro- 
cedures and have earned certificates for their 

A mustering location for the emergency squad 
should be included in the station bill. The mus- 
tering location could be on either wing of the 
bridge, at a designated position on the main deck 
or wherever the master feels would be best. How- 
ever, the chosen location should be one that the 
members of the squad can reach promptly — i.e., 
in less than 2 minutes. On larger vessels with 
more than one emergency squad, there should 
be a mustering location for each squad. 

Mustering Signals 

A special signal should be designated by the 
master to assemble the emergency squad. This 
signal should be one that will not be confused with 
the general alarm and navigational signals. Coded 
signals may be used to summon the emergency 
squad without alarming passengers. Coded sig- 
nals also permit the use of a terminal number to 
designate one of several possible mustering loca- 
tions. For instance, suppose the mustering signal 
is the sounding of the numbers 2-2-2. Then a 

fourth number, from 1-5, could indicate in which 
of five possible locations the emergency squad is 
to muster. (The use of more than five location 
numbers is not recommended, because of the in- 
creased possibility of a miscount.) Of course it is 
important that all squad members know the loca- 
tions indicated by the terminal number. These 
should be posted with the station bill, in the areas 
where squad members usually work and on cards 
attached to their berths. 

Signals of all sorts can be misinterpreted, and 
today most ships have loudspeaker systems. The 
use of these systems to muster the emergency 
squad avoids the possibility of misinterpreted 
signals. Even when the squad is summoned ver- 
bally, a code can be used to avoid alarming pas- 
sengers. All that is required is a simple, easily 
recognized (and somewhat bland) name for the 
emergency squad, such as the "ready team" or 
"squad fire." Then an announcement like "The 
ready team will assemble on the port side of hatch 
number 3" would mean that the emergency squad 
should report promptly to that location with their 


An emergency squad is a team. A team is a group 
of people brought together to accomplish a com- 
mon goal. The word team brings to mind the 
words coordination, cooperation and training. 
Training is absolutely essential, since without it 
there can be little coordination or cooperation. 
Training consists basically of two parts, which 
must come in the following order: 

1. A teaching-learning process, in which the 
necessary knowledge is communicated to 
the trainee 

2. Practice and demonstration of the neces- 
sary skills, using the proper equipment. 

As an example, fire drills are practice and dem- 
onstration sessions. They must come after crew- 
men have learned what to do; otherwise, they can 
serve no purpose except to reinforce bad habits. 

Under an able and understanding leader, 
proper training will gradually produce coordi- 
nation and cooperation among members of the 
emergency squad. After several practice sessions 
they will indeed be operating as a team. 

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the mas- 
ter is responsible for all ship's functions, including 
those he assigns to subordinates. Thus, although 
the master assigns the training of the emergency 
squad (and the rest of the crew, for that matter) 
to his chief mate, he should review and approve 
the plans for proposed lessons and drills. These 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

sessions are made more meaningful when the 
master personally observes them and then dis- 
cusses them with the persons in charge. 

The members of the emergency squad should 
attend periodic instructional sessions dealing with 
the variety of emergencies that could occur aboard 
ship. At each session, a problem could be pre- 
sented, solutions discussed until a satisfactory 
one is found and the necessary tools and equip- 
ment handled for familiarity. Then the regularly 
scheduled fire drills would be demonstrations of 
efficiency rather than training sessions. 


The emergency squad may be called upon to deal 
with many emergencies, such as collision, man 
overboard and a lost or damaged rudder; but 
when the fire signal is sounded, all hands are in- 
volved. The station bill lists an assigned task and 
station for each member of the crew. Therefore, 
all crew members should receive some training 
in firefighting. 

All crewmen should receive instruction in how 
to transmit a fire alarm (Fig. 13.4). The type of 
alarm equipment carried and its locations will 
vary from ship to ship and may not be familiar 
to new members of the crew. The ship's interior 
phone system, its use for reporting fires and plans 
for its use to maintain communications during 
emergencies should be explained. Ships in port 
are usually in the greatest danger of fire, for a 

number of reasons (see Chapter 1 and 2). For 
the ships safety, every crew member must know 
how to summon land-based fire departments when 
in port. Since many crew members may be ashore, 
manpower is at its lowest and there may be no 
power available for the ship's pumps. 

Everyone aboard should know how and when 
to use each type of fire extinguisher. Crewmen 
who are assigned to hoselines or to activate fixed 
firefighting systems require additional training. 
For example, a crewman assigned to a fire sta- 
tion should know how to couple hose, attach and 
operate a nozzle with spray and solid streams and 
use fog applicators. 

The Coast Guard recently expanded its licens- 
ing and certification examinations to include more 
questions on firefighting and emergency equip- 
ment. Furthermore, the witnessing of fire drills 
conducted by the crew and the testing of firefight- 
ing equipment are vital parts of the vessel inspec- 
tion procedure. Therefore, Coast Guard marine 
inspectors will require that crew members dem- 
onstrate their knowledge of the proper operation 
of the firefighting systems installed on their ship 
(Fig. 13.5). These are additional reasons for en- 
suring that every crewman is fully trained in fire- 
fighting procedures, as far as they affect his as- 
signed duties. 

A master can consider himself fortunate if his 
crew includes hands who have received formal 
hands-on firefighting training. However, regard- 
less of the background of the crew, shipboard 

Deck Officer's Quarters (Tanker) 

Figure 13.4. Crewmen must know how to (A) operate the ship's manual fire alarm system, (B) report a fire via the ship's 
telephone and (C) summon the land-based fire department when the ship is in port. 

Organization & Training of Personnel for Emergencies 


Figure 13.5. Knowledge of a firefighting system includes 
how to operate it, how it works, where it is used and when 
to use it. 

training is necessary for both the emergency 
squad and the crew as a whole. Since the chief 
mate is usually in charge of the crew member 
assigned to handle an emergency situation, he is 
usually the training leader or instructor. How- 
ever, when someone with experience in firefight- 
ing or teaching is available, that person might be 
assigned to direct firefighting instructional ses- 
sions. Then the chief mate and the instructor 
should together draw up lesson plans for the in- 
structional sessions and prefire plans for com- 
bating fires in the various parts of the ship. 

The Four-Step Instructional Method 

There are, of course, a number of ways to fa- 
miliarize students with firefighting equipment 
and teach the required skills. The four-step 
method outlined below has been used success- 
fully on a number of ships. The instructor works 
through all four steps whenever a new topic is 
discussed or a new piece of equipment is operated. 
The key points are the basic steps in an opera- 
tion. A half dozen or so key points, in the proper 
order, may have to be learned for the operation 
to be successful. Failure to perform one step 
properly might ruin the operation. 

Step 1: Preparation. Find out how much the 
crew member (trainee) knows about the subject 
or the equipment under discussion. Arouse his 
interest. Encourage discussion. 

Step 2: Presentation. Explain, illustrate and 
demonstrate the operation. Use the most effec- 
tive types of instructional materials to discuss 
each part of the operation. Emphasize and illus- 
trate the key points. 

Step 3: Confirmation. Have the crew member 
actually handle the tool or equipment. Have him 
explain its operation. Make sure he repeats the 
key points. 

Step 4: Demonstration. Have the crew member 
demonstrate what he has learned. He should use 
the tool, operate the equipment or (if the lesson 
is not concerned with manual operation) describe 
it aloud or in writing. The training session is not 
over until the crew member has demonstrated that 
he has learned what the lesson was supposed to 
teach (Fig. 13.6). 

In teaching or in monitoring a crew member's 
work, the instructor must correct errors as they 
occur. This criticism must not be of a personal 
nature; there should be no "bawling out." Criti- 
cism should be directed at the work, not at the 

Guidelines for Course Planning 

Even the most experienced teacher should pre- 
pare carefully for each lesson. The amount of 
preparation will depend on the subject matter 
and the type of lesson. However, the preparation 
should include the following: 

1. The instructor acquires a list of the crew 
members who are to attend the session, by 
name and rating. He must have assurance 
that these crew members will not be called 
away for routine chores during the training 
session. He should set up the training ses- 
sion to last no more than 1 hour; training 
sessions become boring after an hour, and 
crew members end up learning little. 

2. The instructor lists the information to be 
presented and picks out the key points. 
(Safety precautions are always key points.) 

3. The instructor assembles everything he 
will need for the session. He selects the 
training area, perhaps on deck or in a 
cabin; if the lesson involves a particular 
space on the ship, he might have the ses- 
sion there. (If he wishes to use the engine 
room, he should first secure the permission 
of the chief engineer. Chief engineers, as 
a rule, do not welcome basket parties or 
conventions within their domain.) He then 
assembles the tools or equipment to be dis- 
cussed at the session, a blackboard and 
other appropriate teaching aids. Finally, 
he ensures that pencils and notebooks will 
be available to all crew members attending 
the session. 

4. Prior to the actual training session the in- 
structor reviews the material he intends to 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 





• Key Points 

• Safety 

Figure 13.6. The four steps in the suggested instructional technique. The instructor performs the first two; seamen perform 
the last two under the direction of the instructor. 

Sample Lesson 

(Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) 

The following sample lesson illustrates the four- 
step instructional method and the pre-session 
preparation required of the instructor. Although 
the lesson deals specifically with breathing appa- 
ratus, the applicability of the method to other 
topics should be obvious. Prior to the session, the 
instructor assembles the following materials: 

• One oxygen breathing apparatus, complete 
with canister and carrying case 

• One lifeline 

• Copies (one for each crew member) of a 
diagram of the operating cycle, showing how 
exhaled breath reaches the chemicals and 
produces oxygen 

• At least one copy of this book. (Chapter 15 
contains the information that the instructor 
will discuss.) 

Step 1: Preparation. The instructor tells the 
crew members that he intends to teach the safe 

operation of the oxygen breathing apparatus. (For 
simplicity, in this lesson the apparatus will be 
referred to as the OB A.) He spells out the per- 
formance objectives of the lesson, and how he in- 
tends to measure them. 

The instructor then asks whether any of the 
students have any knowledge of the OBA, what 
it is, what its purpose is and where it might be 
used. He encourages discussion by asking if any- 
one has had experience with the OBA in school, 
aboard this ship or on a previous ship. Through- 
out, he tries to arouse interest and get the crew 
members talking. 

Step 2: Presentation. The instructor shows the 
OBA to the crew members, describes its construc- 
tion and explains its operation. He uses a diagram 
to show the airflow through the device, and dons 
the OBA while explaining the procedure. He 
notes that a copy of the complete operating in- 
structions is located on the inside cover of the 
carrying case, then emphasizes the key points: 

Organization & Training of Personnel for Emergencies 


1. The OB A must be donned properly. The 
fitting of the facepiece is critical — neither 
smoke nor gases can be permitted to enter. 

2. A lifeline must always be attached to any- 
one entering a smoke-filled or oxygen- 
deficient compartment. 

3. A canister must be inserted into the mask 
after its protective cap is removed. 

4. The timer must be set and when its alarm 
sounds the crew member must leave the 
contaminated atmosphere. 

5. The used canister must be removed and 
disposed of properly. A canister is good 
for one use only. 

6. The OBA must never be used in a com- 
partment that may contain flammable or 
combustible gas. 

Step 3: Confirmation. Each crew member is 
allowed to examine the OBA and canister. Each 
is asked to repeat the key points. The instructor 
encourages seamen to ask questions and take part 
in the discussion of the device. 

t v~~" rr ~ 

? x> ^ iyV_ 



" * — nr w ■ Birll 




Figure 13.7. Instruction and practice in the use of breath- 
ing apparatus help develop confidence in the equipment. 

Step 4: Demonstration. Each crew member is 
required to don the OBA, starting with removal of 
the device from its container. He then performs 
each of the steps recommended by the manufac- 
turer of the OBA. The instructor corrects any 
errors as they are made (Fig. 13.7). 


Faria LE: Protective Breathing Apparatus. Bowie, 
Md, Robert J. Brady Co., 1975 

Fire Department, City of New York. Training Bul- 

Noel JV, Capt. USN: Knight's Modern Seamanship. 
13th ed. Princeton, Van Nostrand, 1960 

National Fire Protection Association. National Fire 
Codes. Standard No. 311: Ship Fire Signal. Bos- 
ton, NFP A, 1977 

Turpin EA, Mac Ewen WA: Merchant Marine Offi- 
cers' Handbook. Cambridge, Md, Cornell Mari- 
time Press, 1965 

United States Coast Guard. Fire Fighting Manual 
For Tank Vessels. CG-329. Washington, DC, 
GPO, 1974 

United States Coast Guard. Manual For Lifeboat- 
men, Able Seamen and Qualified Members of the 
Engine Department. CG-175. Washington, DC, 
GPO, 1973 

United States Coast Guard. Manual For the Safe 
Handling of Flammable and Combustible Liquids 
and Other Hazardous Products. CG-174. Washing- 
ton, DC, GPO, 1976 

United States Coast Guard. Proceedings of the Ma- 
rine Safety Council. Vol. 33. 10:177, 1976 

Medical Care 

The medical emergencies that arise in firefighting 
situations are not limited to burns. They may 
range from simple skin scratches to life-threaten- 
ing problems. The fire itself is, of course, a source 
of thermal burns. Inhaling smoke from the fire 
can poison the victim, but all the types of injuries 
normally associated with any accident situation 
can occur during firefighting, owing to the re- 
stricted work space, the rolling of the vessel, poor 
footing in water-soaked compartments and poor 
visibility due to smoke. In addition, smoke may 
cause respiratory arrest, and firefighters under 
strain may have heart attacks. Both require im- 
mediate action on the part of the rescuer. Even 
drowning in water-filled compartments is a pos- 

The rescuer must protect the patient from ad- 
ditional harm, correct life-threatening conditions, 
treat minor injuries and keep the patient stable 
until medical help can be reached. The rescuer's 
role includes : 

• Removing the patient (victim) from any 
situation threatening his life or the lives of 

• Correcting life-threatening problems and 
immobilizing injured parts before transport- 
ing the patient 

• Transporting the patient in a way that mini- 
mizes further damage to injured parts 

• Administering essential life support while 
the patient is being transported 

• Observing and protecting the patient until a 
medical staff can take over 

• Administering care as indicated or in- 

• The material in this chapter has been adapted from 
Grant H, Murray R: Emergency Care. 2d ed. Bowie, 
Md, Robert J. Brady Co, 1978. 

United States Coast Guard regulations ensure 
the presence of qualified rescuers aboard each ves- 
sel. The Coast Guard requires that every appli- 
cant for an original license as deck or engine 
officer aboard a U.S. merchant vessel possess a 
first aid certificate issued by the U.S. Public 
Health Service or a certificate of satisfactory com- 
pletion of the American National Red Cross 
course in standard first aid and personal safety. 
Further, the applicant must have a currently valid 
card certifying that he has satisfactorily completed 
a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 
These cards are issued by the American National 
Red Cross and the American Heart Association. 


The officer on watch should administer first aid 
in the case of a life-threatening injury aboard 
ship. Otherwise, this officer should send the 
injured person to the ship's medical officer for 
treatment. The officer on watch should deter- 
mine as nearly as possible the cause of the acci- 
dent or the reason for the injury. He should enter 
the particulars in the watch log, along with the 
names of any witnesses. Additionally, an entry 
must be made in the ship's records of every injury 
reported to him, the patient's signs and symptoms, 
and the treatment administered. 

Most steamship companies provide their ships 
with forms for reporting accidents that result in 
injuries to crew members. These forms must be 
made out by the officer investigating the accident. 
If an injury results in loss of life or in an incapaci- 
tation for more than 72 hours, the master must 
notify the nearest Marine Inspection Office of the 
U.S. Coast Guard. This notice must be followed 
by a report in writing and in person to the officer 
in charge of marine inspection at the port in 



Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

which the casualty occurred or the port of first 

Every shipboard injury should be investigated, 
at least with respect to its cause and possible cor- 
rective actions. The investigating officer should 
take statements from witnesses as part of this in- 
vestigation. The master and the ship owner should 
ensure that any corrective action indicated by the 
investigation be taken promptly. 

Emergency Care Supplies 

First aid kits and emergency care supplies* should 
be carried on every vessel at all times. The ship's 
medicine chest should include at least the follow- 
ing items: 

1. Splints for Immobilizing Fractures, i.e., 
padded boards of 4-ply wood, 7.6 cm 
(3 in.) wide, in lengths of 38, 91.6 and 
137.2 cm (15, 36 and 54 in.), cardboard, 
plastic, wire-ladder, canvas-slotted, lace- 
on and inflatable splints. 

a. Triangular bandages for fractures of the 
shoulder and upper arm 

b. Short and long spine boards and acces- 
sories for safe removal of victims and 
immobilization of spinal injuries 

2. Wound dressings 

a. Sterile gauze pads in conventional sizes 
for covering wounds 

b. Soft roller bandages 15.2 cm (6 in.) 
wide and 4.57 m (5 yd) long, for the 
application of large dressings, for secur- 
ing pressure dressings to control hem- 
orrhage, and for securing traction 
splints or coaptation splints (to join the 
ends of broken bones) 

c. Sterile nonporous dressings for closing 
sucking wounds of the chest (either 
plastic wrap or aluminum foil) 

d. Universal dressings, approximately 
25.4 X 91.4 cm (10 X 36 in.), folded 
to 25.4 X 22.9 cm (10 X 9 in.), for 
covering large wounds including burns, 
and for compression, padding of splints, 
or application as a cervical collar 

e. Adhesive tape in widths of 2.5, 5.1 and 
7.6 cm (1,2 and 3 in.) 

f . Large safety pins 

g. Bandage shears 

* For additional information regarding emergency care 
supplies, see Chapter 6 of "The Ships Medicine Chest 
and Medical Aid at Sea," HEW (H.S.A.) 78-20-24, U.S. 
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 

3. Sterile saline (for burns) 

4. Supplies for acute poisoning: 

a. Activated charcoal 

b. Syrup of ipecac 

5. Potable water for eye and skin irrigation 

6. Oropharyngeal airways 

7. Bag-mask resuscitators 

8. Blood pressure monitoring apparatus. 



Before the rescuer can begin emergency care, he 
must rapidly but effectively examine the patient 
to determine the seriousness of the illness or the 
extent of the patient's injuries. Many poorly 
trained attendants base emergency care only on 
the obvious injuries. This approach can be quite 
dangerous for the patient: an obvious injury may 
be relatively minor and pose no real threat to life, 
while a hidden and undetected injury may result 
in the patient's death. 

The information available to the rescuer con- 
sists of 1) what the patient tells him; 2) what the 
crew and other witnesses tell him; 3) what he is 
able to observe about the patient's obvious in- 
juries; and 4) what he is able to observe about 
how the injury was produced. Information from 
these sources is combined with a thorough check 
of the patient. The rescuer then may judge the 
extent of the injuries and prepare to administer 
the emergency care. 

Classifying Injuries 

Although accidents occur in many ways and for 
many reasons, each type of accident commonly 
produces certain "standard" injuries. For ex- 
ample, a firearms accident is generally expected 
to produce a soft-tissue injury, while broken bones 
usually result from falls. One seldom thinks of a 
fire as producing anything but a burn, and the 
only injury usually connected with poisoning is 
damage to internal organs. These are, however, 
only the obvious injuries. They often result from 
the accident, but they may not be the only types 
of injuries to have occurred. 

Many secondary injuries, partially or com- 
pletely concealed, may result from any accident 
if it is serious enough. For the rescuer to recog- 
nize all the patient's problems, he must have a 
complete understanding of the types of injuries, 
both obvious and hidden, that may be produced 
in an accident. Table 14.1 lists these injuries. The 
rescuer must realize that several injuries may be 
produced in any accident. He must look to the 

Emergency Medical Care 


Table 14.1. Types of Accidents and the Injuries 
They Produce 

Table 14.2. Interpretation of Respiratory Observations 
























Diagnostic Sign 





Respiratory arrest 

Deep, gasping, labored 

Airway obstruction, 
heart failure 

Bright red, frothy 
blood with each exha- 

Lung damage 

per minute. Pulse readings are generally taken at 
the wrist. However, this may be difficult in an 
emergency situation where there is a great deal 
of movement, or where shock has resulted in an 
extremely weak pulse. 

mechanism of injury for clues as to the extent of 
physical damage. Thus, for example, a rescuer 
must never assume burns to be the only firefight- 
ing injury. 

Diagnostic Signs and Their Significance 

Diagnostic signs are a set of indicators that the 
rescuer should use in evaluating the patient's con- 
dition. With training and practice crewmen can 
use these signs to determine how best to provide 
emergency care. The basic diagnostic signs are 

• Respiration 

• Pulse 

• Blood pressure 

• Skin temperature 

• Skin color 

• Pupils of the eyes 

• State of consciousness 

• Ability to move 

• Reaction to pain. 

Each sign or combination of signs indicates some- 
thing about the patient and what should be done 
to help him. The signs can be observed quickly, 
with minimal equipment. 

Respiration. The normal adult breathing rate is 
about 12 to 15 breaths per minute. Both the rate 
and the depth of breathing are important. To de- 
termine the patient's breathing rate and depth, 
look, listen and feel for air exchange. Look for 
movement of the chest, and listen and feel for 
air exchange at the mouth and nose. Table 14.2 
lists several respiration observations and the con- 
ditions they indicate. 

Pulse. The pulse is an indication of heart action. 
The normal pulse rate in adults is 60 to 80 beats 

Table 14.3. Pulse Observations and Indications 

_,..„„„_, ._..,. — , 

Diagnostic Sign 





Cardi.JC arrest, death 

Rapid, bounding 

Fright, hypertension 

Rapid, weak 


To determine the pulse rate, place the fingers 
(not the thumb) over the carotoid artery in the 
neck or the femoral artery in the groin. Both these 
arteries are quite large, and both lie close to the 
surface. If no pulse can be detected at these 
points, listen to the patient's heart by placing your 
ear directly on the patient's chest or by using a 
stethoscope. Table 14.3 lists the major pulse ob- 
servations and indications. 

Blood Pressure. Blood pressure is the pressure 
that circulating blood exerts against the walls of 
the arteries. There are actually two different blood 
pressures, systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure 
is the pressure exerted while the heart is con- 
tracted (when blood is being pumped through the 
arteries). Diastolic pressure is the pressure ex- 
erted while the heart is relaxed (when blood is 
returning to the heart). Both blood pressures are 
measured by a device called a sphygmomanom- 
eter, which is used in conjunction with a stetho- 

The rescuer should take blood pressure read- 
ings as soon as he can after checking for and 
correcting any life-threatening emergencies. He 
should record the pressures and the time when 
they are first taken. If at all possible, he should 
continue taking blood pressure readings until he 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

turns the patient over to the medical officer, 
physician or onshore rescue squad. Such a record 
is of help to the physician in determining the 
proper treatment. 

Blood pressures are read in millimeters of mer- 
cury (mm Hg). Although blood pressure levels 
vary with age and sex, there is a useful rule of 
thumb: Normal systolic pressure for men is 100 
plus the age of the patient; their normal diastolic 
pressure is 65 to 90. For women, both pressures 
are usually 8 to 10 mm lower than those of the 

To measure blood pressure, secure the cuff of 
the sphygmomanometer around either arm of the 
patient, just above the elbow. Follow the direc- 
tions on the cuff for the proper placement of the 
pressure diaphragm over the artery. Find the 
brachial artery by palpating the arm in front of 
the elbow. 

Close off the valve on the bulb. Inflate the cuff 
with the rubber bulb until the needle of the dial 
stops moving with the pulse. (This is usually a 
point between 150 and 200 on the dial.) 

Place the stethoscope diaphragm over the 
artery in front of the elbow, and slowly release air 
from the bulb by opening the valve. The point on 
the dial at which the first sounds of a pulse are 
heard through the stethoscope is the systolic pres- 

Continue to release air from the bulb slowly, 
while listening through the stethoscope. The point 
on the dial at which the pulse sound begins to 
fade and disappear is the diastolic pressure. Re- 
cord the pressures by writing the systolic pressure 
over the diastolic pressure, as in 140/70 (Table 

Table 14.4. Blood Pressure Observation and Indication 

Table 14.5. Skin Temperature Observations 
and Indications 

Diagnostic Sign 
Blood Pressure 


/larked drop 



Skin Temperature. Because the skin regulates 
the body temperature, changes in skin tempera- 
ture indicate changes occurring within the body. 
To determine the patient's skin temperature, 
feel his skin surface at several locations with your 
hand. Use the back of your hand, since it is more 
sensitive to temperature changes than the rough- 
ened fingers (Table 14.5). 

Skin Color. Skin color is determined mainly by 
the blood circulating in blood vessels just below 
the skin. Thus, changes in color reflect an in- 
crease or decrease in the blood flow, or changes 

Diagnostic Sign 

Skin Temperature 


Hot, dry 

Cool, clammy 
Cold, moist 
Cool, dry 


Excessive body heat 
(as in heat stroke), 
high fever 



Body is losing heat 

Exposure to cold 

in the blood chemistry. However, darkly pig- 
mented skin will obscure color changes. 

Carefully examine the patient's face and hands 
for areas of abnormal skin color. Note whether 
the skin appears red, white or blue (Table 14.6). 

Table 14.6. Skin Color Observations and Indications 

Diagnostic Sign 


Red skin 


Skin Color 

White skin 

Blue skin 

High blood pressure, 
carbon monoxide poi- 
soning, heart attack 

Shock, heart attack, 

Asphyxia, anoxia, 
heart attack, poisoning 

Pupils of the Eyes. The pupils of the eyes are 
good indicators of the condition of the heart and 
central nervous system. When the body is in a 
normal state, the pupils are the same size, and 
they are responsive to light. Changes and varia- 
tions in the size of one or both pupils are impor- 
tant signs for the rescuer, especially in determin- 
ing whether or not the patient is in cardiac arrest. 
In examining the patient's pupils, the rescuer 
should always consider the possibility that the 
patient wears contact lenses or has a glass eye. 

Examine the pupils by gently sliding back the 
upper lids. Note whether the pupils are dilated 
(wide) or constricted (narrow). Examine both 
pupils, since some medical problems cause the 
pupils to be unequal in size. If the pupils are 
dilated, check their response to stimuli by flashing 
a light across them. In death, the pupils will not 
respond to light (Table 14.7). 

Level of Consciousness. The normal, healthy 
person is alert, oriented, and able to respond to 
vocal and physical stimuli. A patient who is alert 
at first and then becomes unconscious may have 
suffered damage to the brain. 

Carefully note the patient's level of conscious- 
ness when you first see him. Record any changes 

Emergency Medical Care 


Table 14.7. Pupil Observations and Indications 

Diagnostic Sign 



Pupils of the Eyes 


cardiac arrest 


Disorder affecting the 
central nervous 
system, drug use 


Head injury, stroke 

Table 14.8. 

Levels of Consciousness 

Diagnostic Sign 



State of Consciousness 

Brief unconsciousness 

Simple fainting 


Alcohol use, mental 
condition, slight blow 
to the head 


Severe blow to the 

Deep coma 

Severe brain damage, 

Table 14.9. Paralysis Observations and Indications 

Diagnostic Sign 



Paralysis or Loss of 

Lower extremities 

Injury to spinal cord 
in the lower back 

Upper extremities 

Injury to spinal cord 
in the neck 

Limited use of extrem- 

Pressure on spinal cord 

Paralysis limited to 
one side 

Stroke, head injury 
with brain damage 

in consciousness, and relay this information to 
the physician (Table 14.8). 

Paralysis or Loss of Sensation. When a con- 
scious patient is unable to move his limbs volun- 
tarily, or if they do not move when stimulated, 
the patient is said to be paralyzed. Paralysis may 
be caused by certain medical disorders (such as 
stroke) or by injury to the spinal cord. A patient 
suffering from paralysis does not feel or respond 
to pain in the affected parts. With some injuries 
paralysis is not complete, and the patient may 
have limited use of his extremities. In these cases, 
the limbs feel numb or there is a tingling sensa- 
tion. It is important for the rescuer to remember 
that paralysis and loss of feeling are signs of prob- 
able injury to the spinal cord (Table 14.9). The 
patient should not be moved until he is rigidly 
immobilized, since to do so might worsen the 
spinal injury. 

To determine if there is any paralysis, first ask 
the patient whether he has any feeling in his arms 

or legs; then ask him to move them. Do not move 
his limbs for him; see if he can do it by himself. 

Reaction to Pain. Pain is a normal reaction to 
injury and a good indication of the location of 
an injury. However, certain injuries and medical 
disorders may interrupt this normal reaction. Ask 
the patient where he feels pain or discomfort. 
This information, along with observation of the 
patient and knowledge of the mechanism of in- 
jury, can indicate the type of injury (Table 14.10). 

Table 14.10. Reaction to Pain: Observations 
and Indications 

Diagnostic Sign 



Reaction to Pain 

General pain present at 
injury sites 

Injuries to the body, 
but probably no dam- 
age to the spinal cord 

Local pain in the ex- 

Fracture, occluded ar- 
tery to extremity 

No pain, but obvious 
signs of injury 

Spinal cord damage, 
hysteria, violent shock, 
excessive drug or alco- 
hol use 


The rescuer must be able to 1) rapidly evaluate 
the seriousness of obvious injuries, and 2) analyze 
all other information to determine whether or not 
the patient has other, less obvious injuries. Here 
again, the rescuer must understand accidents and 
the injuries they can produce, the mechanisms of 
injury and the diagnostic signs and their signifi- 

One other tool is available to the rescuer — an 
actual survey of the patient. By combining the 
results of this survey with the other available in- 
formation, the rescuer can analyze the patient's 
total condition accurately. The survey is divided 
into two parts. The primary survey is a search 
for immediate life-threatening problems. The 
secondary survey is an evaluation of other in- 
juries, which do not pose a threat to life. 

The Primary Survey 

While several conditions can be considered life- 
threatening, two require immediate attention: 
respiratory arrest and severe bleeding. The need 
for immediate action in both these cases is ob- 
vious. Respiratory arrest sets off a vicious chain 
of events leading to cardiac arrest and then to 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

death. Severe and uncontrolled loss of blood leads 
to an irreversible state of shock and again to 
death. In both instances, death will occur in a 
very few minutes if no attempt is made to help 
the patient. Thus the rescuer should begin the 
primary survey as soon as he reaches the patient. 
No diagnostic equipment is required for the sur- 
vey; if one or more of the life- threatening condi- 
tions are found, the rescuer can start basic life- 
saving measures without delay. 

Throughout the primary survey, the rescuer 
should be especially careful not to move the pa- 
tient around any more than is absolutely neces- 
sary to support life. Unnecessary movement or 
rough handling might worsen undetected frac- 
tures or spinal injuries. 

Check for Adequate Breathing. First, establish 
an open airway. Then look for the chest move- 
ments associated with the breathing process. At 
the same time, listen and feel for the exchange of 
air at the patient's mouth and nose. 

If there are no signs of breathing, begin arti- 
ficial ventilation immediately by the mouth-to- 
mouth or mouth-to-nose method. Do not leave 
the patient to get a resuscitator or other device. 
Every second is critical to the patient. If the pa- 
tient does not start to breathe after three to five 
ventilations, go immediately to the next step in 
the primary survey. 

Check for a Pulse. Check for heart action by 
feeling for the cartoid pulse in the patient's neck. 
The cartoid artery is a large vessel that lies close 
to the surface; it is easy to find in an emergency 
situation. If a pulse is present, continue artificial 
ventilation until the patient starts to breathe again. 

If there is no pulse, immediately start cardio- 
pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Once again, do 
not hesitate; the patient's condition is very criti- 
cal. Every second that the brain is without oxy- 
genated blood, the chances for recovery decrease 

At this point, the rescuer may decide to trans- 
fer the patient to ship's hospital, owing to his grave 
condition. CPR should be continued without in- 
terruption while the patient is being transported. 
However, if resuscitation efforts are immediately 
successful, the rescuer can go on to the next step 
in the primary survey. 

Check for Severe Bleeding. Examine bleeding 
injuries carefully to determine whether they are 
actually as severe as they may appear. Many 
bleeding wounds that seem serious may be trivial. 
Control serious bleeding by direct pressure or by 
finger pressure on a pressure point. Use a tourni- 

quet only as a last resort, when all other attempts 
to control the bleeding have failed. 

Check for Other Obvious Injuries. At this point, 
life-support measures should have stabilized the 
patient; in most cases, the emergency will be over. 
Of course, there may still be problems that could 
later pose a threat to life, but they will not be as 
pressing as respiratory arrest and severe bleeding. 
Attention should now be directed to the other 
obvious injuries, in the order of their importance. 
Chest or abdominal wounds should be sealed, 
lesser bleeding wounds dressed, open fractures 
immobilized, and burns covered. The watchword 
is still "careful handling," so that unseen injuries 
are not worsened. When the obvious injuries are 
treated, the secondary survey begins. 

The Secondary Survey 

The purpose of the secondary survey is to find 
the additional unseen injuries that can often be 
worsened by mishandling. Examples are the 
closed fracture that is converted to an open frac- 
ture when the patient is moved to a litter, and the 
spinal injury that causes damage to the spinal 
cord when the patient is helped to his feet. Ac- 
tually, the secondary survey is a head-to-toe ex- 
amination during which the rescuer checks very 
carefully for specific injuries. It is conducted in 
the following manner. 

Check for Scalp Lacerations and Contusions. 

Look for blood in the hair. If blood is present, 
separate the hair strands gently to determine the 
extent of the bleeding. Be very careful not to 
move the head while checking for scalp wounds, 
in case the neck has been injured. To check the 
part of the scalp that is hidden as the patient lies 
on his back, first place your fingers behind his 
neck. Then slide them upward toward the top of 
his head. This action develops a little traction, 
which is helpful if there is a neck injury. 

Check the Skull for Depressions. Gently feel for 
depressions and protruding bone fragments. 
Again, be very careful not to move the patient's 
head any more than absolutely necessary. 

Check the Ears and Nose for Fluid and Blood. 

Look in the ears and nose for blood or clear, 
waterlike fluid. The presence of either or both of 
these liquids indicates a possible skull fracture 
and damage to the brain. Blood, of course, comes 
from the lacerated brain tissue. The clear fluid 
is the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain 
and cushions it from shock. Blood in the nose 
alone, however, may mean only that the nasal 
tissue has been damaged. 

Emergency Medical Care 


Check the Neck for Fractures. Look and feel 
gently for deformities or bony protrusions in the 
neck. Normally the neck is symmetrical (even on 
both sides). However, sharp movement from side 
to side can separate the bony structures of the 
spinal column in the neck. In this case, you will 
notice that the head is in an abnormal position. 
If so, do not continue any further with this check. 
Immediately stabilize the patient's head with a 
cervical collar, rolled towels or a similar restraint. 
If the patient is conscious, tell him not to move 
his head, even slightly. A further check will pro- 
vide information as to whether or not the spinal 
cord is damaged. 

Check the Chest for Movement on Both Sides 
and for Fractures. From a position at the head 
of the patient, look to see if the chest is rising and 
falling in the normal manner. If the sides are not 
rising and falling together (one side may not be 
rising at all), there may be rib and lung damage. 
Gently feel the chest cage for broken ribs. Besides 
the depressions that are felt easily, a grating feel- 
ing may be caused by the movement of broken 
rib ends against each other. 

Check the Abdomen for Spasms and Tenderness. 

Gently press against the abdomen. A "rocklike" 
abdomen or spasms indicate internal bleeding or 
a condition in which the contents of the internal 
organs have spilled into the abdominal cavity. 

Check the Pelvic Area for Fractures. Look for 
swelling and discoloration, which are signs of a 
closed fracture. Feel for lumps and tenderness. 
Look for anything abnormal, for example the leg 
twisted too far to the side. Ask the patient if he 
has any intense pain in a particular area. 

Check for Paralysis of the Extremities. Paralysis 
is a sign of spinal-cord damage. As a general rule, 
if there is no paralysis in the arms, but the legs are 
paralyzed, the back is broken. Otherwise, the 
spinal cord is intact. There are four ways to test 
a conscious patient for spinal-cord injury. 

First, ask the patient if he has any sensation 
in his arms and legs. If he is able to feel the touch 
of your hand on his arms and legs, he probably 
does not have any spinal-cord damage. However, 
if he complains of numbness or a tingling sensa- 
tion in his arms and legs, you should immediately 
suspect spinal-cord damage. In either case, carry 
out the rest of your survey. 

Next, have the patient move both feet. If he 
can do so, it is a good indication that there is no 
spinal-cord damage. To be sure, ask him to raise 
his legs slightly, one at a time (only, of course, if 
he has no leg fractures). If he cannot, you must 

assume that he has suffered injury somewhere 
along the spinal cord. 

To locate the general area of the injury, ask 
the patient to wiggle his fingers. If he can, have 
him raise his arms one at a time (again, only if 
no fractures are present). Then ask him to grip 
your hand as though he were going to shake it. 
If the patient cannot do this, his spinal cord is 
probably injured in the area of the neck. Lack of 
feeling and movement in the legs indicates spinal- 
cord damage in the lower back. 

When paralysis points to some type of spinal- 
cord injury, immobilize the patient's entire body 
immediately. Use a long spine board, an ortho- 
pedic stretcher or some other long, rigid device. 
Remember that this is a very dangerous situation; 
any wrong movement might result in permanent 
paralysis or death. 

Naturally, an unconscious patient cannot re- 
spond in the tests just described. However, you 
can check the condition of the spinal cord by 
pricking the skin of the hands and the soles of 
the feet (or the skin of the ankles above shoes) 
with a sharp object such as a pin. If there is no 
cord damage, the muscles will react and the arm 
or leg will jump. If the cord is damaged, there 
will be no reaction. As in the case of the con- 
scious patient, a lack of reaction in the arms and 
hands indicates damage to the spinal cord in the 
neck. A reaction in the arms but not in the legs 
and feet indicates damage in the lower back. 

Check the Buttocks for Fractures or Wounds. 

In many accident cases the buttocks go un- 
checked, even though they may have suffered 
serious injury. Feel carefully for irregularities in 
the body structure. Check for bleeding wounds 
that might not be obvious if the patient is lying on 
his back. If the check for paralysis has indicated 
possible spinal-cord damage, check the buttocks 
with as little movement of the body as possible. 
Otherwise, you may shift the patient slightly to 
allow a closer check. 


Triage is the sorting of accident victims accord- 
ing to the severity of their injuries. The reason for 
triage is simple: If patients are selected for treat- 
ment at random, those with minor injuries may 
be treated before those who have life-threatening 
problems. Some rescuers, when confronted with 
several accident victims, make the mistake of 
automatically caring first for the one who screams 
the loudest. However, the loud patient may have 
only minor cuts, while the quiet patient may be 
seriously injured or dying due to respiratory ar- 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

rest, internal bleeding or deep shock. Another 
common error in a multiple patient situation is 
treating first the injuries that appear to be the 
most serious. A patient whose head is completely 
covered with blood looks grotesque and seems 
very seriously injured. In fact, he may have noth- 
ing more than a small, superficial cut on the 
scalp. On the other hand, a patient who appears 
to have only a slight chest wound may really have 
a punctured lung, which could cause him to bleed 
to death internally. 

Accident victims should be sorted into three 
groups and treated according to their injuries: 
I) Those with high priority injuries; 2) those with 
second priority injuries, and 3) those with low 
priority injuries. 

High Priority Injuries 

• Airway and breathing difficulties 

• Cardiac arrest 

• Uncontrolled bleeding 

• Severe head injuries 

• Open chest or abdominal wounds 

• Severe medical problems, such as poisoning 
or heart attacks 

• Severe shock. 

Second Priority Injuries 

• Burns 

• Major multiple fractures 

• Back injuries with or without spinal-cord 

Low Priority Injuries 

• Minor fractures 

• Other minor injuries 

• Obviously mortal wounds in which death 
appears reasonably certain 

• Obvious death. 


Serious head, neck and spine injuries can result 
during shipboard firefighting operations, espe- 
cially as compartments become soaked with 
water. The risk of such injuries is increased if 
firefighters are not wearing protective headgear. 
If the vessel is rolling, firefighters may be thrown 
against bulkheads, equipment and cargo; this 
type of accident often causes head and neck in- 
juries. In addition, one firefighter can injure an- 
other by the improper use of firefighting equip- 
ment. As the intensity of the fire situation in- 
creases, the chance for such injuries increases 

Signs of Skull Fracture 

Many skull fractures can be diagnosed only with 
X rays. However, there are several important 
signs you can look for if a head injury is sus- 
pected but there are no obvious wounds: 

• A deformity of the skull must be considered 
to be the result of a fracture until it is proved 

• Blood or a clear, waterlike fluid in the ears 
and nose is a good sign of a skull fracture. 

• Discoloration of the soft tissues under the 
eyes may be present. 

• Unequal pupils are an important sign of 
brain damage. 

Evaluating a Patient for Brain Injuries 

If the mechanism of an accident is sufficient to 
cause a skull injury, it is probably also sufficient 
to cause an injury to the brain. Several factors 
must be considered in determining whether the 
patient has suffered brain damage. 

State of Consciousness. If the patient was un- 
conscious immediately after the accident but then 
regained consciousness, he probably suffered only 
a brain concussion. Further damage to the brain 
is indicated if the patient gradually lost con- 
sciousness, or if he regained and then lost con- 
sciousness again. A blood clot may be causing 
pressure on the brain. 

Awareness of Surroundings. Pressure on cer- 
tain brain centers due to the injury may interrupt 
their function, causing disorientation, amnesia, 
or other similar reactions. 

Condition of Pupils. Normally the pupils of the 
eyes are equal in size, and they constrict when 
exposed to bright light. Their unequal size or 
failure to react to light indicates that the brain 
is not functioning properly. If one pupil remains 
large when exposed to light while the other pupil 
constricts, damage to one side of the brain is in- 
dicated. A small flashlight (penlight) can be used 
to test the patient's pupils. 

Emergency Care for Injuries 
to the Skull and Brain 

In the case of a suspected or known skull or brain 
injury, the rescuer should proceed as follows. 

• Maintain an open airway. 

• Check for and stabilize associated neck in- 

• Do not attempt to control drainage. 

• Cover open wounds, but use little pressure. 

Emergency Medical Care 


• Do not remove impaled objects. 

• Transport the patient without delay, but 
very carefully, to minimize movement and 
avoid bumping the head. 

• Administer 100% oxygen during transpor- 
tation (qualified personnel only). 

The maintenance of an open airway is of pri- 
mary importance for all injuries. It is doubly 
important in the case of the patient with a head 
injury, since this injury involves loss of the oxygen- 
carrying blood where it is needed most. Since the 
accident that caused the brain injury may also 
have produced a neck injury, the usual method 
of establishing an airway cannot be attempted. 
Tilting the head back too far might cause the 
death of a patient who has suffered a broken neck. 
The proper method is described below. 

Neck Injury 

A patient who has a head injury must always be 
suspected of having a neck injury as well. If the 
patient is unconscious, he should be treated as 
though he actually had a broken neck. 

Surveying the Patient for Spinal Damage 

The survey may be limited by the position in 
which the patient is first found. If he is found on 
his side, for example, the work of the rescuer is 
uncomplicated. The rescuer can closely examine 
the spine for deformity, lacerations and contu- 
sions, tenderness and other physical signs of in- 
jury. When the extent of the injury has been 
determined, the patient can be rolled very care- 
fully into the proper position for immobilization 
and transportation. However, if the patient is 
found lying on his back, it is impossible to see 
many of the signs of injury. Moreover, it would 
be very dangerous to move him just for the pur- 
pose of visual examination. Instead, he should 
be examined for paralysis as described earlier in 
the section, under Check for Paralysis of the Ex- 

The rescuer may not find any obvious signs 
of spinal-cord injury but still suspect that there 
is one. If there is any question at all, the patient 
should be immobilized and transported as though 
he had a known spinal fracture, especially if he 
is unconscious. The following signs and symptoms 
are associated with spinal injuries. 

Pain and Tenderness. The conscious patient 
feels pain and is able to point out the injury site. 
If the patient is on his side or stomach, run your 
fingers gently over the area of the suspected in- 
jury. When the fingers are directly over the in- 
jured area, the patient usually will complain of 

an increase in pain. If the patient attempts to 
move the injured area, the pain may also increase 
sharply. If there is no pain upon movement, there 
is probably no fracture or dislocation. (Observe 
this sign only if you have the opportunity to do 
so. Do not ask the patient to move merely to de- 
termine if there is pain. This action may worsen 
the injury.) If the patient is unconscious, the res- 
cuer must rely on other means of determining the 
extent of the injury. 

Deformity. In some cases the spine may appear 
crooked and bent out of shape. Of course, this 
sign usually may be observed only if the patient 
is on his side or stomach. If the patient is in the 
proper position, and heavy clothing does not con- 
ceal the injury site, run your fingers gently up 
and down the spine, feeling for bony protrusions. 
Do this carefully, so that the spine is not twisted 
further. Deformity is usually a very reliable sign 
of spinal injury; in the unconscious patient it may 
be the only reliable sign available. Remember, 
however, that there may be a spinal injury with- 
out obvious deformity. 

Cuts and Bruises. Cuts and bruises on the face 
and neck are commonly associated with spinal 
fracture or dislocation. A patient who has bruises 
over his shoulders, or lower back and abdomen, 
may also have injuries to the spine. These signs 
may be observed in both conscious and uncon- 
scious patients. Again, bear in mind that there 
may be a spinal injury without these signs. 

Paralysis. Probably the most reliable sign of 
spinal injury is paralysis of the extremities. To 
determine the presence and extent of paralysis, 
the rescuer should perform the tests listed under 
Check for Paralysis of the Extremities, or refer 
to Table 14.11. 










Can feel touch 
Can wiggle toes 
Can raise legs 

Can feel touch 
Can wiggle fingers 
Can raise arms 

Cannot feel touch 
Cannot wiggle toes 
Cannot raise legs 

Can feel touch 
Can wiggle fingers 
Can raise arms 

Cannot feel touch 
Cannot wiggle toes 
Cannot raise legs 

Cannot feel touch 
Cannot wiggle fingers 
Cannot raise arms 


Patient may not have a cord injury 

Patient probably has an injury to the cord 
below the neck. 

Patient probably has an injury to the cord 
in the area of the neck. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

Emergency Care for Injuries 
to the Neck and Spine 

In the case of a known or suspected neck or spine 
injury, the rescuer should proceed as follows. 

• Apply and maintain traction on the head. 

• Restore the airway and ensure adequate 

• Control serious bleeding by direct pressure. 

• Make a complete body survey. 

• Immobilize the patient before moving. 

• Take sufficient time. 

• Administer 100% oxygen during transpor- 
tation (qualified personnel only). 

Apply and Maintain Traction. Regardless of 
the position in which the patient is found, one 
rescuer should immediately station himself at the 
head, where he can apply traction. He should 
grasp the patient's head with his fingers under 
the chin, and exert a steady pull upward and 
slightly to the rear. The upward pull helps to 
keep any broken bone fragments from overriding 
and severing or doing further damage to the spinal 
cord. The slight backward pull helps to open and 
maintain the patient's airway. The rescuer apply- 
ing traction must remain in this position until the 
patient is completely immobilized or until it has 
been determined that he has no spinal injuries. 

A cervical collar should be applied at the same 
time that the head is placed in the traction posi- 
tion. The collar ensures that the patient's head 
does not fall forward or roll to the side if the 
rescuer must remove his hands for any reason. If 
a cervical collar is not available, a substitute col- 
lar can be fashioned from a bath towel, a folded 
multitrauma dressing or a folded blanket. When 
applying a substitute collar, the rescuer should 
ensure that the patient's head is not moved any 
more than is absolutely necessary. 

Restore the Airway and Ensure Adequate Breath- 
ing. The usual method of tilting the head as far 
back as possible to establish the airway may 
worsen a spinal injury. Instead, when traction has 
been applied, resuscitation measures can be 
started if necessary. First attempts should be di- 
rected toward ventilating the patient's lungs. With 
one rescuer holding the patient's head in the trac- 
tion position, another should try to ventilate the 
patient by the mouth-to-mouth technique or with 
a positive-pressure device such as a bag-mask 
resuscitator. Even though the head is not tilted 
in the best airway position, ventilation may be 

If the airway is not opened sufficiently to allow 
ventilation, do not attempt to increase the open- 
ing by tilting the head further back. Instead, use 
either the chin-lift method or the jaw-lift method 
of creating an airway. Both methods can be per- 
formed by the rescuer who is maintaining trac- 
tion, and they will actually aid in the traction 

If the patient is unconscious, an oropharyngeal 
airway such as the S tube can be inserted. This 
will ensure a proper exchange of air and mini- 
mize the problem of the relaxed tongue blocking 
the throat. Great care must be taken while in- 
serting the airway, to avoid undue neck move- 
ment. The airway can be left in place during 
transportation, and it will be useful if the patient 
must be resuscitated. It should be remembered, 
however, that when the patient regains conscious- 
ness the airway must be removed immediately. 
Left in place, it will cause the patient to gag and 
vomit, creating additional problems and placing 
an added strain on injured parts. The throat of 
an unconscious patient should be suctioned peri- 
odically, to remove collected fluids. 

Control Serious Bleeding by Direct Pressure. 

When breathing problems have been corrected, 
attention should be directed to any seriously 
bleeding wounds. Pressure dressings should be 
placed on these wounds, but with as little move- 
ment of the body as possible. If the bleeding can- 
not be stopped by pressure dressings, one rescuer 
may have to maintain manual pressure on the 
wound while the patient is being immobilized. No 
attempt should be made to dress less serious 
wounds before immobilization is completed. 

Make a Complete Body Survey. While one res- 
cuer is holding the patient's head in the traction 
position, another rescuer should make a com- 
plete body survey using the method described ear- 
lier. If the survey indicates that there is no cord 
damage anywhere along the length of the spine, 
attention can be given to other injuries, and the 
normal treatment sequence can be followed. On 
the other hand, if the survey shows spinal-cord 
damage, the patient must be rigidly immobilized 
before anything else is done. 

Immobilize the Patient Before Moving. The 

method of immobilization depends upon the cir- 
cumstances of the accident. If the patient is lying 
on the deck and is easily accessible, there is little 
problem in preparing him for transportation. An 
orthopedic stretcher or a full backboard is the 
most desirable device for immobilization. The 

Emergency Medical Care 


patient can be immobilized on either of these 
stretchers with a minimum of body movement. 
More detailed information on the removal of 
victims with neck and spine injuries is given later 
in this chapter. 


If for some reason the air supply to the lungs is 
restricted or stopped, the brain does not get 
enough oxygen to survive. Then the brain signals 
that regulate heart and lung activity slow down 
and stop. As the actions of the brain, heart and 
lungs cease, so does life itself. Thus, rescuers 
must act promptly when they find that a patient's 
respiration is blocked or stopped. 

Airway Obstructions 

The most obvious airway obstruction is an ac- 
cumulation of foreign matter in the mouth, throat 
or windpipe. Vomit, blood, phlegm, and foreign 
objects that cannot be coughed up or swallowed 
tend to create dangerous obstructions. 

A less obvious but equally dangerous airway 
obstruction results from unconsciousness. During 
unconsciousness, regardless of the cause, the 
muscles that control the lower jaw and tongue 
relax. This usually leads to an obstruction of the 
throat when the patient's neck is bent forward. 
The bending of the neck causes the lower jaw to 
sag. Since the tongue is attached to the lower jaw, 
it drops against the back of the throat and over 
the voice box, blocking the airway. 

Recognition of Airway Obstruction 

A rule of thumb that may be used to survey a 
patient for airway obstruction is to tilt the pa- 
tient's head backward and 

• Look for breathing movements. 

• Listen for airflow at the mouth and nose. 

• Feel for air exchange. 

The rescuer should not assume that a patient 
is breathing adequately unless he can hear and 
feel an exchange of air through the mouth and 
nose, and see that the chest is rising and falling. 
For this, he should place his ear close enough to 
the patient's mouth and nose to hear and feel the 
exchange. In cases of complete obstruction, there 
will be no detectable movement of air. Cases of 
partial obstruction are easier to detect and may 
be identified by listening. Noisy breathing is a 
sign of partial obstruction of the air passages. 

"Snoring" usually indicates air-passage obstruc- 
tion by the tongue, as in the case of a bent neck. 
"Crowing" indicates spasms of the larynx (voice 
box). A "gurgling" sound indicates foreign mat- 
ter in the windpipe. Under no circumstances 
should a "noisy" breathing condition go un- 


A dependable sign that the brain is getting too 
little oxygen is cyanosis. This condition is char- 
acterized by a noticeable blue or gray color of 
the tongue, lips, nail beds and skin. In blacks 
and other patients with dark complexions, the 
blue or gray color may be noted at the tongue 
and nail beds only. 

Treatment of Airway Obstructions 

The head should be kept tilted back throughout 
all the following steps. If any step opens the air- 
way, it is not necessary to go any further. But it 
is necessary to ensure that the patient continues 
to breathe properly. 

Step 1: Quickly Clean Out the Patient's 
Mouth. Using your finger, quickly sweep the 
patient's mouth clear of foreign objects, broken 
teeth or dentures, sand or dirt, and so forth. 

Step 2: Tilt the Patient's Head Back. Place 
the patient on his back with his face up. Tilt the 
patient's head backward as far as possible, so 
that the front of the neck is stretched tightly 
(Fig. 14.1). If necessary, elevate the patient's 
shoulders with a blanket roll, to keep the head 
tilted back. Never put a pillow, rolled blanket 
or other object under the patient's head. This 
will defeat the purpose of the head tilt by bend- 
ing the neck forward and perhaps blocking the 
airway even more. 

Figure 14.1. Tilt the patient's head back as far as possible 
to open the airway. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

If the airway opens and the patient starts to 
breathe alone when the head is tilted back, go 
no further. Otherwise go on to step 3. 

Step 3: Force Air into the Lungs. If the head 
tilt does not open the airway, try to force two 
or three good-size breaths quickly into the 
patient's lungs through the mouth, while hold- 
ing the nostrils pinched shut (Fig. 14.2). This 
forced ventilation may be enough to start spon- 
taneous respiration, or it may dislodge a partial 
obstruction that has been restricting breathing. 

Watch the patient's chest for movement in- 
dicating that your breaths are reaching his 
lungs. If the patient's chest rises and falls with 
two or three quick breaths, the airway is un- 
obstructed. If forcing air into the patient's 
mouth does not open the airway, it is necessary 
to go on to the following steps. 

Step 4: Lift the Jaw. If both the head tilt 
and the forced ventilation fail to get air into 
the patient's lungs, it may be necessary to in- 
crease the stretch of the neck to get the tongue 
out of the way. A jaw-lift method can be used. 

To pull the tongue as far forward as possible, 
insert your thumb between the patient's teeth, 
with your fingers under his chin. Pull his jaw 
forward, allowing the lower teeth to be posi- 
tioned higher than the cutting edges of the 
upper teeth (Fig. 14.3). Take care not to hold 
or depress the tongue during this procedure. 

If it is not possible to insert your thumb in 
the patient's mouth because of clenched teeth, 
try the two-hand jaw lift. Grasp the angles of 
the patient's jaw. With both hands just below 
the earlobes, lift the jaw forcibly upward so 
that the lower teeth are in front of the upper 
teeth. Be sure that you do not flex the head 

Figure 14.3. Jaw lift and chin lift. 

forward when you attempt to pull the jaw 

The tongue is now in the extreme forward 
position, and it is unlikely to be blocking the 
air passage. Another quick breath into the 
patient's mouth will determine whether or not 
the airway is clear. If it is clear, artificial ven- 
tilation may be carried out. If the airway is 
still not open, go on to step 5. 

Step 5: Clear the Airway. When steps 2-4 
all fail, an object is probably lodged so deeply 
in the patient's throat that the quick sweep of 
the mouth in step 1 failed to reach it. Try to 
reach the object with your extended index 
finger. If this fails, attempt to dislodge the ob- 
ject by concussion. 

Turn the patient on his side, and administer 
a few sharp slaps to his back between the 
shoulders. Once again, sweep your fingers in- 
side the patient's mouth to see if the object has 
been dislodged. 

If sharp slaps between the shoulders fail to 
clear the obstruction, you can attempt the ab- 
dominal thrust shown in Figure 14.4. How- 
ever, if the patient is in desperate condition, do 

Figure 14.2. Force several good-size breaths into the pa- 
tient's lungs while pinching his nostrils closed. 

Figure 14.4. Abdominal thrust (Heimlich maneuver). A. 
Positioning the hands. B. Applying the force. C. The ma- 
neuver for a patient in the prone or supine position. 

Emergency Medical Care 


not waste time trying to clear foreign matter 
from the airway. Forcing air into his lungs is 
more important, and this often succeeds de- 
spite some blockage. Speed is of the essence. 
If it is obvious that efforts to open the airway 
will not be immediately successful, radio for 
medical assistance and arrange for transport 
of the patient to a medical facility without de- 
lay. Surgical procedures will most likely be 
needed to save his life. Meanwhile, repeat the 
five-step procedure. 

Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation 

This technique has been proved both experi- 
mentally and clinically to be the most effective 
means of artificially ventilating a nonbreathing 

With the air passage maintained by maximum 
extension of the head (as described in the pre- 
ceding section), pinch the patient's nose shut with 
your thumb and forefinger. This will prevent air 
from escaping when you blow into the patient's 
mouth. Take a deep breath, open your mouth 
wide, and place it over the mouth of the patient, 
making a tight seal (Fig. 14.5). Quickly blow 







Figure 14.5. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is the most ef- 
fective way to ventilate a patient. 

your full breath into the patient's mouth until you 
can feel the resistance of the expanding lungs and 
can see the chest rise. Remove your mouth from 
the patient's mouth, and allow him to exhale. 

Repeat this breathing cycle every 5 seconds, 
or about 12 times per minute. Each breath should 
provide at least 100 cc (about 2 pints) of air. This 
is twice the amount of air in a normal breath. Ex- 
pired air contains about 16% oxygen and from 
4% to 5% carbon dioxide. Thus, the double-size 
breaths ensure adequate oxygenation of the blood 
and removal of the carbon dioxide from the 
patient's lungs. 

Experience has shown that the three most com- 
mon errors committed by rescuers while perform- 
ing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation are: 

1 . Inadequate extension of the patient's head, 
so that the airway is not properly estab- 

2. Failure to open the patient's mouth wide 

3. Forgetting to seal the patient's mouth and 

If the patient's stomach becomes distended 
(bulged) with air from the inflations, turn his head 
to the side. Compress his stomach gently to expel 
the air. The bulging results when air slips past 
the epiglottis into the esophagus and stomach. 

After resuscitation has been started, it should 
be continued until the patient is transported to a 
hospital, until he starts to breathe spontaneously, 
or until a physician pronounces him dead. 

Mouth-to-Nose Resuscitation 

This alternative method may be used if the patient 
has serious injuries to the lower jaw, or if he has 
a severely receding chin due to the lack of nat- 
ural teeth or dentures. 

The mouth-to-nose resuscitation technique is 
essentially the same as the mouth-to-mouth tech- 
nique. Clamp the patient's jaw shut with your 
fingers, and cover his nose with your mouth. Blow 
your full breath into his nose. After each breath, 
allow the patient's mouth to open, to provide 
quick and effective exhalation. 

Oropharyngeal Airways 

Oropharyngeal airways are curved breathing 
tubes. They are inserted in the patient's mouth 
to hold the base of the tongue forward so it does 
not block the air passage. The rescuer cannot 
depend completely upon this type of device, how- 
ever; the head must be tilted backward to provide 
the maximum opening. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

There are two basic guidelines that determine 
whether or not an airway should be used: 

1. If the patient is conscious and breathing 
normally, an airway should not be inserted 
because it will cause him to vomit. 

2. If the patient is unconscious with breath- 
ing obstructed, an airway should be inserted 
if breathing remains obstructed after head 
tilt and artificial ventilation are attempted. 

If the patient reacts by swallowing, retching or 
coughing after an artificial airway is in place, the 
airway must be removed quickly. Otherwise, it 
may make him vomit, increasing the likelihood 
of airway obstruction. Artificial airways should 
be employed only when the rescuer is trained in 
their use. 

To insert an oropharyngeal airway, proceed as 
follows: Use one hand, with the thumb and index 
finger crossed, to pry the patient's teeth apart and 
hold his mouth open. With your other hand, in- 
sert the airway between his teeth. The curve 
should be backward at first, and then turned to 
the proper position as you insert it deeper (Fig. 
14.6). This twisting maneuver prevents the 
tongue from being pushed further back into the 
throat, since the airway must be inserted over 
the tongue. If you have difficulty with the tongue, 
hold it forward with your index finger. 

If the jaws are too firmly clenched for the ma- 
neuver described above, try to wedge them apart 
as follows: Insert your index finger between the 
patient's cheek and teeth, forcing the tip of your 
finger behind his teeth. If you have difficulty get- 
ting the teeth apart or inserting the airway, do 
not keep forcing. Instead, hold the head back and 
use mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-nose resusci- 

Mouth-to-Airway Ventilation 

The mouth-to-airway unit (commonly called the 
S tube) and various similar devices have been in- 
troduced to overcome objections to direct mouth- 
to-mouth contact. These tools should be em- 
ployed only if the rescuer is trained in their use, 
and only if they are immediately available. 

To use a mouth-to-airway device, proceed as 
follows: Tilt the patient's head back, and insert 
the airway in the manner described for oropha- 
ryngeal airways (Fig. 14.6). When using the S 
tube, make sure that the cupped flange is posi- 
tioned properly. Prevent air leakage by pinching 
the patient's nose closed and pressing the flange 
firmly over his mouth. Hold his chin up so that 
the front of the neck is stretched. Then follow 
all of the other steps required for the mouth-to- 
mouth technique, such as rate and size of breaths. 

Figure 14.6. Inserting the oropharyngeal or S-tube airway. 

Bag-Mask Resuscitators 

Another valuable tool for artificial ventilation is 
the bag-mask resuscitator. This device consists 
of a facepiece fitted to a self-inflating bag. A spe- 
cial valve arrangement allows the bag to refill 
and the patient to exhale without removal of the 
unit from his face. A common problem with this 
device is failure of the operator to hold the face- 
piece firmly enough against the patient's face. 
The result is then a poor seal. 

The bag-mask resuscitator should be used as 
follows: Hold the facepiece over the patient's 
face, and clamp it securely in place with one 
hand. Press your thumb over the rim of the mask, 
with your index finger over the chin part (Fig. 
14.7). Use your third, fourth and fifth fingers to 
pull the chin upward and backward. Take a firm 
grip, but never poke your fingers into the patient's 
neck. Never push the mask down on the patient's 
chin, as this may bend the neck and obstruct the 
air passage. 

Emergency Medical Care 


Hold Mask Firmly 
in Place 

Pull Chin Upward 
and Back 

Squeeze Bag 

Once Every 5 Seconds 


Figure 14.7. Proper positioning and use of the bag-mask 

While holding the mask with one hand, squeeze 
the bag with your other hand about once every 
5 seconds. The bag should be squeezed until the 
chest rises, and then released to allow exhalation. 
If you hear leakage, hold the mask more tightly 
and squeeze the bag more forcefully. 

When the bag is released, the air inlet at the 
tail of the bag opens to allow it to refill. The valve 
at the mask prevents the patient from exhaling 
back into the bag. The bag should be released 
quickly to allow prompt valve action. 

Be especially watchful for signs of vomiting. 
If the patient starts to vomit, discontinue the 
bag-mask operation immediately. Continuing the 
operation will force vomitus into the patient's 
windpipe, causing him to draw the fluids into the 
lungs, or creating a massive obstruction. 

Mechanical Resuscitators 

While many emergency care units carry mechani- 
cal pressure-cycled resuscitators as part of their 
equipment, the use of these devices is not recom- 
mended. Effective artificial ventilation depends 
on the volume of air introduced into the lungs, 
not the pressure that delivers it. Because the lungs 
are very elastic, the back pressure increases as 
they fill with air, and more and more pressure is 
required to deliver the proper amount of air. 
Moreover, if there is a partial obstruction of the 
airway, or if the patient's lungs have lost some 
of their elasticity, even more pressure is required 
to inflate them properly. 

The problem with pressure-cycled resuscitators 
is that they inflate the lungs to a certain set pres- 

sure and then allow exhalation. But the machines 
have no way of knowing whether or not the proper 
amount of oxygen has been delivered. That is, 
they cycle from inflation to exhalation when they 
sense a certain back pressure, regardless of the 
amount of oxygen delivered. Often, they deliver 
an insufficient amount of oxygen, which is of little 
value to the patient. 

Some mechanical resuscitators are equipped 
with override valves that deliver a constant flow 
of oxygen as long as a special valve is held open. 
The flow of oxygen bypasses the pressure-sensing 
device in the regulator. The operator is able to 
continue inflating the patient's lungs until the 
rising chest indicates that the proper amount of 
oxygen has been delivered. 

Rescuers should remember that valuable time 
must be spent in obtaining a mechanical resusci- 
tator and setting it up for operation. And the 
nonbreathing patient does not have much time. 
In addition, the mechanical resuscitator requires 
constant attention and, like any machine, may 
fail when it is needed most. It is best not to rely 
on a purely mechanical device to save a life. 


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is another 
name for heart-lung resuscitation, or a combined 
effort to restore breathing and circulation arti- 
ficially. Artificial circulation is produced when 
the chest is compressed by 3.8 to 5.1 cm {Wi to 
2 inches), which squeezes the heart between the 
sternum and the spine. When the heart is squeezed 
in this fashion, blood is forced into the pulmonary 
circuit to the lungs (where it is oxygenated) and 
into the systemic circuit (through which it travels 
to all parts of the body). When the pressure is 
released (Fig. 14.8), the elastic chest wall causes 
the sternum to spring outward to its original posi- 
tion. The release of pressure on the heart results 
in a sucking action that draws blood into the 
heart from the veins and the lungs. 

The blood is kept in constant motion as long 
as the heart is squeezed and released by the ex- 
ternal chest compressions. The result is quite 
close to the circulation that is produced by a nor- 
mally operating heart. 

Signs of Cardiac Arrest 

A heart attack can occur at any time. Under ex- 
treme physical and emotional stress, the risk of 
heart attack is much greater. Those responsible 
for emergency care should be aware that heart 
attacks are a common medical problem in fire- 
fighting situations. Both the physical exertion re- 
quired of firefighters and the lack of oxygen due 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

to smoke add to the probability of cardiac arrest. 
You can determine rapidly and easily whether 
or not cardiac arrest has occurred by checking 
for three signs, all of which must be present if 
heart action has stopped. 

No Respiration. Check for breathing as de- 
scribed above: Look for movement of the chest. 
Listen and feel for air exchange at the mouth and 
nose. If there are signs of breathing, there is no 
possibility of cardiac arrest. If there are no signs 
of breathing, there may be cardiac arrest. At any 
rate, the patient will need some sort of artificial 
ventilation as the minimum treatment. 

No Pulse. Check for heart action by feeling for 
either the cartoid pulse in the neck or the femoral 
pulse in the groin. The cartoid and femoral ar- 
teries are quite large, and normally their pulses 
are easily felt if there is sufficient heart action to 
circulate blood. If a pulse can be felt, the patient 
is not in cardiac arrest and may need only to 
have his breathing restored or supported. How- 
ever, if a pulse cannot be found, cardiac arrest is 
indicated. To be sure, check for the third sign. 

Dilated Pupils of the Eyes. Check the pupils of 
the patient's eyes to see if they are dilated. Con- 
stricted (narrow) pupils indicate that there is 
blood circulation. Dilated (quite large) pupils in- 
dicate that blood circulation has stopped. Within 
45 to 60 seconds after circulation to the brain 
ceases, the pupils begin to dilate. Within another 
minute the dilation is complete. Thus, if the 
pupils appear dilated, no oxygenated blood is 
being circulated to the brain. This sign, coupled 
with the first two, calls for immediate reestab- 
lishment of breathing and heart action by cardio- 
pulmonary resuscitation. 

The CPR Technique 

The sequence of operations required in cardio- 
pulmonary resuscitation is best remembered as 
the ABC technique. 

• A stands for airway: Ensure that the patient 
has a clear airway, that the head is in the 
proper position, and that the throat is free 
of foreign objects. 

• B stands for breathe: Inflate the patient's 
lungs immediately with four quick, good- 
size breaths, using the mouth-to-mouth 
technique, or mouth-to-nose if necessary. 
This provides the lungs with a high concen- 
tration of oxygen that is immediately avail- 
able for circulation to the brain. If the estab- 
lishment of a clear airway and the four quick 

ventilations do not start spontaneous breath- 
ing, check for the other two signs of cardiac 
arrest (no pulse, dilated pupils). Then go on 
to the next step. 

• C stands for circulate: For this, the rescuer 

1 . Situate the patient properly. 

2. Locate the pressure point. 

3. Place his hands properly. 

4. Apply pressure. 

5 . Interpose ventilations . 

Any deviation from the proper procedure for 
placing the hands may result in damage to the 
ribs and underlying organs. 

Locate the Pressure Point. Run one hand along 
the lower rib cage to a point in the center of the 
chest, where a flexible point called the xiphoid 
process is located. (See Figs. 14.8 and 14.9.) 
Measure three fiinger widths up (toward the neck) 
from the tip of the xiphoid. To do this, lay three 
fingers of one hand flat on the patient's chest, 
with the fingers touching each other and the low- 
est finger on the xiphoid tip. 

Place Your Hands. Place the heel of your hand 
on the chest so that it is touching the third "meas- 
uring" finger. This hand should now be about 
three finger widths from the xiphoid tip. Its fin- 
gers should be pointing approximately across the 
chest. Remove the "measuring" hand, and place 
it on top of the other hand (Fig. 14.9). 






Xiphoid process 

Figure 14.8. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The compres- 
sion and release of the heart cause blood to be pumped to 
the lungs and throughout the body. 

Emergency Medical Care 





Figure 14.9. Finding the pressure point, placing the hands 
and applying the pressure in CPR. 

Apply Pressure. With your shoulders directly 
above the victim's chest, press straight down, 
compressing the chest by 3.8 to 5.1 cm (IY2 to 
2 inches). Your elbows must not bend or flex. 
Pivot at the hips, making use of the weight of 
your head and shoulders to obtain the proper 
compression. A poor technique could result in 
fatigue and limit the time you are able to per- 
form CPR. 

Ventilate. Chest compressions without ventila- 
tion are of little value to the patient, since the 
only air exchange is that resulting from the chest 
movements caused by the compressions. This lim- 

ited exchange is not sufficient to oxygenate the 
blood. (The proper ventilation procedures are 
given below.) 

CPR with One Rescuer 

When it is necessary to perform cardiopulmonary 
resuscitation without assistance, the following 
steps should be taken: 

1. Place the patient on his back on a hard 
surface, preferably the deck. 

2. As soon as you determine that the patient 
is in cardiac arrest (by checking the three 
signs), establish the airway. Ventilate the 
patient with four double-size breaths, with- 
out pausing between breaths. 

3. Shift to the patient's side, and compress 
his chest 15 times, at a rate of 80 compres- 
sions per minute. Be sure that your hands 
are always in the proper position. 

4. After the 15th compression, quickly pivot 
back to the patient's head. Inflate his lungs 
two times, again without any pause be- 
tween ventilations. 

5. Return to the chest, and again compress 
the chest 15 times, at the rate of 80 com- 
pressions per minute. Then perform two 

6. Continue the cycles of 15 chest compres- 
sions and 2 ventilations without interrup- 
tion until the patient shows signs of recov- 
ery, or until you are relieved by competent 
medical personnel. 

CPR with Two Rescuers 

The most effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation 
can be accomplished by two rescuers working to- 
gether. The two-man method is more effective 
and far less tiring than the one-man technique. 
The following steps should be taken: 

1. Place the patient on his back on a hard 

2. Determine the patient's condition by check- 
ing for the three signs of cardiac arrest. 

3. The first rescuer now positions himself at 
the patient's head. He establishes an open 
airway and quickly ventilates the patient 
with four double-size breaths. 

4. The second rescuer positions himself at 
the patient's side. He starts manual chest 
compressions at the rate of one every sec- 
ond (60 per minute) as soon as the patient 
is ventilated. 


Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety 

5. After every five chest compressions, the 
first rescuer ventilates the patient with one 
quick, double-size breath. The rescuers 
must closely coordinate their efforts, so 
that the first rescuer will not attempt to 
ventilate the patient just as the second res- 
cuer is compressing the chest. 

6. Continue the cycles of one breath and five 
chest compressions without interruption. 

If it is necessary to change rescuers during the 
resuscitation efforts, the switch should be made 
with as little interruption as possible. An effective 
means is to position the incoming rescuers on 
the opposite side of the patient. Thus, they can 
take over as soon as the outgoing rescuers tire. 

Determining the Effectiveness 
of CPR Efforts 

If the patient can be successfully resuscitated 
(that is, if biological death has not occurred), the 
effectiveness of CPR efforts can be measured by 
certain changes in the patient's condition. If the 
efforts are successful, the following changes must 

1 . The pupils must constrict. 

2. The patient's color must improve. 

3. A pulse must be felt at the carotid artery 
with each heart compression. 

The rescuer should realize that CPR has its 
limitations. It is doubtful that CPR will be of 
any help if there have been extreme crushing in- 
juries to the chest, if large internal arteries have 
been cut open, if the skull has been crushed, or 
if the heart has ruptured. 

The longer CPR is carried out without a posi- 
tive response from the patient, the smaller his 
chances for survival. Rescuers (applying two-man 
CPR whenever possible) should not attempt more 
than 1 hour of continuous CPR. After 1 hour, 
there is no hope for the patient to recover. Res- 
cuers should not feel guilty if they stop CPR after 
an hour; nothing more can be done for the pa- 

Possible Complications of CPR 

Damage to the rib cage and the underlying or- 
gans can be caused by improper placement of the 
rescuer's hands during chest compression. When 
the hands are placed too far to the right, the ribs 
may be fractured. They can then lacerate the 
lungs, and possibly the heart muscle itself. When 
the hands are placed too low on the sternum 
(breastbone), the bony xiphoid may be depressed 

too far, thus lacerating the liver. When the hands 
are placed too high, the collarbone may be broken 
where it joins the sternum. 

Even with the hands placed in the proper posi- 
tion, the force required to compress the chest 
may be sufficient to break ribs. However, it is far 
better for the patient to suffer a few broken ribs 
than to die because the rescuer refused to per- 
form CPR through a fear of inflicting injury. 


Depending on the mechanism of injury, a patient 
may develop external or internal bleeding or both. 
Because internal bleeding is the less obvious of 
the two, it may be the more dangerous. We shall 
discuss them separately. 

Types of External Bleeding 

Arterial bleeding is bleeding from an artery. It 
is characterized by a flow of bright red blood 
leaving the wound in distinct spurts. At times, 
the flow may be alarmingly heavy. Arterial bleed- 
ing is not likely to clot unless it is from a small 
artery or unless the flow of blood is slight. Ar- 
teries have a built-in defense mechanism: If they 
are cut through completely, they tend to constrict 
and seal themselves off. However, an artery that 
is not cut through, but is torn or has a hole in it, 
will continue to bleed freely. 

Venous bleeding is bleeding from a vein. It is 
characterized by a steady flow of blood that ap- 
pears to be dark maroon or even blue in color. 
Bleeding from a vein may also be heavy, but it is 
much easier to control than arterial bleeding. A 
real danger associated with venous bleeding in 
injuries to the neck is a condition known as air 
embolism. The blood in the larger veins is drawn 
to the heart by a sucking action that develops as 
the heart contracts and relaxes. This action may 
draw an air bubble into the open vein. If the air 
bubble is large enough, it can reduce the ability 
of the heart to pump properly. The heart may 
even fail completely. Even though venous bleed- 
ing may not appear heavy, it should be controlled 
quickly and effectively. 

Capillary bleeding is bleeding from capillaries. 
It is characterized by the slow oozing of blood, 
usually from minor wounds such as scraped knees. 
Since the bleeding is from the smallest vessels, it 
can be controlled easily. However, because of the 
large amount of skin surface involved, the threat 
of contamination may be more serious than the 
blood loss. 

Emergency Medical Care 


Methods of Controlling External Bleeding 

The most effective method of controlling external 
bleeding is direct pressure on the wound. In the 
case of an arm or leg wound not involving a frac- 
ture, direct pressure and elevation of the limb 
are recommended. There are few instances of 
bleeding where the flow of blood cannnot be con- 
trolled by this quick and efficient means. 

Direct Pressure. When the bleeding is relatively 
mild, apply pressure to the wound with a sterile 
dressing, clean cloth or handkerchief (Fig. 14.10). 
Firm pressure on the wound for 10-30 minutes 
will, in most cases, stop the bleeding. To allow 






Figure 14.10. Controlling mild external bleeding with 
pressure. Once the dressing is in place, it should not be 

the patient some movement while the bleeding is 
being controlled, bind the dressing in place with 
a bandage. 

Do not attempt to replace the dressing once 
it is held in place, even if it becomes blood- 
soaked. Replacing a dressing releases the pres- 
sure on the cut blood vessels, interferes with nor- 
mal coagulation and increases the likelihood of 
contamination. Instead of replacing the dressing, 
add another one on top of the soaked dressings, 
and hold them all in place. Continue this pro- 
cedure until the patient is delivered to a medical 

If the bleeding is heavy, place your hand di- 
rectly on the wound and exert firm pressure. If 
a cloth