What Should You Do Immediately If A Boat Motor Catches Fire?

What Should You Do Immediately If A Boat Motor Catches Fire? Good question. Fires are more common with inboard boats than outboard boats.

The main contributor to the higher-than-normal fire hazard is the inboard engine’s location, which is the boat’s interior. Outboard engines have a lower fire risk because they are installed on the exterior of the hull.

While there really is not much you can do about your boat’s motor, there is a lot you can do to minimize its fire risks. Even this effort may not be enough to prevent all engine fires.

Below, you will discover a list of tips to ensure you and your passengers are safe if your boat motor catches fire during an aquatic voyage.

Being Aware Of Fire Hazards

Every skipper should know the ins and outs of their boat, especially the engine. As you should know by now, the motor is the heart of every boat.

Without a motor, the boat would need to be manually operated utilizing manpower and oars. Fortunately, this is not the case, thanks to the intuitive engine.

It is crucial to know your boat engine’s fire hazards or dangers. With this knowledge, you will be better equipped to handle an engine fire breakout.

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Gasoline Or Diesel – A Hazardous Vapor!

Long-term exposure to boat fuels like diesel and gasoline can lead to respiratory distress or worse, death. Diesel and gasoline vapors are much heavier than air, meaning they flow downward where they can easily get trapped.

In the event, a boat motor catches fire, the vapors emitted by gasoline or diesel will put the skipper and the passengers in a dire situation.

Since there is no possible way to eliminate the additional fire hazard, it is recommended to turn the boat in the direction opposite of the wind. If you accomplish this feat, you will divert the smoke away from yourself and your passengers.

If you are like most skippers, you store extra fuel onboard your boat. While this practice could be helpful, in the event you run out of fuel, it poses an extreme danger if a fire breaks out on your boat

Do Not Enter The Cabin

A boat fire is unpredictable, which is why you and your passengers should remain on the deck until help comes. Unfortunately, some boat fire victims thought it would be safer to be in the cabin as the fire rages on. This could not be further from the truth.

At least on the deck, you will have the option of jumping in the water if you cannot contain the fire. Jumping in the water should be the last resort and only attempted by those wearing a life jacket.

Read Also: What Should You Do If A Fire Breaks Out In The Front Of Your Boat

Common Causes Of Boat Fires

Why do motorboats catch fire? What could possibly go wrong on a boat that will lead to a fire? Ultimately, you’ll be surprised to learn that numerous issues could cause you to experience a fire on your boat.

You need to be prepared for potential risks since fires could be caused by numerous things. Ultimately, most boat fires are caused by things off of the boat. Another common cause is engine electrical problems which accounted for 20% of the boat fires between 2008 and 2012.

Other causes include AC electrical issues, other engine issues, and battery issues. You never know when your boat is going to experience a fire. It is pertinent to be prepared since the risks are significant.

What Should You Do Immediately If A Boat Motor Catches Fire?

What Should You Do Immediately If A Boat Motor Catches Fire?

Preventing Fires On Your Boat

When it comes down to it, you can reduce the risk that you’re going to experience a fire on your boat, but you’ll never be able to eliminate it.

It is a good idea to take steps to reduce the risks. Below, you’ll find a list of things you can do to prevent a fire from breaking out on your vessel.

  • When boating, you have to remember that heat and fuel should never be mixed. Also, never add oxygen to the equation because this will cause a fire.
  • Before leaving the land, examine the boat’s ventilation system to ensure everything is working flawlessly.
  • Always pay close attention to your engine and fuel system. It is a good idea to have them inspected and maintained several times each year.
  • Be sure that you know what to do in the event of a fire. Everyone on the boat should know how to behave.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors are essential, but you cannot ignore smoke alarms. Be sure to install several fire alarms on your boat to alert everyone to smoke.
  • Don’t forget to test your boat’s fire alarms regularly and replace those that aren’t working.
  • You may want to install and use a gas vapor detector in the bilge and cabin spots.
  • Before going to sleep or leaving the boat after a trip, make sure that all LPG canisters are turned off.
  • It is best to avoid smoking cigarettes or cigars on your boat. If you’re going to smoke, check the butts to ensure that they’re fully extinguished.
  • Be careful when hanging curtains. Never hang them over gas hobs.
  • Assemble an escape plan to ensure everyone can reach safety if a fire occurs.

Fire Extinguisher Requirement For Your Vessel

Again, it is a good idea to add a fire extinguisher to your vessel, but one fire extinguisher might not be enough. With that being said, you should carefully analyze the most recommend fire extinguisher requirements for boats.

By law, you’re required to have at least one fire extinguisher on your board if the boat has an engine and has one of the following.

  • The boat has an inboard engine.
  • It is equipped with permanently installed fuel tanks.
  • Your boat has living areas.
  • It has a double bottom that has not been sealed to the hull, and it is not fully filled with flotations.
  • Fuel tanks are stored on the board in closed compartments.

If you have another type of boat, you don’t have to carry a fire extinguisher. There are no laws requiring it, but it is still a good idea. Fires can happen in the blink of an eye, so you cannot overlook the risks.

When adding an extinguisher to your boat, make sure it is properly mounted and that everyone knows where it is located.

It is a good idea to place it in a nearby, easily accessible location. Below, you’ll find more recommendations for adding fire extinguishers to your boat.

  • If the vessel is 25 feet or less, you’ll need a B1 extinguisher.
  • If the boat is between 26 and 40 feet, you’ll need one B2 or 2 B1 fire extinguishers
  • If the body is between 40 and 65 feet, you’ll need a B1 extinguisher or 2 B2 extinguishers

For boats longer than that, you’ll need to take a look at federal regulations. Be cautious and make sure your vessel has enough fire extinguishers to put out a fire before it can worsen.

Activate Visual Distress Signal Device

The US Coast Guard patrols US waterways from the State of Florida to Mexico. The agency is continuously conducting search and rescue missions in both international and domestic waterways.

Previously, the Coast Guard released a statement encouraging boaters to invest in red flares, Pyrotechnic orange smoke devices, and floating parachute flares.

Coast Guard officials encourage boaters in distress to utilize one of the aforementioned devices after dark to signal for help.


At the end of the day, boat fires are far more common than you could ever imagine. With that being said, you cannot overlook this immensely important problem.

You never know when something bad is going to happen and when it’ll cause a fire on your boat. If you’re not prepared, the risks are much higher.

Make sure that everyone knows how to react to the fire so you can guarantee that everyone will be able to reach safety. Put fire alarms and fire extinguishers on your boat to protect yourself and your valuable asset.

Read Also: What Safety Precaution Should You Take When Hunting From A Boat?

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