Boat Fire Extinguisher Equipment: Regulations, Classes & Maintenance

NOTE: A non-rechargeable (disposable) fire extinguisher older than 12 years will no longer be accepted for use after April 20, 2022. Refer to the date of manufacture stamped on the bottle. For example, “05” indicates 2005.

A marine-type fire extinguisher approved by the US Coast Guard must be carried as part of the safety equipment on boats and personal watercraft where engine or fuel fire hazards may occur. 

A fire extinguisher is required by law if your boat has an engine and meets any of the following conditions:

  • Your boat has compartments that can be used to store portable fuel tanks.
  • You have permanently installed fuel tanks on your boat
  • A double bottom on your boat is not sealed to the hull and is not filled with flotation material
  • Your boat has an inboard engine
  • Your boat has enclosed living quarters

Carrying a fire extinguisher in other types of boats is not legally required, but it is highly recommended. Unexpected fires can occur, so being prepared is always a wise idea.

According to the USCG, fire extinguishers must be on board a vessel and “readily accessible.” Consider the ease of access to the extinguisher when deciding where to store it. Ensure that the fire extinguishers are mounted securely on their hangers or brackets to ensure their effective operation.

A fire extinguisher can be classified into three types, each designed for a specific type of fire:

fire extinguisher safety chart

CLASS A: Combustible Solids

In Class A fires, the fuel source consists of combustible solids such as wood or paper. 

CLASS B: Flammable Liquids

Class B fires, however, are caused by flammable liquid fuels, such as gasoline, oil, or grease.

CLASS C: Electrical Fires

The last type of fire is a Class C fire, an electrical fire.

red fire extinguisher

The US Coast Guard requires that smaller boats carry at least one marine fire extinguisher of Class B-5. In the case of larger vessels, however, more extinguishers are required. Boats between 26 and 40 feet in length are required to have 2 (two) Class B-5 fire extinguishers. 

What are the types and number of fire extinguishers you should have on your boat? 

  • You should carry 1x Class B-5 fire extinguisher on board if your boat is less than 26 feet in length.
  • If the length of your boat is between 26 and 40 feet, you will need either 1x Class B-20 fire extinguisher or 2x Class B-5 fire extinguishers.
  • Lastly, if the length of your boat is between 40 and 65 feet, you will require either 1x Class B-20 fire extinguisher AND 1x Class B-5 fire extinguisher, or 3x Class B-20 fire extinguisher.

The maintenance of your boat should include a monthly inspection of your fire extinguisher. Doing this ensures that your extinguisher is always ready to be used in an emergency. The extinguishers should not be expired or appear to have been previously used. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to maintain fire extinguishers in good working order

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