The U.S. Coast Guard requires recreational boats to carry a certain number of fire extinguishers when one or more of the following conditions exist:
- Closed compartments where portable fuels tanks may be stored
- Double bottoms not sealed to the hull or not completely filled with floatation material
- Enclosed living spaces
- Closed stowage compartments where combustible or flammable materials are stored
- Permanently installed fuel tanks
All extinguishers must be Coast Guard approved marine type extinguishers, and have a UL rating of 5-B or higher, which can be found on their label. Vessels up to 65’ long must carry a minimum number of extinguishers based on their length and whether or not they have a fixed fire extinguishing system (e.g. pre-engineered) installed in their machinery space:
Less than 26′:
- Must have at least one (1) 5-B fire extinguisher on board; zero (0) if fixed fire extinguishing system installed.
26’ to 40’:
- Must have at least two (2) 5-B fire extinguishers on board; one (1) if fixed fire extinguishing system installed.
40’ to 65’:
- Must have at least three (3) 5-B fire extinguishers on board; two (2) if fixed fire extinguishing system installed.
65’ and greater:
- Must carry a minimum number of fire extinguishers based on their gross tonnage (a volumetric measurement). See 46 CFR 25.30-20(c) for further details.
A boater may replace two (2) 5-B extinguishers with one (1) 20-B extinguisher, or replace any 5-B extinguisher with a Coast Guard approved fixed fire extinguishing system.
At least once a month a boater should ensure their fire extinguishers are in an accessible location on their boat, display a good operating pressure, and have been maintained to any additional manufacturer recommendations.
Many boaters have never used a fire extinguisher, so it’s important to take the time to read the directions before it is needed in the event of a fire.