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Last updated: 09/07/2018, 6:17 PM

Boat fires increase warning from Brigade

30/05/2018 10:19
Safety warnings

Fires on houseboats in London reached an eight year high according to new figures released by London Fire Brigade.

The new figures, released to coincide with Boat Fire Safety Week, show the Brigade has attended 68 fires on boats between 2013 – 2017, with 20 occurring last year.

Firefighters are urging boat owners to ensure they have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, especially those used as homes as 11 of last year’s boat fires were on residential narrow boats.

The key theme for this year’s Boat Fire Safety Week is carbon monoxide safety within the boating community.

The Brigade's Community Safety Group Manager Mark Hazelton said: “Boat users need to be aware of the real and serious risks of fire and carbon monoxide. Due to the small spaces on narrow boats and fumes from engines or generators, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is higher.

“Boat users should also make sure they use cooking equipment, such as gas stoves, correctly and safely and they should never barbecue indoors.

“Having both a carbon monoxide alarm and working smoke alarms will also give you the earliest possible warning if there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas or a fire breaks out.”

Silent killer

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer as it is a highly toxic gas that cannot be smelt or seen. It is the result of an incomplete or inefficient burn of any carbon-based fuel wood, charcoal, coal, petrol, diesel, propane and butane.

Carbon monoxide leaks can be caused by faulty, badly or misused appliances; exhaust fumes from a boat’s engine or generator, escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves, or inadequate ventilation.

Carbon monoxide alarms

Find out all about the symptoms of CO and about the alarms that can alert you to it.

Learn about CO

Carbon Monoxide poisoning and boats

  • If you’re smelling and breathing in petrol-engine exhaust fumes, stop the engine and get off the boat.
  • If you are suffering any of the symptoms of CO poisoning, seek medical attention immediately. If the symptoms are severe – call the emergency services.
  • If the symptoms only occur when you, your family, visitors or pets are at home and disappear or get better when you leave, this could be an indicator that you are experiencing CO poisoning.

CO Alarms

As it you cannot smell or see CO, the only way you know you are at risk, is by having a CO alarm

  • Install a CO alarm certified to the BS EN 50291-2 standard
  • Follow the manufacturers instructions on where to install it
  • Remember to test it monthly

Prevention is always the primary protection from fire on boats but a smoke alarm can be the next line of defence, particularly if craft occupants sleep aboard.

Smoke from a boat fire will affect the ability to breathe, a sensation similar to drowning.

With two to three breaths of toxic smoke the boat user could be unconscious. A working smoke alarm of the right type can warn very quickly of the danger and buy precious seconds to escape.

The boat saefty scheme provide advice choosing CO and smoke alarms suitable for boats, including a current list from the manufacturers.