Firefighters offer boat dwellers safety messages

People living on house boats in the Bristol, Bath, Keynsham and Saltford areas have been getting a knock on their portholes from local firefighters this week as Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) takes its fire safety messages onto the water.

Using the AF&RS safety boats, crews were out on the waterways to highlight ways to reduce the risk of fire breaking out on board during Boat Fire Safety Week (Monday 25 May to Sunday 31 May).

They also fitted free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms where required.

AF&RS Area Manager Neil Liddington said: “The number of boat fires in the Avon area is relatively low. However, when they do occur they can have devastating consequences. People are injured, and in some cases, killed, as a result of on board fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“In 2012 a man sadly died and another was badly injured during a boat fire in Bath.

“These vessels are often moored in remote locations that are difficult for us to reach; in many cases a relatively minor fire can cause the total destruction of a boat.

“Hopefully this week we can extend the Home Fire Safety work we have already been doing in thousands of homes across the area, and provide people living on houseboats with free smoke alarms which could save their life.”

Among the risks facing boat owners is the presence of liquid petroleum gas installations or petrol cans which may be in close proximity to ignition sources, such as candles or cigarettes. There are also dangers posed by solid fuel stoves, a familiar fixture on many narrow boats and barges.

Care should also be taken to ensure adequate ventilation is in place when burning fuel to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide and other gases.

Area Manager Liddington added: “I would urge anyone we don’t get around to visiting this week, whether they live on a house boat or on the dry land, to make sure they have working smoke alarms in their homes. A smoke alarm can provide an early warning to a fire and give occupants time to escape, but only if it is working. Batteries need to be checked regularly and should never be removed.

“AF&RS carries out free Home Fire Safety Visits where firefighters offer fire safety advice and fit smoke alarms where required. Call us on 0117 926 2061 or go to our website at request a visit.”

Tips for protecting your boat from fire:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on board your boat and ensure the batteries are working by checking it once a week.
  • Make sure everyone aboard your boat knows the safest way to escape if fire does break out. If the route involves windows or hatches, check they are big enough and that there is an emergency hammer nearby in case you need to break the glass.
  • Store any flammable liquids you need to keep on board, for example diesel or oil, safely.
  • Never leave cooking unattended and take extra care when using fat and oil.
  • Maintain your boat’s engine and fuel system regularly.
  • When burning fuel make sure there is adequate ventilation to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide and other gases.
  • If a fire does break out, get out, stay out and dial 999.