Firefighters highlight carbon monoxide message as part of Boat Fire Safety Week

Crews from Avon Fire & Rescue Service will be visiting people living on waterways in our area in support of national Boat Fire Safety Week.

Firefighters in Bristol and Bath are visiting boat owners to provide information regarding fire safety on boats and to highlight the risks associated with carbon monoxide. The activity supports the Fire Kills campaign’s awareness week which runs from Monday 29 May to Sunday 4 June.

Timed for the start of the boating season, firefighters will be promoting the advice of the Boat Safety Scheme which encourages the use of both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in order to provide early warnings of an emergency.

To support the campaign crews will be visiting houseboats in Bristol harbour and along the River Avon in and around Bath.

Group Manager Matt Peskett from Avon Fire & Rescue Service said: “Although the number of boat fires in the Avon area is relatively low, 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.

“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 and advice on carbon monoxide 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.

Graham Watts from the Boat Safety Scheme said: “In the past 20 years, 30 boaters were killed in boat fires and another 30 lost their lives to the highly toxic CO gas. It’s time everyone in the boating community said ‘no more’ – let’s end this unnecessary death and destruction.”

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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.

Tips for protecting your boat from carbon monoxide (CO):

  • Install fuel burning appliances properly, in-line with maker’s directions.
  • Follow servicing guidelines; maintenance should be routine and carried out by a competent person.
  • Always use appliances as per the instructions and never use cookers for space heating.
  • Don’t block ventilation – appliance fuels like gas, coal, wood, oil and paraffin need sufficient air to burn safely.
  • Don’t bring charcoal BBQs on board, or have them near a cabin during or after use.
  • Keep engine fumes out of the cabin space, never use a portable generator in or near a cabin.
  • Learn about the danger signs, spot potential hazards before CO occurs.
  • Deal with problems immediately, never use equipment you suspect has problems.
  • Install a certified CO alarm (BS EN 50291-2), test it routinely and never remove the batteries.