What Should You Do if a Fire Breaks Out in the Front of Your Boat?

By Matt Claiborne

Fire is without a doubt the scariest emergency any boater can face.  Make no mistake – boats do not survive long when a fire is involved.

What Causes Boat Fires?

1) Electrical Fires

This cause accounts for a whopping 39% of fires (31% DC electrical, 8% AC electrical)

2) External Sources

16% of fires start outside of the boat—like from the dock or a neighboring docked boat

3) Engine Fires

Engine fires make up 15 percent of overall causes for boat fires

What to Do in Case of a Boat Fire

Fire Extinguisher


When buying fire extinguishers for your boat, ensure they are US Coast Guard approved.  The requirements vary by boat size: under 26 feet, one two-pound portable extinguisher (or none with a mounted system); 26 to 40 feet, two two-pound or one 2.5-pound extinguisher (fewer with a mounted system); and over 40 but under 65 feet, three two-pound or one two-pound and one 2.5-pound extinguisher (with a mounted system reducing the need for a two-pound unit).

Have a Plan


You should always start with an evacuation plan, and if things get out of hand, you need to get off the boat.