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Leocat66 01-21-2012 01:05 PM

Fire Onboard, Very Close Call!
On this past Thursday, I was working on the galley stove, rebuilding a burner. The fuel is kerosene and apparently the alchol from the preheat cup leaked from the cup bottom. I do not know if the nut was not tightened enough or if the sealing washer was defective. In any case the alc ran down the copper supply tube, onto the fuel line flex hose and melted the hose where it is attached to the copper. The alc was lit and the fire followed the tube. I noticed it immediately and turned off the tank supply safety valve at the tank, grabbed an DC extinguisher and within 5 seconds the fire appeared to be out. At the time I did not realize that the fire had melted the hose and some plastic items which were stored in the compartment behind the stove. The fire flared once again but was quickly out as I had good access to the compartment.

Based on the rapid increase of the fire from the time of discovery, turning off the valve, picking up the extinguisher, a total of less than 10 seconds, as all were right there, I estimate that within 10 more seconds I would have lost it. While I still consider Kero very safe from explosion, it burns when hot enough, especially when fuled by burning, melting, plastic.

I am now dealing with cleanup and odor. Some of the plywood was scorched inside the cabinet. No structural damage as the heat was directed up away from the hull. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

I have now removed the stove for better access and have replaced the first six feet of hose with copper. I learned a valuable lesson, and did not panic. The boat was at my dock, the only one there, behind my house, and posed no danger to others. This could have been in a marina, or at sea.

Rockter 01-21-2012 01:32 PM

Kerosine is a stable and forgiving fuel, as is diesel. Once provoked and fed with enough fuel, they can cause a massive fire. I am glad it worked out for you, in the end.

WanderingStar 01-22-2012 10:12 AM

Thanks for posting, it will help others stay safe.

davidpm 01-22-2012 10:16 AM

Were you able to use the same fire extinguisher both times?
I thought that most of them were exhausted after just a couple of seconds.

Leocat66 01-22-2012 01:57 PM


Originally Posted by davidpm (Post 819764)
Were you able to use the same fire extinguisher both times?
I thought that most of them were exhausted after just a couple of seconds.

Yes David I was. The fire first appeared small and under the stove and was put out quickly. A couple of seconds later I heard a popping sound, which must have been the fuel hose melting. That is when I found that the bulk of the fire was behind the stove in a galley storage compartment where the fuel hose is routed. That burst finished the extinguisher and put out the fire. I picked up the second one and was at the ready but no more fire appeared anywhere. After an hour I started cleaning up the powder.

Those small ABC extinguishers do not last too long, but powder was everywhere. I have four near the galley.

hellosailor 01-22-2012 05:14 PM

The powder was everywhere. Yes, it will be turning up for weeks or months. There are some aqueous foam models and sprays that are more expensive but less mess, fwiw. As well as CO2 of course, ignoring the difference in intended uses. One of the "sprays" is called Tundra and apparently it is a fairly clean way to hit small fires.

You might consider using "fire jelly" instead of alcohol to preheat. You can buy it in tubes, like toothpaste, or make it up easily yourself. Take some white canning paraffin wax, or old candle stubs, dice it up, add some naphtha or similar petrosolvent, and let it sit in a jelly jar for a week or two. The wax dissolves and gives you a thicker white version of vaseline, except it is wax not grease so it burns cleanly. Add to a tube (from a pharmacy or camping store) and you can easily control the preheat by squeezing a small ribbon of fire jelly into the cup instead of the alcohol. the jelly can't run off, and burns with a visible flame.

The rule of thumb for the small powder exinguishers (about a liter size) is that they can put out "one trash basket" worth of fire, and they'll be gone in 30 seconds. The problem being that a fire will also usualy double in size in 30 seconds.

Glad you got it under control so quickly!

CaptainForce 01-22-2012 05:25 PM


Originally Posted by Leocat66 (Post 819508)
....... The fuel is kerosene and apparently the alchol from the preheat cup leaked..........the alc ran down the copper supply tube............The alc was lit and the fire followed the tube.........I still consider Kero very safe from explosion............

alc is probably alcohol and kero is probably kerosene. They are definitely not the same fuel!

captflood 01-22-2012 06:16 PM

GREETINGS EARTHLINGS; Have you repales the extingushers with bigger ones, I sail in UK and have used Parafin (kerosine) stoves but for preeheat I use Metholated spirit in a plastic bottel that has a pipe that goes down to the bottom so it squirts a fine jet into the preeheat cup without spillage (Chemesty shop Supply) also have a large fire blanket on board in case of a big flare up GO SAFE.

Faster 01-22-2012 06:56 PM

We used a pressurized alchohol stove for a decade (with the same preheat requirements of a kerosene stove) and after a few scary preheat fires and stinging eyes we took to preheating the burners with a propane torch.. I know, another fuel, but the convenience and safety of it seem worth it. No more flareups and no smell/fumes.

Capt Len 01-22-2012 07:25 PM

Faster has that right. Pre heating with propane hand held torch is the safest cleanest method.Self starting by trigger type.No smoke,quick and if you've ever sucked a flame back into the meth hydrates bottle trying to give er another squirt you'd be converted too.

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