A few weeks ago, we had a boat fire in our marina. No one was hurt, and the fire was contained to just one boat because the fire department arrived in just a few minutes, so it could have been much worse. The interior of the boat was pretty much destroyed.
The fire marshal, upon investigating, discovered that it started where the battery charger was plugged into an outlet in the engine compartment. This was on a trawler so the fire started deep within the boat and was well underway before it was discovered. Apparently, insulation in the wiring had degraded and caused arcing, which caused the fire. (I've never been able to imagine how someone could determine something like this when the evidence must have been almost completely obliterated.)
However, this incident has prompted several conversations over rum on the dock between myself, who knows a little bit about boat wiring and my friend Mike who knows a great deal about boat wiring.
We decided that beyond Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI), which may have prevented the problem would be a Heat Sensing Circuit Interrupter, for those times when a plug is loose in a socket, or a wire has come loose from a lug, enough to cause resistance but not enough to cause arcing.
Of course, because rum was involved, we convinced ourselves that we could invent such a device and become overnight gazillionaires. Once sobriety reared its ugly head, the research began. I looked first to the US Patent Office - they have patent research tools on line - and could find nothing on a scale small enough to suit our purposes. So I looked into the retail end and was, of course, crushed to find that our device has already been invented and is on the market (and patented though I hadn't found it).
Is this getting too long? Sorry.
But they didn't have anything for the Marine Market. So I e-mailed them and asked about that and the CEO promptly wrote back and indicated that they were planning on addressing the marine market.
Many boat fires have been started at the shore power inlet on a boat. And many on unattended boats with electric heaters plugged in.
Often, electrical receptacles (that's fun to say) on the interior of boats are bought at the local hardware store and are not "Marine Quality" (Which often means the same product with the price tripled.)
As a live-aboard who has a couple of electric heaters plugged in 24/7 this time of year, I am considering ordering a couple of these and installing them to protect us from fires caused by our electric heaters.
I am writing this to pass on this information to others who may have the same concerns. I have no relationship with this company - but here is the link if you wish to check it out:
Preventing Electrical Fires | Fire Prevention Outlet | BSafe Electrix
I would welcome any discussion from boat electricians, live-aboards, surveyors or anyone else for that matter.