Petrol caused nine fires in 2009.

Published: Thursday, 04 March 2010

PETROL generators and the like have caused nine boat fires in 2009, the Boat Safety Scheme reveals. A dramatic increase from just one the year previously.

Boaters who use petrol generators and other petrol-engined power tools need to be very vigilant to avoid the dangers of petrol vapour and exhaust fumes, is the message that is given.

Fire or explosion

In the past six years the BSS has recorded 34 incidents of fire or explosion linked to petrol engines, with 31 people needing hospital treatment, including some in intensive care. In the same period, seven incidents of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning have been linked to generators and outboard motor exhaust fumes.

Graham Watts, the Boat Safety Scheme Manager warns:

"We implore boaters to be extremely careful with any petrol powered equipment. Petrol safety has to be considered at every stage from maintenance, refuelling, stowage and when in use—especially with the added danger of the poisonous exhaust gases. Boaters cannot afford to drop their guard when dealing with highly flammable fuels and toxic fumes."

New boaters

The Scheme is worried that some boaters, and especially new boaters, may not appreciate the nature of petrol vapour and the bucket-like quality of a boat hull. It is keen for boaters to understand that if petrol spills, drips or leaks, it will vaporise, and like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the vapour will sink in still air and gather in the lower parts of the boat.

It is pointed out that if petrol leaks and the resulting vapour and air mix comes into contact with a naked flame or a spark, a rapid and powerful ignition can take place that will likely endanger the person handling the equipment or anyone nearby. More people are injured in petrol vapour ignitions than any other cause of fire on boats.

The BSS gives all the information on the handling and use of petrol on its website: