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Fire and thermal radiation: On board vessels

Hazard Knowledge

Fires on board vessels present unique challenges to responding fire and rescue service personnel due to:

  • Vessel construction
    • Compartmentation
    • Open plan areas
    • Complicated layouts
    • Confined spaces
  • Vessel materials
  • Vessel cargoes
  • Ventilation systems
  • Restricted access and egress
  • Travel distances to scene of operations

Before opening any compartment that has been sealed due to firefighting operations, a suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be undertaken and agreed with the ship's master or nominated representative.

The dangers associated with re-opening any compartment cannot be underestimated, due to the possibility of:

  • Fire gas explosion
  • Backdraught
  • Untenable atmospheres created by inert gases, high-expansion foams or products of combustion
  • Extreme heat conditions
  • Unstable cargo
  • General condition of that compartment post incident

Depending on the size of the incident it may be necessary to wait to accumulate sufficient suitable resources before implementing an offensive mode of operation.

For more information regarding construction of vessels see Construction of vessels

See National Operational Guidance: Fires and firefighting.