Fire extinguishers

Find out if you are required to carry a fire extinguisher, the different types available and inspection and servicing information.

  Who must carry a fire extinguisher?

If your vessel is fitted with an inboard engine (personal water craft are exempt) or with cooking, heating or cooling systems that use flames, you must carry an approved fire extinguisher.

You make your own choice of extinguisher (provided it is made to Australian Standards) from foam, dry chemical, carbon dioxide or vaporising liquid.


Fire extinguishers should be inspected at least every six months. All extinguishers other than carbon dioxide have a pressure gauge indicating their state of charge, and a security seal on the trigger. They should be recharged if the seal is broken or the gauge is not in the green sector of the scale. Tap the gauge lightly to make sure that the needle is not stuck.

Mud wasps and other creatures have often been known to clog up the nozzle of fire extinguishers. Check and clean out if necessary.

The dry chemical extinguisher should be taken off its bracket and shaken. This is to prevent the powder inside from compacting. A carbon dioxide extinguisher needs to be checked by weight. If the loss is more than 10 per cent of the net weight of the contents, it needs to be recharged.

  Serviceable condition

Fire extinguishers must be maintained in a serviceable condition, check that the marker in the gauge is in the green position. If the marker is in the red it is not in a good operational condition.

  Different types of extinguishers

Most trailer boats carry a dry chemical extinguisher, which is a good all rounder and also the most popular with larger vessels. Some boats with enclosed engine rooms also have a built-in smothering gas or water mist system.

Although a water extinguisher is not acceptable as your sole extinguisher, your bailer will do a fine job in its stead for extinguishing burning solids.

Chemical, carbon dioxide and foam fire extinguishers

Type of extinguisher Colouring Key facts Suitability Warnings
Dry chemical Red container with white band. Most common type of extinguisher.
Important information is printed on the container.
Liquid-fuel fires like petrol (Class B fires).
Does not conduct electricity (Class E).
Larger types suitable for Class A, B and E.
The smaller sizes usually contain powder which is not very effective against solid fuel fires (Class A).
Carbon Dioxide Red container with black band. Larger boats with complex electronics panels and switchboards may use carbon dioxide on these to minimise damage from the extinguisher medium. Class A and E fires. It is not as effective as the dry chemical extinguisher, so is normally used for specialised purposes, such as engine compartment fires where the gas can be fed in from outside. Carbon dioxide extinguishes by denying oxygen to the fire. Carbon dioxide can kill by suffocation in a confined space.
Foam Blue container, or red with blue band. Large extinguisher producing foam to spread a blanket over a fire.
Generally these extinguishers are seen only on larger boats.
Specialises in Class B but, because it contains water, is also suitable for Class A. The foam conducts electricity.

For more detailed information, please download the Portable Fire Extinguisher Guide below.

  Carrying additional extinguishers

Although the regulations call for only one extinguisher to be carried, your boat might be of a size or complexity to suggest carrying more than one, perhaps of different types. You may also decide to buy larger than the minimum size.

  BCF extinguishers

As of January 1996 the yellow BCF fire extinguishers have been made illegal. Any person that still has a BCF extinguisher must not carry it onboard their boat and should hand it into their local fire station as soon as possible to reduce any risks.

Opens in a new window Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES): Metropolitan Fire and Rescue Service Stations

Image of safety equipment - fire extinguisher

Page last updated: Wed Jan 31 2018 1:42:31 PM