Fire Safety!

April 18, 2014

The rewiring project used a lot of heat shrink tubing.  Whenever I try to shrink it with a lighter I seem to burn it, so I bought a mini torch.   I’m sure this is a good product, but mine exploded on me, burning the shit out of my hand and damaging our kitchen floor.


The Inflamous Mini Torch

The torch ships without fuel, which is a good idea, so I took it to the kitchen to fill it with butane.  It’s pretty simple.  You press the butane nozzle onto the filler stem until it’s full, just like a lighter.  There were some drips, so I wiped them off with a towel, waited a minute or two, and fired it up.

Maybe “exploded” is the wrong word.  A flame the size of a yoga ball shot out the ass end of this thing, igniting the towel I had used to wipe away the drips, and my left hand with it.  Holy Crap!  No matter how cool you think you’d be in a situation like this, your first reaction will probably be to wave your hand around like a crazy person.  That’s what I did, and of course this does no good at all.


I don’t know what failed here, but it failed big.

The flaming towel dropped to the floor.  Now the flames were licking all the way up the cabinet fronts, and my hand still looked like the Olympic torch.  I yelled for help.  Julie came running around the corner from the bathroom, losing a shoe as she hopped over the dog gate.  All of a sudden I remembered the “Stop, Drop & Roll” thing from grade school.  Within the space of a second or so I realized that stop, drop and roll wouldn’t really work in my situation, and I stuck my left hand  in my right armpit.  The flame went out, and Julie and I stamped out the burning towel.


I have the best wife in the world, and I probably owe her a new kitchen floor. Just outside the frame are black footprints where we stamped out the fire. I guess the floor melted, and all the jumping around pressed the pattern of our soles into the material.

I applied the appropriate first aid, and my hand is mostly healed, but I learned a few important lessons.  First, this whole episode probably took fifteen seconds or so.  You cannot believe how fast fire spreads!  Second, if fire doesn’t freak you out, it’s probably because we usually start it and control it ourselves.  An unexpected, uncontrolled fire will most likely challenge your illusions about how you would react to one.  Third, we have a good fire extinguisher in our house, but it’s in the basement.  By the time I’d gone down to get it, the whole kitchen might have been on fire.  Time to get some more fire extinguishers for the house.


This is three days after the fire. All the blisters had started to break. Yuck. Very painful.

All this got me thinking about fire on the boat.  I have two current fire extinguishers.  One is mounted on the compression post.  The other is mounted on a bulkhead next to my battery charger.  It occurred to me that if there’s an electrical fire back there, there’s no way I’m crawling into it to get that one.  I’m going to move it out of there.  The risk of fire on my boat is pretty low, but still.

Here’s a pic of my starboard bulkhead.  I put the charger on the cabin side because I usually keep spare gas for the outboard on the cockpit locker side.  It seemed like a good idea to separate the two.  I had put the extinguisher there because I have two, and this is the extra one.  All my wiring is fused, and I can’t imagine having an electrical fire on board, but you never know.  I’m going to figure out a place to put it where it’s more easily accessible.


The silver vented box above the baby wipes is the charger. The fire extinguisher is next to it. The two solar panel controllers are there now, too. Ignore the mess, please!

One Response to “Fire Safety!”

  1. Ty Says:

    Maybe mount one where you could reach it from outside? The thought of crawling INTO the burning cabin to get the extinguisher doesn’t sound very fun.

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