KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Continuing winter conditions in Southeast Alaska are affecting many things — including vessels both moored and underway.

During the past week, the Coast Guard has responded to two reported vessel fires in Southeast Alaska that have been attributed to unattended diesel-fired stoves and heaters, according to a marine safety information bulletin issued by the agency on Monday. In addition, there have been multiple incidents involving vessels that have capsized because of heavy snow loads in recent years.

With more winter weather ahead, Capt. D.A. Jensen, who serves as the Coast Guard captain of the port of Southeast Alaska, published the marine safety information bulletin with recommendations for avoiding issues with diesel-fired stoves and heaters, as well as heavy snow loads.

Regarding the stoves and heaters, the Coast Guard “strongly recommends” installing the devices in accordance with the manufacturer’s safety clearances and other installation requirements — and shutting the devices down while they’re unattended.   

“Changes in wind direction and temperature conditions, as well as fluctuations in the oil viscosity and quality, will affect stove operation and may create a hazardous condition,” according to the bulletin. “Poorly ventilated stoves can cause un-burned fuel to flo the stove and change in draft may fan the flame and ignite the excess fuel. These possibilities underscore the importance of shutting down unattended stoves.

The bulletin also recommends installing a fusible link and/or a high-temperature shut-off kit, which can detect overheating conditions and prevent additional oil from entering the burner.

Other recommendations include adhering to the manufacturer’s/owner’s manual for the device, and the following:

• Turn off the stove when refueling.

• Do not burn gasoline.

• Do not use a pressurized fuel tank.

• Have an open fresh air vent.

• Don’t light a warm burner, or an explosion could occur.

• Don’t plug the overflow fitting.

• Install a carbon monoxide alarm.

• Ensure that the fire protection and detection systems on the vessel, including portable fire extinguishers, are maintained and installed properly.

Heavy snow loads

Mariners are reminded to remove excess ice and snow from moored vessels, according to the bulletin.

“Accumulation of snow and ice on a vessel can create the risk of reduced stability and the potential for sinking, property damage, and pollution to occur,” states the bulletin. ”Ice and snow can clog cockpit drains, causing additional weight loads that can push the waterline over scuppers and through-hulls. A common cause of harbor sinking is frozen and subsequently cracked through-hulls and failed fittings.”

In addition to removing snow and ice accumulation, other recommendations noted in the bulletin include:

• Check the vessel regularly to ensure that drains and scuppers are clear. Check for icing conditions in bilges that can affect dewatering operations.

• Wear appropriate personal protective gear— including a life jacket — while on the water and removing ice and snow during the winter.

• Check mooring lines and cleats more frequently

• Check battery charging connections, and be aware of the potential for drained batteries.