Onboard Fires

Just as with house fires, vehicle fires can develop very quickly and can become deadly very quickly. Fortunately, many vehicle fires are electrical fires. “Why fortunately?” you ask? When wiring begins to get hot you will sense a telltale odor. Never ignore it. It’s a warning. Check your dashboard lights and gauges for signs that are not normal. If the odor dissipates rather quickly, make a mental note to check your vehicle. It could be that the odor came from a place you drove past. If the odor gets stronger and does not stop, pull off the road as soon as you can. Make sure it is safe to do so and signal before you change lanes or exit. Kill the engine immediately. If you have an electrical problem, this will kill the power and source. Call 911 for assistance. They can dispatch help and check to be sure there is no imminent danger.

            In the event that you have a fire, get off the road and away from other vehicles and people. Try to extinguish the fire if you have an extinguisher and think you can do so safely. If you have no extinguisher or don’t think you can control the fire, just get and keep everyone away.  Call 911 to report the fire if you haven’t already done so. As the driver, you could also assign this task to a passenger while you determine if you can extinguish the fire.

Engine fires – those under the hood – are more sudden and more deadly. Once flames get near the fuel lines or gas tank, an explosion and larger fire are distinct possibilities. Again, keep everyone as far away from the vehicle as possible. If you plan to open the hood to extinguish the fire, be aware of the increased danger. Opening the hood introduces more air into the mix. You are putting yourself in grave danger. It is best to call 911 and let those who are trained deal with the fire. By the way, it is always a good idea to carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. Just be sure to check the rating. A Class A extinguisher is water filled. NEVER use that type on an electrical fire.

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