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Car Fires

A fire in one's car or other motor vehicle is a frightening situation which can quickly involve great personal danger to vehicle occupants and bystanders. Although every vehicle fire incident will have certain unique factors present at the time, the National Safety Council offers the following step-by-step general suggestions on what to do if your car (or other motor vehicle) catches on fire.

Car Fire Facts From The National Fire Protection Association

  • In 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 229,500 vehicle fires per year
  • These fires caused an average of 328 civilian deaths, 1,426 civilian injuries, and $1.4 billion in direct property damage annually
  • Older teens and young adults are age groups at highest risk on highway vehicle fire death
  • On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day
  • 93% percent of reported fires and 92% of vehicle fire deaths involved highway-type vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, recreational vehicles and motorcycles
  • Three-quarters of highway vehicle fires resulted from mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions
  • One-third of non-fatal highway vehicle fire injuries occurred when civilians attempted to fight the fire themselves

If Your Car Catches On Fire While You Are Moving On A Roadway

  • Signal your intentions and move to the right lane Vehicle on fire
  • Get onto the shoulder or breakdown lane
  • Stop immediately
  • Shut off the engine
  • Get yourself and all other persons out of the vehicle
  • Get far away from the vehicle and stay away from it. Keep onlookers and others away
  • Warn oncoming traffic
  • Notify the fire department
  • Don't attempt to try to put out the fire yourself (The unseen danger is the possible ignition of fuel in the vehicle's tank)

If Your Car Catches On Fire While The Vehicle Is Stopped In Traffic Or Parked

  • Shut off the engine
  • Get far away from the vehicle
  • Warn pedestrians and other vehicles to stay away
  • Notify the fire department
  • Don't attempt to try to put out the fire yourself (The unseen danger is the possible ignition of fuel in the vehicle's tank)

In all vehicle fire situations, the first thing to think about is personal safety; any vehicle can be replaced - humans cannot. Think and act quickly, in the safest way possible.

Vehicle Maintenance

Vehicle Maintenance is crucial to preventing vehicle fires. The American Automobile Association offers the following tips.

  • Have your vehicles inspected ay least annually by a trained, professional technician
  • Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation. Have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible
  • Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle. Have vehicles inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected
  • Avoid smoking. If you must smoke, use your vehicle ashtray
  • Drive according to posted speed limits and other traffic rules. Remain alert to changing road conditions at all times



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