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Auto Vehicle Safety

Auto Vehicle Fires: Be Prepared in Case of an Emergency

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently acknowledged that a vehicle fire problem exists in the United States. According to NFPA statistics, more people died from highway vehicle fires than from apartment fires in 2004. Yet, few drivers think of a fire extinguisher as a critical component of their car safety kit. Reports show that on average, a vehicle fire occurs once every two minutes, and most happen during the summer months – June, July and August. A fire extinguisher within reach inside the vehicle can be useful in an emergency or to quickly put out a small, smoldering fire.


Vehicle Fire Facts

  • More than 266,000 highway vehicle fires occurred in 2004, causing nearly $1 billion in property loss, cites the National Fire Protection Association. 
  • Between 1999-2002, passenger cars accounted for 80 percent of the nearly 270,000 highway vehicle fires. 
  • Mechanical or electrical failures cause more than two-thirds (71 percent) of highway vehicle fires, and 66 percent begin in the engine, running gear or wheel area. 
  • According to consumer affairs Web sites, many automobile owners who experienced mechanical-related vehicle fires initially smelled a strange odor then witnessed smoke filtering from under the hood or wheel area. 
  • Once flames occur in the engine, it takes an average of four minutes for the fire to reach the passenger compartment, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 
  • On average, Americans commute 52 minutes to and from work. That equals nine days a year spent in the car, not counting road trips or vacations. (ABC News Poll) 
  • All commercial vehicles must have at least one UL-rated 5-B:C extinguisher, or a 10- B:C unit if carrying hazardous materials. Passenger cars do not need to carry fire extinguishers, yet automobiles are involved in 12 times as many fires as commercial freight trucks and result in larger numbers of casualties and a larger dollar loss.

Vehicle Fire Safety Tips

  • Make sure that everyone has exited the vehicle. 
  • Notify the fire department before attempting to extinguish the fire. 
  • Use your extinguisher only to keep a small, smoldering, contained fire from growing or to create a safe pathway from the vehicle. 
  • Read the instructions and become familiar with your fire extinguisher’s parts and operation BEFORE a fire breaks out. 

Remember the “PASS” system:

  • Pull the pin. Hold unit upright.
  • Aim at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze lever.
  • Sweep from side to side.

Sources: National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and Department of Transportation (DOT)