Vehicle Fires….

We had a car fire a while back that presented a unique hazard. It was a good reminder that vehicle fires may not always be relatively uneventful and certainly have their own list of hazards. The problem we encountered was involving a newer style VW convertible bug. It was fully involved and seemed to have been torched by someone tossing something under the dashboard. The garage looked as if it was also becoming involved and an 1 3/4 was pulled. The problem arose while the hose was being flaked. Two small explosions occurred within the first few minutes. They were loud enough to catch your attention and sounded similar to when tires pop during  car fires. The first one was not much of an issue but the second one sent a fairly large piece of debris flying over our heads across the street and landed on the sidewalk on the opposite side. This was about 35 feet away from the vehicle.

When the fire was knocked down we discovered what the small explosions were. We found the entire airbag assemblies from under the dashboard had exploded and dislodged sending one across the street, and the other one was found a few feet from the car. It had the air bag, the mounting hardware and the gas cylinder all still connected as one large piece of debris that came out of that vehicle like a rocket. I am sure other people have experienced this, but I just wanted to throw it out there as a heads up because it is worth thinking about. Anyone had something similar?

Below are a few videos that I have saved over time regarding some of the other problems we may run into.

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5 Comments on “Vehicle Fires….”

  1. TRUCK 4 Says:

    Excellent post. Definately some great reminders. One thing that we should also consider is the use of alternative fuels. I will look for the pictures to add here but I recently came across a car, about 6 months ago in Oaklahoma City, that is owned by my girlfriends aunt and uncle. It is a Honda Civic and from all outward appearences its simply a normal car. Getting closer, I went into fire service nerd and noticed that it was actually powered by LPG. Naturally I had to explain myself when I started to open all of the doors and pop the hood and trunk. The trunk in entirely taken up by the LPG tank with enough room to store a small back pack and thats it. The only way I noticed that there was anything different about this car was that there was a small decal on the trunk of the car. Easily missed and if you add a little fire, you may never see it. There should be some obvious signs if its on fire, but my thought is that is may be very close to a BLEVE when you arrive, specially depending on its level of involvement and what else is burning around the vehicle. Just my two cents

  2. laddercaptain214 Says:

    Similar thing happened in a vehicle fire evolution during recruit training a few months back: sadly, I don’t recall the type of car (I believe it was a minivan), but as the passenger compartment became heavily involved the passenger side airbag assembly launched itself across the training field. I’d say the module traveled a good forty feet or more and caught another car on fire where it landed. It’s the first time that any of us instructors had witnessed such an event, and we’re talking about a group with a collective $#!%load of experience. We couldn’t identify anything unusual about the vehicle upon inspection, and no one noticed any indication that the assembly was about to go. We saved the remains of the assembly and now use it as a reminder of the unseen dangers involved with fighting vehicle fires.


    • That’s interesting, It must not be that common but obviously it happens. No one on my crew that night had seen it happen either. Struts and tires yes, but airbag assemblies turning in to rockets…no.

      • laddercaptain214 Says:

        Had our media specialist not ran off a few minutes before, he could have had footage of the event. Sure wish that would’ve happened.

        I might try to snap a photo of the assembly and relay it to you. It was not a small piece of debris, but because it shot out of the windshield and to the front of the car, it didn’t injure anyone. Wonder if they always take a forward & upward trajectory when they go off? If so, might be another reason to stay out of the frontal zone during vehicle fires.


  3. Good post and great reminders. Also remember to keep away from the front of the vehicle on older style cars and trucks, in some vehicles there is a very large gas filled shock absorbing cylinder in some bumper assemblies that can explode when heated.

    Attached is a video of one such explosion that occured in Canada and ended a firefighters carrer.

    Stay Safe
    Andrew


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