Vehicle Fires

By: Paul Hanson Executive Staff

A vehicle fire is one of the most difficult and dangerous problems a driver may have to deal with sometime in their career. This safety topic will cover prevention as well as tips on what to do if a vehicle fire occurs.

There are three basic elements that are needed for a fire to occur - Fuel (a substance that will burn), Air (oxygen is needed for combustion), and Heat (a certain temperature must be reached for a fire to start).

Fire prevention revolves around keeping the three basic elements from coming together. Common sense, vehicle inspections and good housekeeping are key to fire prevention.
The three most common areas of a vehicle fire occur in the cab/engine, tire/brakes and cargo areas.

Cab / Engine
A neat and clean cab is important. Throw out all used paper products when you are finished with them. Don’t leave lighters or partially used matchbooks scattered throughout the cab. Also dispose of any oily rags or greasy gloves. If you smoke in the cab make sure all cigarettes are fully extinguished prior to exiting the cab.

Make sure your engine compartment is checked regularly. When doing basic maintenance make sure the engine compartment remains clean. If oil or other fuels are spilled wipe them up before continuing. After engine work make sure all caps are put back and the area is free of rags.

Checks of wiring and electrical system should be done on a regular basis. Make sure electronics that are added to the truck are properly installed and have fuses or circuit breakers on all lead wires. Do not overload the electrical system with excessive equipment. There is a significant electrical power load with cell phones, computers, satellite equipment, radios, TV’s, etc. More equipment means an increased chance of fire.

Tires / Brakes
Overheated tires are another way vehicle fires begin. When making routine stops check the tire pressure. An underinflated tire can overheat. If a tire is hot to the touch change it or wait until it has cooled before proceeding. Never leave a vehicle with a hot tire unattended.

Brakes should be checked on a regular basis. Worn brakes can overheat causing a fire. Steep hills can cause brakes to get so hot they glow. Release the parking brake before moving, brake evenly, and do not ride the brakes for long periods of time. If your brakes get hot give them proper time to cool before proceeding.

Many of the fire prevention tips when it comes to cargo are common sense. Periodically check your mirrors, keeping a lookout for smoke. If possible move the tractor from the trailer to a safe place. Do not keep flammables in your trailer.

Fire Fighting Tips
First and foremost is your safety and the safety of others. Do your best to get the fire under control, but do not take any unnecessary risks. Make sure you are familiar with the location and use of all fire fighting equipment on your truck. If the fire is too large to handle leave the fire fighting to the professionals and call them immediately.

If you should have any questions regarding vehicle fires or other safety topics please contact our claims department.