How to avoid car fires and what to do if your car catches fire

RACV RoyalAuto Magazine

Victoria’s fire services have attended an average of two accidental vehicle fires a day over the past two years.

Cars were involved in the vast majority of accidental vehicle fires, but the figures also include trucks and recreational vehicles, some of which were towing caravans or camper trailers. Electrical and mechanical problems, which for the most part are preventable, were the major causes of the fires.

Vehicle fire hotspots

Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs were the hotspots for these incidents in areas serviced by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

The latest statistics from the MFB and the Country Fire Authority show both agencies attended 1524 car fires in 2014 and 2015.

A total of 354 vehicle fires were attended in the MFB’s North West Metro zone in the past two years, compared with 367 in the South East Metro zone.

The CFA recorded the most vehicle fires, 144, in District 14, which takes in places such as Melton, Whittlesea, Sunbury, Bull and Woodend. There were 137 such incidents in District 8, which takes in Dandenong, Frankston, Portsea, Pakenham, Wonthaggi and Phillip Island.

Common causes

MFB Commander Andrew O’Connell said electrical and mechanical problems, such as fuel leaks, were among the most common causes of vehicle fires.

“Most of these fires are extremely preventable,” he said.

“There was one case that I remember where the car battery wasn’t strapped down properly and the battery shifted and shorted out, sparking a fire.

“I’ve also seen plenty of cars that were leaking petrol through perished fuel hoses.

“It’s so important that people get their cars serviced regularly and make sure that any issues are rectified as soon as possible.

“Prevention is always better than cure.”

 

Written by Adam McNichol
July 01, 2016

 

Car fire prevention

Tips on how to prevent vehicle fires.

  • Get your car serviced regularly and ensure that any problems are rectified as soon as possible.
  • Never leave canisters of gas or other flammable products in the cabin of the car and ensure the car is well ventilated.
  • Consider keeping a dry chemical fire extinguisher in your car and make sure you know how to use it before the fire starts
  • Be aware of the warning signs: cracked or loose wiring, electrical problems, fuel leaks, rapid changes in fuel level or higher than normal engine temperature, abnormal noises or vibrations or warning lights on the dashboard.
  • Only replace a blown fuse with one of the same rating. In the event that the fuse blows a second time, then it is a sign of a potentially serious fault and needs to be investigated by a qualified service agent.
  • Don’t drive your car through long grass because the grass can be ignited by the heat from the engine and exhaust system.

SOURCE: Metropolitan Fire Brigade

What to do if your vehicle catches fire

  • When driving, if you smell burning or smoke, act immediately by pulling over as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Once you have pulled over at a safe location, turn off the engine and get out of the car.
  • Walk away from the car and stay out of the smoke.
  • Call Triple Zero (000) to alert the emergency services.
  • Only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is small and you know how to use the extinguisher safely.
  • Only attempt to retrieve belongings from the car if the fire is small and you are not exposed to the smoke.

More info

For more information on car safety visit racv.com.au.