This week, somewhere in the UK, almost 2,000 cars will catch fire or be set alight. Two people are likely to die as a result.
More than 60% of all cars fires are started deliberately, either to cover criminal activity or to be part of a fraudulent instance claim. But that still leaves almost 100 fires every day that will happen to innocent people.
The shock and financial hardship caused by even a small car fire can be devastating, say Fire Service officials, who add that so often fires break out because of poor maintenance – or no maintenance at all. They offer some simple advice about how to avoid your car catching fire on its own, and how to guard against it being stolen, and set alight by thieves.
• Electrical – Check wiring on a routine basis, watching for signs of wear or damage. Beware of bad connections and brittle insulation. All alterations or additions to the electrical system should be carried out in a competent manner – preferably by qualified mechanics.
• Petrol – Routinely check all fuel lines for signs of undue wear and ensure their connections are reliable.
• Welding – Never use heat, naked flames or welding equipment near the fuel tank or feed pipes. Regularly check both inside and outside of the vehicle whilst welding.
• Common Sense – Modern car interiors are largely composed of polymers, plastics and other synthetic materials – all of which are particularly flammable. The smoke and fumes from the outbreak of fire are highly toxic and can be deadly, if inhaled. Simple common sense and the proper use/disposal of matches and cigarettes will minimize the risk.
• Be prepared – Keep a multi-purpose powder extinguisher or foam fire extinguisher, conforming to BS EN3, in your car.
If a fire happens
• Switch off the engine
• Release bonnet – DO NOT open it
• Get everyone out of the vehicle
• Get far away from the vehicle and stay away, keeping onlookers and others away
• Dial 999 and call the fire brigade
• Warn oncoming traffic, if safe to do so
If – and only if – it is safe to do so, try to put out the fire with a dry powder or foam extinguisher. If the engine is alight, do not open the bonnet, but aim the extinguisher through the radiator grille or under the edge of the bonnet. If you are in any doubt, don’t attempt to tackle the fire.