Guest Blog: Burning Down the Car


Now and then when I’m driving along, I think of horrible scenarios that could happen: getting t-boned in an intersection, driving off a bridge, having my car catch on fire. In my mind we always escape without injury, plus we get new car seats out of the ordeal! I realize, though, that reality isn’t always so kind.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how I left carrots cooking unattended while I went out to dinner. As I researched safety tips for that post, I stumbled upon information about vehicle fires. That’s when it occurred to me that in my bizarre daydreams, I always picture myself heroically getting my kids out of the car, and then it’s over. I never fantasize about how to prevent the fire in the first place or what to do once we escape the inferno.

So I researched some more and learned some interesting things, which I will share with you now.

According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • 31 vehicle fires are reported each hour, and these fires kill one person each day.
  • Older teens and young adults are the most likely to experience a vehicle fire.
  • The leading cause of vehicle fires is not from crashes. Those account for only three percent of vehicle fires, although they are the most fatal. Three-quarters of fires are caused by mechanical or electrical failures.

Since failures with the vehicle cause the vast majority of fires, that also means that there are steps we can take to prevent the fires in the first place.

AAA says :

  • Have your vehicle inspected annually by a professional technician.
  • Watch for fluid leaks, cracked or blistered hoses, and wiring that is loose or has cracked insulation. Have these problems fixed as soon as possible.
  • Avoid smoking in the car, and if you must, use the ashtray.

And what to do if there is a fire?

  • Stop the car and turn off the ignition. That will stop the flow of electricity and gas.
  • Don’t open the hood! More oxygen=more fire.
  • Get out and move at least 100 feet away from the vehicle.
  • Call 911. According to NFPA, one-third of non-fatal civilian injuries happened when people tried to fight the fire themselves. So leave it to the professionals.

That all seems logical enough. But then I stumbled upon another interesting tidbit from a fire department in Texas. It sounded odd and I didn’t believe it, so I asked my firefighter husband to tell me about vehicle fires, and he volunteered the same information without my bringing it up:

Move out of the direct line of the bumpers of the car. Apparently they can blow off, hitting whatever is in their way. Obviously if you’re on the shoulder of a busy street or highway that might be difficult, but if there’s a ditch or hill you can safely move to or a guardrail you can stand behind, do it.

So now in my fantasies I get my kids out of the car and we run up a hill. Of course these are dreams I hope never come true, but if they do I feel slightly better prepared to handle the situation.


  1. Heather (murphydog77) February 22, 2011
  2. Monstah February 18, 2011
  3. Kat_momof3 February 18, 2011