Risk of fire: When your vehicle catches fire

Everybody knows the spectacular pictures of vehicle explosions in film and television. But in reality, it is different. We explain how to react in case of emergency.

When the vehicle burns, get the passengers to safety and call the fire brigade immediately. Photo: Fotolia – Christian Nitsche

As a rule, vehicles rarely explode. However, vehicle fires do happen. The German Insurance Association (GDV) registers about 40,000 vehicle fires per year according to the company’s own information. In 15,000 cases these are actual fires, the rest are short circuit damages.

According to the testing organization DEKRA, the most frequent fire causes are in 40 percent of all cases a fuel escape or oil escape on hot engine parts or engine components. 26 percent are caused by friction of vehicle parts with fuel. 17 percent are either short circuits or a fire infringement of another vehicle.

The driver of a truck loaded with spray cans notes too late that the person in front brakes. The accident ends in an inferno. Photo: Norbert Böwing The fire brigade checks out the dimensions of the fire. Photo: Norbert Böwing Afterwards the fire brigade starts to extinguish the fire. Photo: Norbert Böwing When the fire is extinguished you can see the dimension of the destruction. There is only left a skeleton of the coach. Photo: Fotolia .- stylefoto24 Safety first: When it burns your safety is priority number one. Photo: Fotolia - mhp

If the vehicle burns, the passengers should leave it immediately. „After having rescued oneself and the other passengers, one should directly call the fire brigade. Afterwards, the scene of the accident has to be secured“, advises Markus Egelhaaf, accident researcher with the DEKRA in Stuttgart. Fire experts warn against endangering yourself by trying to extinct the fire. The security of people has priority. By dialing 112 which is the consistent emergency phone number throughout Europe you can request the help of the fire brigade and the rescue service round the clock.

In a truck, fire extinguishers are mandatory

Particularly important in case of a truck fire: Always switch off the engine. Nevertheless, the ignition should be kept on if somebody is still in the burning vehicle. In some trucks, the ignition is responsible for the fact that the driver’s cab does not sink. Thus, the active ignition saves passengers left in the vehicle from being pinned by mistake. If only the trailer burns, try to unsaddle it if possible. By the way: In contrast to the passenger car two fire extinguishers are mandatory in the truck.

The safety hazards of electric cars are different than the ones of conventionally powered passenger cars: The fuel is no safety hazard. Electronics fires are most likely. Besides, a destroyed battery can also cause a fire. However, usually, it catches fire at last. „And if the battery is the trigger of the fire, normally, one has enough time, to rescue oneself and others from the hazardous area“, says DEKRA expert Egelhaaf. Passengers do not have to be afraid of an electric shock. “There is no risk of an electric shock”, explains Egelhaaf.

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