Narrow EscapeA friend recently asked me why there has been such an increase in vehicle fires and vehicle occupants burning to death. I don’t know if there is a significant increase and whether these incidents are merely better reported – but it is a safety threat that we need to investigate and address!

I would like to refer to a few recent reports of vehicle fire:

  • 29 November: “Taxi, bakkie burst into flames”. Two people were killed and 15 others were critically injured when a taxi and a bakkie burst into flames after a head-on collision on the R101, north of Pretoria, the Tshwane community safety department said.
  • 27 November 2009: A Bus and a truck collided head on in Molotto road in the Pretoria area Thursday evening at around 19h20. Details of the accident are still speculative, but it appears that the Putco Buss and a truck had collided head on and then burst into flames.
  • 2 September 2009: Netcare 911 rushed to the scene of an accident on the N2 Twini Hill near Amanzimtoti. On arrival paramedics found that a car collided into the back of a bakkie. The occupants a male and female fortunately managed to get out of the vehicle as it burst into flames and within minutes the car was a total inferno.
  • 4 September 2009: An electrical fire caused by a faulty window control switch has been revealed as the cause of the automobile blaze in which two-year-old Vanilla Nurse lost her life.

On the Arrive Alive website we have made available more information on the topic of Escape and Safety from Vehicle fire. It is not only important to protect the lives of driver and passengers, but also to avoid accident claims from vehicle damage caused by fire. I would like to quote from the Arrive Alive road safety website on how to prevent vehicle fires:

Vehicle maintenance and inspection is crucial to preventing vehicle fires. The following suggestion might prevent vehicle fires:

Fire Striker in use

Fire Striker from Reutech

  • Have your vehicles inspected at least annually by a trained, professional technician.
  • Check for any malfunctioning parts and hanging electrical wirings. Do not leave them hanging.
  • Include a check of the fuel system in your regular maintenance schedule. Electrical and fuel system or problems are the major causes of car fires.
  • Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation.
  • Have vehicles inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected.
  • An early indication of a problem is a fuse that blows more than once. The source of the triggered fuse could be either a faulty component or a wiring problem.
  • Check for oil leaks and always use a funnel when adding oil. Oil spilled on a hot exhaust manifold can cause a fire.
  • If a filling station attendant adds oil, double check that the cap is on securely. This sounds obvious, but better to check than end up with oil all over your engine compartment at best, or an engine fire at worst.
  • Clean the vehicle regularly – Do not allow your trash to settle in the vehicle.
  • Avoid throwing cigarette butts anywhere
  • When driving – Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle.
  • Observe your gauge frequently – Check if the temperature is rising.

Our road safety partner Reutech has made available information on a fire combating tool – the fire striker, a flame inhibitor that we should all consider having in our vehicles!

View the Arrive Alive website for more information on Safety and Escape from Vehicle Fire

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