Basic Firefighting: Vehicle Firefighting

Attacking a fire involving a motor vehicle should be no different than attacking a fire in a structure. Basic hose handling and attack techniques are used. Session Reference: Topic: Basic Firefighting: Vehicle Firefighting Time...

          bursting into flames)

        • Carpeting - may melt rather than burn

        • Dashboard - plastic with wiring concealed behind

        • Plastic - gauges, interior molding

        • Insulation - conceal fire

        • Sleeping area in large trucks - additional people and combustibles


     Potential fire locations

        • Engine compartment

           • Carburetor

           • Wiring in ignition system

           • Air Cleaner

        • Passenger compartment

        • Trunk

        • Brake and tire areas on large trucks

        • Truck beds - from discarded smoking materials



      • Gasoline - low flash point

      • Diesel - higher flash point

      • Gasohol - may require special extinguishing agents

      • Propane/LNG - presence may not be obvious

      • Electricity - may require special extinguishing agents


Gaining Access

     • Doors

        • Locked or unlocked - conventional or electric locks - check all doors

        • Cut sheet metal to expose lock

        • May be able to force door with conventional tools

     • Windows

        • Front windshield - safety glass

        • Side and rear windows - tempered glass

        • Glass may melt or explode

     • Hood

        • Internal latch release that melts easily

        • External release of latch - may require being in close proximity to vehicle

        • Forcing sheet metal on side of hood to cool down before forcing latch

        • Secure hood from closing - springs may collapse when heated

      • Trunk

        • Key to gain access

        • Forcing sheet metal on side to cool down

        • Displacing lock assembly by forcing lock and opening trunk with haligan bar

          point or screwdriver

     • Wheel wells

        • Locating existing openings

        • Making openings

        • Will require getting low to force water into engine compartment

     • Lights

        • Head lights - force entry tool through light so that nozzle can be inserted to cool


        • Front turn signals - alternative means of accessing motor compartment

        • Tail lights - force entry tool through light so that nozzle can be inserted to cool

          trunk area



II. Size Up (1-2)

Auto fire

     • Simple auto fire with no exposures

     • Auto fire in or near structure

     • Auto fire near other automobiles

     • Victims still in vehicle on fire


Auto accident

     • Auto on fire

     • Potential for auto to ignite after arrival

     • Victims still in vehicle

     • Exposures


Time of day





     • May more than one engine for certain areas or types of vehicles

     • Should have adequate staffing to place at least one attack line in service with a

       preference to a secondary line to protect exposures

     • Should consider an EMS unit



     • Limited access

     • Apparatus from both directions on duel highways


Additional help


Suspicious fire

     • Smoke color

     • Fire extent

     • Preserve evidence

     • Call investigator

        • Arson increases during poor economy

        • Motive to collect insurance

     • Interviews


III. Apparatus Placement (1-3)

Upgrade - should be 100 to 150 feet away from fire


Consider traffic and safety of personnel