(New) Forgotten Vehicle Fire Hazards

Sharing the views and experiences that street level firefighters face has always been the mission of Views From the Jumpseat. This week’s view comes from an angle that I have been blessed with participating in for two years now, as an instructor.

I truly enjoy sharing in the experiences as new and old firefighters come to the training grounds to perfect their skills. Most times I come away learning more about myself and how I do things then they do. 

This week was no different. The topic was car fires and how they have become more dangerous over the last couple of years. We have known about loaded bumpers, hood struts and exotic metals for years, but have you ever stopped to think about those dangers when approaching a car that is on fire? 

What I failed to realize about today’s cars are that there comes an even bigger danger in the means of unexploded airbag canisters. These small packages of danger should be assumed loaded until proven otherwise.

How many videos of airbags going off does it take us to realize that they are dangerous? We should expect them everywhere. From side impact seat canisters, to front dashboards, they seem to be everywhere.  New car technology programs and articles, such as Ron Moore’s here with Firehouse, should be something that we pay close attention too! It always seems something is constantly changing.

So let us review a few attack points when faced with a burning automobile:

  • Always park up hill and upwind
  • Attack the fire from the sides
  • Use the reach of your hose stream to cool the car from a distance
  • Wear your SCBA
  • Sweep under the car to keep fuel away
  • Pull a ABC extinguisher to back up hoseline

Just like newer home construction, our cars are made of more materials that burn hotter, faster, and can more dangerous to firefighters. From hybrid systems to compressed natural gas, the time has come to be aggressive in fighting these fires from a distance. This goes against the natural tendencies of all firefighters, as we are the ones who grab the hose and make “the push.” Pushing up on a raging car fire is not worth the dangers hidden inside the flames.

It took a day on the drill field with an instructor who is a new car technology expert to reinforce it to this backward-riding firefighter. If you are not learning and adjusting your tactics everyday, maybe it’s time that you find another job! Our world is so dynamic that things change daily.  Maybe one of those things is how we approach a vehicle that is on fire. I know that from now on I will be making an outstanding fire attack. Out, standing across the street until the car is cooled enough to approach safely!  

Stay safe everyone!

Ryan Pennington is now co-hosting a new monthly podcast on Firehouse.com. Listen to first edition of The Average Jake's Views From the Jumpseat and check back next week for the second show.