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Thread: Car fires=Total loss

  1. #1
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    Default Car fires=Total loss

    I had a recent conversation with one of my neighbors who is a freelance insurance adjuster for multiple auto insurance agencies. He told me that in almost every case, a vehicle that has a fire is going to be totaled. Anything under the hood=total. Anything inside the car other than a self-extinguished cigarette burn=totaled. Even if there is very minor burn damage, they don't want to deal with the smoke smell or the electrical issues.

    Bottom line-A burning car is no more valuable than a burning dumpster, with the added hazard of your exposure to passing traffic. Throw in the hazards from the air bags, the gas cylinders, exploding magnesium, gasoline, battery acid, hybrid electricity, CNG, etc. Unless there is a possibility of a person in the car or exposures, there is no reason to get too close, even with the proper PPE.

    Great line from a class I recently attended: "How many of you have been to a car fire where the owner got in and drove it away afterward? Anyone? Over all the years I've been teaching, I haven't yet had someone say they have." That's someone's cue to come on here and say they have

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    I have stressed this point every time I have taught a vehicle fire class.

    We simply are not saving anything as Memphis has pointed out, a vehicle that sustains even a small amount of fire damage will be totaled.

    The problem is that most of our members feel that they need to solve the problem .... Even in situations such as vehicle fires where the problem is far past the point of being solved when we arrive the vast majority of the time.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    I would have thought that everyone knew that a car on fire is not worth risking injury to save.

    Unless it is in front of the station , it's already long gone before anyone can do a thing to save it.


    the only car fire I've ever seen that was salvageable was a brake fire on the Mt Washington auto road where the tourist smoked the brakes and burst a brake cylinder. They managed to get it stopped by using the emergency brake and we put the fire out which was contained to the wheel well.
    After getting towed to a mechanic shop off the mountain it was repaired and on it's way the next day.
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    Given the ridiculous amount of electronics in today's vehicles, it doesn't take much to total them out. I'm not surprised at what the adjuster said.

    Extinguishing a car fire is for a few purposes, and we should balance our aggression based on these:

    -Possibility of protecting some contents remaining in the vehicle (i.e., extinguishing engine fire before it reaches trunk

    -Avoiding ignition of fuel tank, especially when the driver is saying, "I just filled the #$%*ing thing up!"

    -Preservation of evidence for investigation of cause

    And other stuff.
    "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
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    We still get aggressive with vehicle fires to protect nearby structures and clear highway incidents quickly. A burning vehicle on the highways really causes big problems with the motoring public. Quick clearance is important. The less time were on the side of the road. The safer we our. Full PPE and get it done!
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    If the motoring public would evacuate from the vehicle and then hit the fire with an extinguisher (if safe to do so), there would probably be more vehicles saved. How many people have a fire extinguisher in their vehicle? Not many. I have fought numerous vehicle fires. Only got to one minor fire (engine compartment) and saved it with a DC extinguisher. The rest were toast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coldfront View Post
    We still get aggressive with vehicle fires to protect nearby structures and clear highway incidents quickly. A burning vehicle on the highways really causes big problems with the motoring public. Quick clearance is important. The less time were on the side of the road. The safer we our. Full PPE and get it done!
    Ditto and it may just be a local issue but we get a few calls every year for a vehicle fire and they neglect to mention that its in the garage.

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    I have to agree with coldfront here. Vehicle fires are defiantly not worth risking our lives over by any means, but there are quite a few instances where you may want to get a quick knockdown done like exposures in danger etc, etc.

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    While I haven't seen a car not totaled after a fire I have seen people get considerable amounts of belongings out of the trunk/rear of a car once we got the fire out. Some people practically live in their cars you could be saving someone's livelihood by going offensive.

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    Default I Beg To Differ

    I beg to differ. We once had a well involved older pickup truck fire that somehow shorted out the starter circuit and since the old vehicle had a manual tranny and happened to be in first gear when it caught on fire, the aflame pickup started moving across a vacant lot under the power of the starter motor and battery.

    It was still too hot to even try stopping it and it ended up hard against a wood garage. Not too big; about 16 ft. by 20 ft BUT was also attached to an older smaller wood framed OCCUPIED home of around 1000 square feet. Fortunately we had somewhat knocked the fire down and happened to have a handy charged jump line.

    Consider exposures gentlemen. Situations will vary. Sometimes you attack, sometimes not. If there are good reasons to danger yourselves trying to put out a lousy vehicle fire, then do so. I for one can think of many likely situations where it is much better to attack and knock down a pesky car fire than to just let it burn up completely.

    Old Engine 6 was stationed in the not-so-good part of town and if we routinely let vehicle fires burn out dead cold on their own WITHOUT quickly putting them out, we probably would have had a city riot on our hands in no time at all. We had a political, ethnic and economic situation. My point is that everything is relative. There are no hard standards.

    HB of CJ (old coot) (retarded EN)

    Edit; Where I live now in SW Oregon, probably 50% of ALL vehicle owners in our small mountain valley town of about 1350 folks have no auto insurance at all. Yep! About 25% probably do not have a valid drivers license or vehicle registration or plate tags either. This is our economic reality. Not everybody has complete "legal" automotive insurance.

    An older vehicle out here may represent a major portion of some poor people's wealth. Our local repair garages hardly ever see a new vehicle. They are fixed at the dealerships in the big towns up North. What we do see are very low value vehicles being repaired or fixed up because that is the only way the owners can afford to have the right of liberty.
    Last edited by HBofCJ; 07-24-2014 at 12:26 AM. Reason: added words

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    Quote Originally Posted by HBofCJ View Post
    I beg to differ. We once had a well involved older pickup truck fire that somehow shorted out the starter circuit and since the old vehicle had a manual tranny and happened to be in first gear when it caught on fire, the aflame pickup started moving across a vacant lot under the power of the starter motor and battery.

    It was still too hot to even try stopping it and it ended up hard against a wood garage. Not too big; about 16 ft. by 20 ft BUT was also attached to an older smaller wood framed OCCUPIED home of around 1000 square feet. Fortunately we had somewhat knocked the fire down and happened to have a handy charged jump line.

    Consider exposures gentlemen. Situations will vary. Sometimes you attack, sometimes not. If there are good reasons to danger yourselves trying to put out a lousy vehicle fire, then do so. I for one can think of many likely situations where it is much better to attack and knock down a pesky car fire than to just let it burn up completely.

    Old Engine 6 was stationed in the not-so-good part of town and if we routinely let vehicle fires burn out dead cold on their own WITHOUT quickly putting them out, we probably would have had a city riot on our hands in no time at all. We had a political, ethnic and economic situation. My point is that everything is relative. There are no hard standards.

    HB of CJ (old coot) (retarded EN)
    I believe the point was not to let them burn out on their own but to utilize risk vs reward when dealing with vehicle fires.

    I don't think anyone has yet mentioned search of vehicles for possible occupants. The large amount of smoke at the average car fire could easily obscure the scene visually. Let's not get too hung up on doing the insurance adjusters job. Let's do our own.

    I do agree that if there is no life or exposure hazard we should slow down a little and put an emphasis on safety. Clearing the highway so traffic can move is not really a primary function of the FD. Getting off the road quickly MAY help reduce exposure but operating too quickly with no real payoff will DEFINITELY increase the hazard.

    Use the reach of the stream to it's full advantage. No need to climb on top of the burning car to extinguish it.
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    People... it is a fire.
    We are tasked with putting it out.
    Wear your PPE and SCBA, hit it hard and fast, overhaul carefully* and go home.
    The car will be totalled by the insurance company.

    * A few years ago , the son of one our retired Captains and a close family friend died in a car fire. The FD where the incident occured had responded to the call on a rural section of road in their town. It was unknown how long the car had been burning; when the fire was extinguished the body had been found.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyChiefGonzo View Post
    People... it is a fire.
    We are tasked with putting it out.
    Wear your PPE and SCBA, hit it hard and fast, overhaul carefully* and go home.
    The car will be totalled by the insurance company.
    Bing-Freaking-O

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyChiefGonzo View Post
    People... it is a fire.
    We are tasked with putting it out.
    Wear your PPE and SCBA, hit it hard and fast, overhaul carefully* and go home.
    The car will be totalled by the insurance company.

    * A few years ago , the son of one our retired Captains and a close family friend died in a car fire. The FD where the incident occured had responded to the call on a rural section of road in their town. It was unknown how long the car had been burning; when the fire was extinguished the body had been found.
    But not all fires need to be extinguished up close and personnel without significant cooling from a distance.

    My combo department engines carry 1000g. 3 of my 4 VFDs primary first-out engines carry 1500g and the 4th one carries 1000g with a foam system. I teach our members to cool from a distance. Be patient when cooling the underside and bumpers. Then move in SLOWLY cooling as you go. Water is cheap. Use it!

    Working a vehicle fire is a situation where we have the opportunity to reduce risk as the outcome generally is not in doubt. Take advantage of that opportunity.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    I don't think anyone has yet mentioned search of vehicles for possible occupants. The large amount of smoke at the average car fire could easily obscure the scene visually. Let's not get too hung up on doing the insurance adjusters job. Let's do our own.
    Said that in the original post: "Unless there is a possibility of a person in the car or exposures, there is no reason to get too close, even with the proper PPE."
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    But not all fires need to be extinguished up close and personnel without significant cooling from a distance.

    My combo department engines carry 1000g. 3 of my 4 VFDs primary first-out engines carry 1500g and the 4th one carries 1000g with a foam system. I teach our members to cool from a distance. Be patient when cooling the underside and bumpers. Then move in SLOWLY cooling as you go. Water is cheap. Use it!

    Working a vehicle fire is a situation where we have the opportunity to reduce risk as the outcome generally is not in doubt. Take advantage of that opportunity.
    LA -- I don't think anyone on here is saying be stupid. But you can work aggressively and fast (smooth is fast/fast is smooth) and be just as safe (sometimes safer) as dragging your feet.
    ?

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    My brother was driving my Dad's old pickup truck when smoke started to pour out from under the hood. He pulled into a parking lot and I ran into the video store, told them to call 911 and grabbed an extinquisher of the wall and made an attempt to extinquish the fire. I sqweezed the lever and nothing happened, the extinquisher wasn't charged lol. The fire engine showed up and put it out, containing it to the engione compartment. We made the repairs to the wiring and carberator and it was back on the road.
    Pretty funny story when we talk about it today.
    I could care less about what an insurance guy says about a car being totaled by having a fire in it. How about the people that can only afford the junkers and liability insurance to get to work to feed their families. We are here to save lives and property, I'm not saying be so aggresive that you get hurt but let's not be laxidazical about putting car fires out, Hell it may be the owners home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnyv View Post
    Said that in the original post: "Unless there is a possibility of a person in the car or exposures, there is no reason to get too close, even with the proper PPE."
    My main concern, is to get the occupants out. Look at some of the parents that drive SUV's, vans, etc. with younger children. Some of those child(ren) are usually strapped in car seat(s). Having a young mother trying to get child(ren) out of car seat(s), while the cab is filling with smoke, can be overwhelming.

    Same goes with vehicles with elderly occupants. They are slow moving to get out. We had an elderly couple, whose car caught fire. The elderly woman was calm and got her invalid husband out. If she had not had calm thinking, he would have not gotten out.

    As long as the occupants are out, that is all I care about. The vehicle can be replaced.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    I teach our members to cool from a distance. Be patient when cooling the underside and bumpers. Then move in SLOWLY cooling as you go. Water is cheap. Use it!
    In many instances, a well-involved vehicle fire isn't much more than a trash fire -- and there is no sense in dying for a trash fire. With that said, slow doesn't always mean safe... And fast doesn't always mean dangerous.

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