According to NFPA Fire Analysis & Research, “U.S. Vehicle fire trends and patterns 2010” – 70% of the fires in buses originate from the engine compartment, 12% originate from the passenger area of the vehicle. The majority of fire cases for buses are caused by electrical failure and 12% caused by fuel and oil leaks. The middle eastern warm summer climate will have an effect on components such as brakes, electrical equipment and liquids.
In 2019 Gulf News published an article with the 7 leading causes of car fires in the UAE.
The most common cause was fuel leakage. If there is a fuel leak, any spark generated around the leak can result in a blaze. If the fuel leaks and vaporizes into the engine compartment, the fuel/oxygen mix is ideal for ignition, all it needs is an errant spark or for the temperature to rise around a hot component such as turbocharger or exhaust manifold.
Electrical faults and improper wiring are the second most common cause for car fires. Battery and starter cables carry enough current to ignite combustibles if they are faulty. Cables can fray overtime and result in a short circuit.
Oil leaks is the third most common cause of car fires in the UAE. If oil is leaking on a hot surface it can lead to a fire while the car is running. An overheated engine can also be the cause of vehicle fire, if the engine is too hot, it could result in fluids rising to dangerous temperatures and spilling out onto the engine or exhaust system.
Improper maintenance, leaving plastic bottles inside the passenger area on a hot summer day and smoking inside the car can also be a reasonable cause for a vehicle fire.
Research indicates that 75% of car fires are caused by bad maintenance, mechanical or electrical failure or malfunctions. Collisions and overturns caused only 3% of these fires but 57% of the associated deaths. One third of non-fatal vehicle fire injuries occurred when civilians attempted to fight the fire themselves. A typical fire scenario caused by bad maintenance is spray fire. A broken hose can become a flamethrower when the liquid ignites due to the hot surfaces inside the engine compartment.
Vehicle maintenance and inspection is a crucial part of preventing vehicle fires. It is recommended that a fire risk assessment is undertaken to identify and minimize potential fire risks before relying on any type of extinguishing system.
Watch for fluid leaks under the vehicle, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or cracked insulation. Any damaged parts should be replaced before operating the vehicle and it might also require some adjustments in design to further avoid the same error and to reduce the fire risk.
When driving be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, a louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems. Always carry a fire extinguisher and be sure to know how to operate it in a safe way.
When the risk assessment and periodic preventative maintenance schedule is in place it is recommended for commercial vehicles to install a fire suppression system to further reduce the fire risk and to provide a safe environment for the passengers.
There are many various brands and options to choose from but make sure to follow the local regulations and certification requirements. An automatic fire suppression system reduces the risk of human error compared to a manual extinguishing system.
In the UAE it is mandatory for all school buses to use a fire suppression system, but until now there is no requirement for the fire suppression system to comply with a specific standard.
For more information, go to www.dafo-middle-east.com