Primary Concerns


1.      Activation of the energy absorbing bumpers

2.      Air bag activation because of the fire

3.      Explosion of the vehicle’s tires

4.      Explosion of the shock absorbers/struts

5.      Explosion of any of the vehicle’s sealed parts such as driveshafts

6.      Ignition of the vehicle’s fuel system

7.      Exposures surrounding the vehicle


Since it seems to happen nearly all the time in movies, Hollywood lets us believe that a fuel tank explosion should be our main concern.  However, it is actually very rare that this will happen. 


The more immediate danger involving the vehicle’s fuel occurs when the fuel lines (either copper or rubber gaskets around the openings of the fuel system) melt or deform and allow gasoline to escape and ignite.  Fire created by this scenario is very likely and must be controlled reasonably quickly by an attack line.


What Are The Most Likely Sites A Vehicle Will Catch Fire?  (in order of occurrence)


  1. Engine compartment
  2. Driver/Passenger compartment--dashboard
  3. Driver/Passenger compartment—seats
  4. Trunk


Procedures:  Engine Compartment Fires

1.      Get access to the engine compartment

A.     Use the Augustus Tool to pierce the hood and apply water OR

B.     Secure access to the hood opening control in the driver’s area

C.     Activate the secondary locking system under the hood and then apply water OR

D.     Make access above the tires or through the headlights using conventional forcible entry tools and then apply water.

2.      Once the hood is opened and the fire is reasonably controlled use a short pike pole or a halligan bar as a safety device to hold the hood open.

3.      Cut the battery cable using bolt cutters.

4.      Be aware that battery acid and/or other vehicle fluids can drip on the ground and eat through boots.  This is especially true of the newer leather boots.

5.      We typically rely on water to extinguish the fire but we can also use a dry chemical or carbon dioxide extinguisher as well.

6.      SCBA is often necessary for the safety of the firefighters attacking the fire.


Procedures:  Driver/Passenger Compartment—Dashboard/Seats

1.      Access to this compartment is usually by a halligan bar or other forcible entry tool breaking the windows.

2.      We will also need to ventilate by opening the window(s) opposite the hose line attack.

3.      Dry chemical/carbon dioxide extinguishers do not generally work as efficiently as does a handline.

4.      SCBA is often necessary for firefighter safety.


Procedures:  Heavy Fire from Spilled Fuel Underneath the Vehicle

1.      Use a handline with a modified fog pattern to push the ignited fuel away from the vehicle.

2.      Use SCBA for safety.

3.      Extinguish the fuel fire and then attack the burning parts of the vehicle.



General Safety Hints

  1. It is generally safer to approach a vehicle fire from a 45° angle either from the front or rear.  Always approach with the line charged and be prepared to use it for protection first and secondarily to attack the fire.
  2. Be aware of water runoff.  If possible try to direct it downhill and/or away from the vehicle or its exposures.  Other firefighters may be directed to build dams to control this runoff.


New Members:  Red & yellow tag firefighters can assist in this operation by:

  1. Getting Agustus tool & hoseline out of the compartment (officer’s side near the forward stabilizer) and connecting it to the discharge outlet indicated by the pump operator.
  2. Getting fire extinguishers out of compartment (officer’s side above the forward stabilizer).  Dry chemical is the first choice; Purple K is the second choice.  The   2 ½ gallon pressurized water extinguisher is a back up.
  3. Gathering forcible entry tools (halligan & flathead axe and 3’ pike pole from compartment driver’s side top rear) for use by firefighters attacking the fire.
  4. Getting handlights for firefighters attacking the fire.
  5. Acting as safety guides for firefighters who might be operating in smoky conditions.
  6. Assist with civilian traffic control on the fireground.