PAPER PRESENTATION AT THE WORKSHOP OF AUTOMOBILES AND ROAD SAFETY INITIATIVE – Presented by Chief Fire Officer B. A. Popoola of Federal Fire Service, Ilesa.

Chief Fire Officer B. A. Popoola of Federal Fire Service, Ilesa.

Theme: Auto Workshop Rules and Safety Considerations

TOPICS:
a. Fire: A friend or an enemy?
b. How to combat its breakout in Vehicles and Auto Repair Workshops

PRESENTATION OBJECTIVES

At the end of this presentation, participants should be able to:

  • Know the definition and components of fire
  • Know that fire is both friend and enemy to humanity
  • Identify causes of automobile fires
  • Identify signs of car on fire
  • Identify ways to respond to a car fire
  • Know how to prevent automobile fires
  • Understand steps to take if stuck in a burning car
  • Gain knowledge about suitable car fire extinguisher

WHAT IS FIRE?

DEFINITION OF FIRE

  • Fire is an irreversible chemical reaction between fuel and oxygen in the presence of heat.
  • Fire produces heat, light, smoke and other toxic fumes.

COMPONENTS OF FIRE

For any fire to occur there must be three components present:

  1. Fuel
  2. Oxygen
  3. Heat

FIRE AS A FRIEND

Fire is one of the most important forces in human history.

It is extraordinarily helpful.

It gave humans the first form of portable light and heat. It also gave us the ability to cook food, forge metal tools, form pottery, harden bricks and drive power plants.

Fire has also been used by humans in rituals, in agriculture for clearing land, for signaling, propulsion purposes, smelting, incineration of waste, cremation, and as a weapon or mode of destruction.

FIRE AS AN ENEMY

Fire can also be very dangerous.

Think of:

  • Fire victims
    • Damaged properties
    • Destroyed farmlands
    • Economic impact
Chief Fire Officer B. A. Popoola of Federal Fire Service, Ilesa showing how to use the Fire Extinguisher

VEHICLE FIRE (AUTO FIRES)

It is estimated that an average of 33 cars catches on fire every hour in the United States.

Cars can catch on fire for a lot of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a collision or a car accident. Statistics have shown that the majority of vehicle fires are linked to ill-fitting batteries, electrical issues, lack of maintenance, and from leaking fuel.

OTHER CAUSES OF VEHICLE FIRES

  1. Arson
  2. Design flaws
  3. Overheating engines
  4. Car crash
  5. Catalytic converters
  6. Dangerous cargo
  7. Smoking and driving
  8. Animals
  9. Aftermarket accessories
  10. Spilled fluids

SIGNS THAT YOUR CAR IS ON FIRE

It may take you a while for you to realize that your car is on fire especially if it starts in an area that isn’t visible to you. There are some signs that might indicate that your vehicle is on fire. Below are a few of them:

  • When you see smoke
  • You smell burning rubber or plastic
  • If your vehicle feels hotter within a short timeframe 
  • If fuses are blowing out 
  • If there is a rapid change in oil and fuel levels
  • If the exhaust system produces strange or loud sounds
  • If the engine temperature increases rapidly. 
  • When you see flames 
  • If you observe oil or fuel leakage

BEST WAY TO RESPOND TO A CAR FIRE

  • Remain calm
  • Find a safe place to pull over
  • Turn your vehicle off 
  • Leave the car quickly 
  • Don’t stand close to the car
  • Take a headcount
  • Call the authorities 
  • Wait for them to arrive
  • Warn others

PUTTING OUT THE FIRE YOURSELF

Don’t attempt to put out your car fire by yourself, especially if you don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher. Even if you know how to use it, only attempt to put out the flames if the following conditions exist.

  • The fire is small, visible and confined to an area far away from the fuel tank.
  • You have a working fire extinguisher
  • You know how to use a fire extinguisher or have been trained to use one. 
  • You cannot smell burning rubber
  • The car doesn’t run on LPG.
  • If the above conditions are met, it may be safe for you to put the fire out yourself. If the fire is large, you perceive a foul-smelling smoke, or you don’t have a fire extinguisher which will be able to put it out, then you should wait for the authorities to handle the situation.  
  • If the fire spread out of control 
  • Move away from the area as quickly as possible if your attempt to put out the fire fails. 
Samuel Oloyede Oriowo presenting Certificate to Federal Fire Service Personnel

Bonnet Fire

Putting out a hood or bonnet fire is a tricky business because you may not be able to open it due to heat or the flame. The safest way to put it out is to release the catch to create a small gap and aim the extinguisher at the small space formed by releasing the catch and spray the content of the extinguisher into the bonnet. If the fire intensifies after doing this, flee to safety. 

Tell-tale signs that your car may soon catch fire

Truth be told, car fire rarely occurs. However, that doesn’t mean that they cannot happen, especially if the car has been damaged, have a fault or old.

Regardless of your driving experience, you need to keep in mind that it is almost impossible for a well-maintained car to catch on fire. So having your car checked by a competent auto-mechanic on a regular basis is a sure way to almost eliminate the danger. 

Also, you have to keep an eye for these following fire hazards in your car:

  • A rapid change in oil and fuel levels
  • Leaking fluids
  • Spilled oil
  • Parking near tall grasses and flammable materials 
  • Electrical issues 
  • Loud sounds.

Preventing a car fire

Vehicle fires can cause serious damage to lives and properties. Fortunately, they are preventable. Below are some easy things you can do to prevent your car from catching fire.

  •  Regularly inspect the fuel lines and tank 
  • Yearly inspection 
  • Ensure that all added parts are installed correctly
  • Maintain your electrical system 
  • Never store flammable materials in your car
  • Clean oil spills  
  • Drive safely 
  • Keep your car clean 
  • Be on the lookout for downed power lines
  • Don’t smoke in your car  
  • Always carry a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher
  • Maintain your car battery 

Steps to take if you are stuck in a burning car

Count yourself lucky if you can get out of your car after a crash or you notice that part of your vehicle is on fire. However, if you aren’t able to get out immediately or you are stuck, do the following. 

Step 1- unlock the doors

Do whatever it takes to unlock the doors of your vehicle. Even if you aren’t able to open the door on your own, unlocking the doors will give rescuers a shot at rescuing you from the burning vehicle. 

Step 2- get off your seat belt

Try to do this as quickly as you can so that the heat from the flame doesn’t melt your seat belt buckle to its anchor. Use a piece of cloth to cover your hand when releasing the buckle if the metal is too hot. If for some reason, the buckle doesn’t release, then you should push the strap over your head and lift your legs out from under the waist strap that is holding you in place. 

Step 3- Get out through the window 

If the door is stuck or you cannot open it, the next best thing to do is kick out a window. Use both of your feet to shatter the window out of the frame. 

In any life or death situation, your chance of survival is determined by your ability to conduct self-rescue. Getting out of the car especially after serious collision or accident is usually difficult because the vehicle doors and the buckle may be jammed, thus preventing you from escaping. Also, if the car is upside down, your body weight could prevent your seat belt buckle from releasing.

To reduce fatalities and reduce injuries, road authorities recommend that car owners should have an auto escape tool in their vehicle at all times. These simple but effective tools cannot only save lives but can also protect in the event of an emergency.

Unlike what you have probably seen in the movies, breaking a car window is extremely difficult. But there is a special tool that is designed solely for that purpose. Below are some auto-tools that can help you escape from a burning vehicle. 

ResQMe This is a special key chain that can cut through a seat belt with relative ease. With this tool, you won’t have to worry if your seat belt is jammed as you can easily cut it. One good thing about this tool is its small size. Since it is small, you can easily attach it to your key chain. 

Life-Hammer This is an effective and versatile tool that you can easily use to shatter glass with one strike. Its razor sharp blade can cut through your tough seat belt as a red hot knife cut through butter. Just like the ResQme, the life hammer is lightweight, portable and easy to install. 

CAR FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

Regardless of the type of car you drive, it is essential that you have a working fire extinguisher at all times. While your car is assembled with safety in mind, some of its components can easily start a fire. With a fire extinguisher, you will be able to put out a small fire before it spreads and does serious damage to your vehicle.

CHOOSING A FIRE EXTINGUISHER 

With so many types and size of fire extinguishers out there, choosing the one that will suit your car is likely going to be a challenge. If you own a small car, then you should get a 1kg extinguisher.

For commercial vehicles, on the other hand, it is recommended that they carry a fire extinguisher that weighs 2 to 3 kg. (According to NFPA regulations, commercial vehicles must carry a working fire extinguisher).

Which type of fire extinguisher will be suitable for your car?

Your car presents different fire hazards- upholstery, oil, electrical wires, and gas. The fire extinguisher you should go for should be able to handle every possible mishap. 

The best extinguisher for cars and automobiles are Dry powder extinguisher. With it, you will be able to put out Class A, B, C or E fire. This means that a dry powder extinguisher can put out organic combustibles like wood products, cloth, and paper as well as fuel and electrical related fires. 

L-R Chief Fire Officer B. A. Popoola of Federal Fire Service, Ilesa ,Samuel Oloyede Oriowo (President)

Features to look out for when buying a fire extinguisher:

Below are some essential features you should give careful attention to:

  • Readily for use– The extinguisher you should purchase should be available for immediate use.
  • Lightweight – it shouldn’t weigh more than 3kgs.
  • Potable shape– opt for models with cylindrical or elongated shapes.
  • Easily serviced– can be serviced and filled up easily. 
  • Mount or storage clip – it should come with a convenient under sit or trunk mount
  • Durable body– opt for models that have an aluminum body as they are lightweight and corrosion free 
  • Certified to local standards– only buy fire extinguishers that have a local certification label.

FINAL NOTE

Automobile fires occur more often than you may be aware of and can do serious damage to lives and properties. So, if you own a car or manage one, it is your responsibility to keep every part of it in a perfect working condition. While doing this might be difficult and expensive, it will prevent your car from catching on fire. Also, applying the tips discussed in this guide will go a long way in helping you prevent and put out a car fire. 

How To Use A Fire Extinguisher

P.A.S.S. Method

Pull the pin

P.A.S.S. Method

Aim at the base of the fire

P.A.S.S. Method

Squeeze the handle

P.A.S.S. Method

Sweep side to side

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

CALL

FEDERAL FIRE SERVICE, ILESA: 08157887822

FEDERAL FIRE SERVICE, OSOGBO:  09035818584, 08122695959

(Paper Presentation by Chief Fire Officer B. A. Popoola of Federal Fire Service, Ilesa Fire Station at Automobiles And Road Safety Initiative Seminar for Auto-Technicians at Ife-Ijesa Senatorial Zone, Osun State, Nigeria on 3rd March, 2021)