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Monday, January 7, 2013

USFA Report: Highway Vehicle Fires Highway Vehicle Fires (2008-2010)

Highway Vehicle Fires (2008-2010)
EMMITSBURG, Md. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report today examining the characteristics of highway vehicle fires. The report, Highway Vehicle Fires (2008-2010), was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

According to the USFA motor vehicle fires report:

  •  Approximately one in seven fires responded to by fire departments across the nation is a highway vehicle fire. This does not include the tens of thousands of fire department responses to highway vehicle accident sites.
  • Unintentional action (32 percent) was the leading cause of highway vehicle fires.
  • Eighty-six percent of highway vehicle fires occurred in passenger vehicles.
  • Sixty-one percent of highway vehicle fires and 35 percent of fatal highway vehicle fires originated in the engine, running gear, or wheel area of the vehicle.
  • The leading factor contributing to the ignition of highway vehicle fires was mechanical failure (44 percent).
  • Insulation around electrical wiring (28 percent) and flammable liquids in the engine area (18 percent) were the most common items first ignited in highway vehicle fires.

 The risks from motor vehicle fires are often overlooked. Toxic gases and other hazardous substances, along with flying debris and explosions, can combine to produce serious dangers. 

In the event of a motor vehicle fire, follow these important steps:

  • Pull to the side of the road and turn off the ignition to shut off the electric current and stop the flow of gasoline.
  • Do not open the hood or trunk if you suspect a fire under it. Air could rush into the area and enlarge the fire.
  • Get out of and away from the vehicle. Never re-enter a burning vehicle to retrieve personal property.
  • If the vehicle is in a garage or other structure, exit the building immediately.
  • Do not put yourself in danger by trying to use a fire extinguisher. Only trained firefighters should extinguish vehicle fires.
  • After you are a safe distance away, call 9-1-1 or your fire department’s emergency number.

Highway Vehicle Fires (2008-2010) is part of the Topical Fire Report Series. Topical reports explore facets of the United States fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information. Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.


For further information regarding other topical reports or any programs and training available at USFA, visit

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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