Non-crash motor vehicle fires have received less attention by specialists in automotive safety than crash fires. They can be equally spectacular but result in fewer, less serious injuries. They occur on an average of one out of every 1,000 registered vehicles and can result in significant property damage.
Various data sources on non-crash fires were reviewed with reference to previous studies. Fire department responses to motor vehicle fires reported in 1976-1977 within Michigan were analyzed. A review of burn injuries associated with motor vehicles indicates that persons working on a stationary vehicle and accidently coming into contact with a hot surface is the largest source of injury. Injuries received from fire in a car not involved in an accident account for less than 7% of these injuries, which are mostly minor.
It was recommended that some form of industry standard be established that considers smoke emission, toxicity of gas by-products of combustion, and ignition sources as well as burn rate of materials. Such a standard could be flexible and adaptable to changes in vehicle design and new processes and materials.