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Technical Paper

Analysis of Garage Fires

Recently there has been increasing interest in stationary vehicle fires (SVF) and the safety of vehicles parked in garages. This interest has grown out of allegations by insurance companies that garage fires, some of which spread to other parts of the residence and cause considerable damage and/or injuries, may be caused by vehicles, and hence the vehicle manufacturer should be liable for damages. Data from the National Fire Incidence Reporting System (NFIRS) 1999-2002 were used to study the involvement of motor vehicles in garage fires and to compare the risk of injury and fatality in post collision fuel fed fires (PCFFF) to risk of fatality in garage fires. This paper explores the role of both vehicles and other causes in garage fires. It is found that only 4.4% of garage fires in the US, or approximately 1,200 annual fires, are of the type that could possibly be related to vehicle design or maintenance.
Technical Paper

Crashes Accompanied by Fire: What Do the Accident Data Tell Us?

Using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the National Automotive Sampling System's Crashworthiness Data System and General Estimates System, and combined state data from Idaho, Illinois, and Maryland, we examined crashes accompanied by fire. Vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs were analyzed, and were further categorized by type. Differences in fire rates were found in the examination of many of the factors reviewed. The distribution of fires occurring at various points of impact is different from the distribution of impact in all crashes. Crashes accompanied by fire occur more frequently after frontal collisions and are less likely to occur after side or rear impact collisions. The strongest indicator of fire is the amount of energy in the crash. Therefore, vehicle speed and the type of object or vehicle struck during the crash are relevant factors in collisions accompanied by fire.
Journal Article

Full-Scale Burn Test of a 1992 Compact Pick-up Truck

A full-scale burn test of a 1992 compact pick-up truck was conducted to evaluate how temperature distributions changed over time, the manner in which the fire spread, and how burn patterns produced during the fire correlated with important characteristics of the fire such as the area of origin. After the fire was initiated on the lower portion of the dashboard of the test vehicle, it spread locally to nearby dashboard material and, at the same time, developed a strong temperature gradient from the ceiling to the floor. Once the ceiling temperature reached about 600°C, the rate of fire spread increased and, within 1 minute, the passenger compartment was fully involved. Initiation of the engine compartment fire, which occurred about 4 minutes after the passenger compartment was fully involved, was consistent with fire spread through the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) duct that passed through the passenger's side of the bulkhead.
Technical Paper

Common Causes of Bus Fires

Buses present a unique combination of heavy work cycles and the use of various aftermarket electrical accessories that place them at risk for fires. An important step in preventing future incidents is in understanding what has caused fires in the past. The causes of bus fires generally fall into three distinct categories: electrical, friction at the wheel level, and engine component failures. Many of these incidents could have been prevented with an improved maintenance and inspection program. In this paper we will discuss the three common causes of bus fires described above in detail and provide suggestions for improved maintenance and inspection procedures that can reduce the risk of fire.
Technical Paper

Full-Scale Burn Test of a 1998 Compact Passenger Car

Results from a full-scale vehicle burn test involving a 1998 compact passenger car were used to evaluate vehicle fire dynamics and how burn patterns produced during the fire correlated with important characteristics of the fire, such as the area of origin. After the fire was initiated at the air filter in the engine compartment, the fire spread locally and, once the temperature near the origin reached about 750°C, the temperature at all but one location within the engine compartment began to increase. These temperatures continued to increase for the next 6 minutes and then a temperature gradient began to develop in the passenger compartment between the ceiling and the floor. About 5 minutes after the engine compartment became fully involved, the ceiling temperature reached about 590°C and flame spread within the passenger compartment increased. Over the next 4 minutes, the passenger compartment also became fully involved.