Fire is the disaster that no one believes will happen to them, especially in cars. Yet fire issues do exist and have the potential to inflict life changing consequences on one’s health, financial security, and quality of life. According to NFPA, “On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week.

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that 85% of U.S. fire fatalities in 2009 occurred in house fires, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that car fires were involved in 10% of all reported fire and 6% of all fire fatalities. Becoming familiar with how car fires can be avoided can help to decrease this national statistic and better ensure safety for all motorists.

When Does Car Combustion Happen?

Mechanical Malfunction

When you think about it, there are many factors that put cars at risk for combustion. NFPA states, “most car fluids are flammable. Heat and electrical sparks plus leaking fluid are all it takes to start a car fire.” Although these elements are necessary to have a functional car, mechanical malfunction can put a driver at risk.

According to the NFPA,

mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires.”

Though not all car combustion accidents occur because of mechanical malfunction, the ones that do, are—the vast majority of the time—preventable. Consequently, it is imperative for drivers to have their car checked by a mechanic regularly.

NFPA has provided a list of signs that can indicate vehicle fire hazards:

  • Cracked or loose wiring or electrical problems, including a fuse that blows more than once
  • Oil or fluid leaks
  • Oil cap not on securely
  • Rapid changes in fuel or fluid level, or engine temperature

If your vehicle has any of these problems, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with your mechanic right away.

Though visits to the mechanic may feel like an expense that can be postponed, jeopardizing safety is a risk that no one can afford to take. In addition to avoiding combustion, seeing a mechanic will highly increase the functionality and responsiveness of your car which make a difference to your safety while you are driving on the road. This action will prevent potential accidents which could be caused by negligent maintenance.


The risk of a car catching fire after a collision is relatively low, yet such are among the most lethal of car fires. According to NFPA‘s 2006-2010 study, “collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths.”

Fires that result from car accidents are very lethal because of the injury and car damage which may prevent individuals from leaving the car. In this case, NFPA recommends that individuals turn off the ignition, exit the car, remain 100 feet from the burning car, and do not return for anything. Again, these fires are usually very rare. Because most accidents do not result in fire, it is suggested that injured passengers not be moved without emergency assistance unless there is certainty of fire.

Flammable Materials in the Car

Because of the fire risks involved in driving, it is recommended to avoid any open flames within a motor vehicle. If one lights a cigar or cigarette while driving, be sure to properly extinguish it before leaving the car.

Likewise, drivers must exhibit caution while transporting flammable materials, such as gasoline; in the case of an accident, these materials could prove lethal.

Fire Prevention

To avoid car combustion, NFPA suggests the following:

  • Have your car serviced regularly by a professionally trained mechanic. If you spot leaks, your car is not running properly, get it checked. A well-maintained car is less likely to have a fire.
  • If you must transport gasoline, transport only a small amount in a certified gas can that is sealed. Keep a window open for ventilation.
  • Gas cans and propane cylinders should never be transported in the passenger compartment.
  • Never park a car where flammables, such as grass, are touching the catalytic converter.
  • Drive safely to avoid an accident. (NOTE: Most crashes do not result in fire, so unless you see signs of fire, wait for emergency assistance to help any injured individuals out of the car.)

Burn Injuries After a Car Accident

Burn injuries can be among the most devastating to experience. Such injuries can tax upon one’s health, quality of life, financial security, future earnings, and psychological stability. Anyone who is in this situation should have as much help as possible to receive full compensation for their injuries, and if those injuries where sustained by the negligence of another, we might be able to help you.

Our attorneys at Christensen & Hymas make it a personal passion to serve individuals who have been injured. Do not hesitate to ask any questions and see how we can assist you by calling 801-506-0800.

Photo copy right to Tony Webste