Truck fires can cause damage and injury. Learn the causes of fires and how to prevent them. Know what to do to extinguish fires.
2.21.1 – Causes of Fire
The following are some causes of vehicle fires:
- After Accidents. Spilled fuel, improper use of flares.
- Tires. Under-inflated tires and duals that touch.
- Electrical System. Short circuits due to damaged insulation, loose connections.
- Fuel. Driver smoking, improper fueling, loose fuel connections.
- Cargo. Flammable cargo, improperly sealed or loaded cargo, poor ventilation.
2.21.2 – Fire Prevention
Pay attention to the following:
- Pre-trip Inspection. Make a complete inspection of the electrical, fuel, and exhaust systems, tires, and cargo. Be sure to check that the fire extinguisher is charged.
- En Route Inspection. Check the tires, wheels, and truck body for signs of heat whenever you stop during a trip.
- Follow Safe Procedures. Follow correct safety procedures for fueling the vehicle, using brakes, handling flares, and other activities that can cause a fire.
- Monitoring. Check the instruments and gauges often for signs of overheating and use the mirrors to look for signs of smoke from tires or the vehicle.
- Caution. Use normal caution in handling anything flammable.
2.21.3 – Fire Fighting
Knowing how to fight fires is important. Drivers who didn’t know what to do have made fires worse. Know how the fire extinguisher works. Study the instructions printed on the extinguisher before you need it. Here are some procedures to follow in case of fire.
Pull Off the Road. The first step is to get the vehicle off the road and stop. In doing so:
- Park in an open area, away from buildings, trees, brush, other vehicles, or anything that might catch fire.
- Don’t pull into a service station!
- Notify emergency services of your problem and your location.
Keep the Fire from Spreading. Before trying to put out the fire, make sure that it doesn’t spread any further.
- With an engine fire, turn off the engine as soon as you can. Don’t open the hood if you can avoid it. Shoot foam through louvers, radiator, or from the vehicle’s underside.
- For a cargo fire in a van or box trailer, keep the doors shut, especially if your cargo contains hazardous materials. Opening the van doors will supply the fire with oxygen and can cause it to burn very fast.
Extinguish the Fire. Here are some rules to follow in putting out a fire:
- When using the extinguisher, stay as far away from the fire as possible.
- Aim at the source or base of the fire, not up in the flames.
Use the Right Fire Extinguisher
- Figures 2.20 and 2.21 detail the type of fire extinguisher to use by class of fire.
Class/Type of Fires
Wood, Paper, Ordinary Combustibles
Extinguish by Cooling and Quenching
Using Water or Dry Chemicals
Gasoline, Oil, Grease, Other Greasy Liquids
Extinguish by Smothering, Cooling
or Heat Shielding using carbon Dioxide
or Dry Chemicals
Electrical Equipment Fires
Extinguish with Nonconducting Agents such as Carbon Dioxide or Dry Chemicals. DO NOT USE WATER.
Fires in Combustible Metals
Extinguish by Using Specialized
Class of Fire/ Type of Extinguisher
Class of Fire
Fire Extinguisher Type
B or C
Regular Dry Chemical
A, B, C or D
Multi Purpose Dry Chemical
Purple K Dry Chemical
B or C
KCL Dry Chemical
Dry Powder Special Compound
B or C
Carbon Dioxide (Dry)
B or C
Halogenated Agent (Gas)
Water With Anti-Freeze
A or B
Water, Loaded Steam Style
B, On Some A
- The B:C type fire extinguisher is designed to work on electrical fires and burning liquids.
- The A:B:C type is designed to work on burning wood, paper, and cloth as well.
- Water can be used on wood, paper, or cloth, but don’t use water on an electrical fire (can cause shock) or a gasoline fire (it will spread the flames).
- A burning tire must be cooled. Lots of water may be required.
- If you’re not sure what to use, especially on a hazardous materials fire, wait for firefighters.
- Position yourself upwind. Let the wind carry the extinguisher to the fire.
- Continue until whatever was burning has been cooled. Absence of smoke or flame does not mean the fire cannot restart.