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2.18 Fires

Truck fires can cause damage and injury. Learn the causes of fires and how to prevent them. Know what to do to extinguish fires. Following are some causes of vehicle fires:

  • After accidents - Spilled fuel, improper use of flares.
  • Tires - Underinflated 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, poor ventilation.

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.
  • Enroute inspection - Check the tires, wheels and truck body for signs of heat whenever you stop during a trip.
  • Follow safety 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.

Use normal caution in handling anything flammable.

Fire Fighting

Knowing how to fight fires is important. Fires have been made worse by drivers who do not know what to do. Know how the fire extinguisher works. Study the instructions printed on the extinguisher before you need it. Follow these procedures in case of a fire:

Pull off the road:

The first step is to get the vehicle off the road and stop.

  • Park in an open area, away from buildings, trees, brush, other vehicles or anything that might catch fire.
  • Do not 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 it does not spread any further.

  • With an engine fire, turn off the engine as soon as you can. Do not open the hood if you can avoid it. Shoot extinguishers through louvers or radiator or from the underside of the vehicle.
  • 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.
Use the right fire extinguisher:
  • 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 do not use water on an electrical fire (you could get shocked) or a gasoline fire (it will just spread the flames).
  • A burning tire must be cooled. Lots of water may be required.
  • If you are not sure what to use, especially on a hazardous materials fire, wait for qualified firefighters.
Extinguish the fire:
  • Only try to extinguish a fire if you know what you are doing and it is safe to do so.
  • 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.
  • Position yourself upwind. Let the wind carry the extinguisher to the fire rather than carrying the flames to you.
  • Continue until whatever was burning has been cooled. Absence of smoke or flames does not mean the fire is completely out or cannot restart.
Out of the entire list, this is the reason why most truck fires are caused. Because of that, this will often show up during written exams.
Remember: Never open the hood if you experience an engine fire.
This is an important section. Understand which fire extinguishers to use on different types of fires.
We've seen a couple times now that a burning tire must be cooled with lots of water. There is a good chance you'll be asked on the written exam how to cool a burning or hot tire. Always use water.
Familiarize yourself with the below list. Out of all of these, you'll most likely be asked on the written exam where to stand when extinguishing a fire. Always position yourself upwind.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Review Questions - Click On The Picture To Begin...

If your vehicle starts on fire, which of the following should you avoid doing?
  • Stand up wind and use a fire extinguisher
  • Pull into a service station
  • Stop in an open area
  • Turn the engine off as soon as possible

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Knowing how to fight fires is important. Fires have been made worse by drivers who do not know what to do. Know how the fire extinguisher works. Study the instructions printed on the extinguisher before you need it. Follow these procedures in case of a fire:

  • Pull off the road: The first step is to get the vehicle off the road and stop.
  • Park in an open area, away from buildings, trees, brush, other vehicles or anything that might catch fire.
  • Do not pull into a service station.
  • Notify emergency services of your problem and your location.
Next
What can you do to help prevent a truck fire when you stop in the middle of a trip?
  • Open the hood and take a temperature reading of the engine coolant to be sure it's within manufacture specifications
  • Uncouple the emergency brake line to see how hot the air is
  • Check the tires, wheels and truck body for signs of heat whenever you stop during a trip
  • Feel the exhaust stack to make sure it's not excessively hot

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Enroute inspection: Check the tires, wheels and truck body for signs of heat whenever you stop during a trip.

Prev
Next
You should never use water on:
  • A gasoline fire
  • A paper fire
  • A wood fire
  • A cloth fire

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Water can be used on wood, paper or cloth, but do not use water on an electrical fire (you could get shocked) or a gasoline fire (it will just spread the flames).

Prev
Next
If you experience an engine fire, you should:
  • Rev the engine to high RPM's in order to "suck" the fumes out
  • Keep the hood closed
  • Open the hood and use a fire extinguisher
  • Stop in a shaded location, such as under a bridge or overpass

Quote From The CDL Manual:

With an engine fire, turn off the engine as soon as you can. Do not open the hood if you can avoid it. Shoot extinguishers through louvers or radiator or from the underside of the vehicle.

Prev
Next
If you experience a cargo fire, you should:
  • All of these options should be considered when experiencing a cargo fire
  • Open the trailer doors
  • Keep the trailer doors closed
  • Continue driving in order to "blow out" the flames

Quote From The CDL Manual:

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.

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Next
During a pre-trip inspection, which of the following will help reduce the chances of a truck fire?
  • Ensuring tandem locking pins are in place
  • Looking for any leaking or under-inflated air bags
  • Making sure tires are not under-inflated
  • Checking all air hoses for leaks

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Truck fires can cause damage and injury. Learn the causes of fires and how to prevent them. Know what to do to extinguish fires. Following are some causes of vehicle fires:

  • After accidents - Spilled fuel, improper use of flares.
  • Tires - Underinflated 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, poor ventilation.

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.
  • Enroute inspection - Check the tires, wheels and truck body for signs of heat whenever you stop during a trip.
  • Follow safety 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.

TruckingTruth's Advice:

In very hot weather, an under inflated tire can easily reach high enough temperatures to start a fire. Tire fires are almost impossible to put out even with a fire extinguisher or plenty of water so it's best to avoid a tire fire from occurring in the first place. It's critically important that you keep your tires properly inflated, especially during very hot weather.

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