This week’s Report of the Week is one of twelve on our site that describes the hazards of exploding lift struts. A common theme in all these reports is the acknowledgement of how hazardous exploding struts can be. A second theme is the unpredictability of the detonation. The overarching message is clear: pressurized components in vehicles can and do explode under fire conditions. The question is not “if,” but “when.”
“Brackets  denote reviewer de-identification… [name deleted] fire department was dispatched to a vehicle fire at a senior housing complex.. The engine compartment was well involved with extension to the passenger compartment. Several attempts were made by on scene personnel to extinguish the blaze before the fire department arrived due to the close proximity of the fire to a nearby structure…Engine , first on scene, arrived and deployed a 1-3/4 attack line…There were two personnel on the line and a third was working the hood to gain access. As in most vehicle fires, there were pops, hisses, booms, and bangs, as most of the components of the vehicle began to fail. It was noted after extinguishment that the two hood struts had fired out of the front of the vehicle and buried themselves 12 inches into the ground…”>
There were an estimated 258,500 vehicle fires in the United States between 2004 and 2006; 90 percent occurred on highways, resulting in 497 deaths and $1billion in loss. Vehicle fires account for approximately 16 percent of the fire duty in the United States, (Source: USFA Topical Report Series, Highway Vehicle Fires. CLICK HERE for the report).
As this week’s report illustrates, the hazard of exploding struts can occur at any point in the vehicle fire scenario. Given that point and the fact that well involved engine compartment fires are total losses, consider the following:
- What is the minimum GPM flow that should be considered for fighting a vehicle fire?
- How many pressurized components make up today’s engine compartment?
- This week’s report focuses on lifting struts. Have you experienced any other components throwing parts at a vehicle fire?
- Is your department’s standard response to a vehicle fire adequate for extinguishment and firefighter safety?
- What is your department’s SCBA policy for vehicle fires?
Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.