Car Fires: Rapid Access to Engine Compartment


Often, the hardest part of extinguishing a car fire is accessing the engine compartment. The hood release mechanism melts and fails before you can open the hood. The following method allows a quick knockdown of the fire in the engine compartment so you can safely release the hood from the front after the knockdown. It also allows for better extinguishment of the whole engine compartment since you direct the stream over the top of the engine block rather than going through the fender or headlight areas and only hitting one side of the compartment.

The method demonstrated allows the firefighters to safely approach the engine compartment from the side and away from the front bumper. It gets water on the fire quickly and from an angle that allows full coverage of the engine compartment. Use full personal protective equipment including self-contained breathing apparatus and complete eye and face protection. Getting close to the hood area while opening or extinguishing the fire can expose firefighters to off-gassing from air-conditioning systems and other car firefighting hazards.

(1) Insert the flathead ax between the fender and the hood, using a halligan to strike if needed. The best insertion point is the middle of the hood (between the rear hinge and the front latch) because it has the most “give.” (Photos by Lieutenant Andy Siano.)
(2) “Flatten” the ax as shown, with the edge of the ax under the edge of the hood.
(3) Rotate the ax handle down toward the ground to pry up the hood.
(4) The opening created using the ax head allows you to insert a nozzle to knock down the engine compartment fire.
(5) Other access methods such as “spiking” the hood with a halligan may be effective but may expose the firefighter as he leans over the hood, and since the middle of the hood is pushed down, it blocks flow of the water stream over the top of the engine so that it reaches only one side of the engine, not the whole compartment.

TOM BRODERICK is a lieutenant with the Mamaroneck (NY) Fire Department and a 25-year veteran of the fire service.

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