Car Fire Safety for EMS

Earlier this month,FirefighterCloseCalls.comreported on two incidents that have significant relevance to EMS providers, particularly crews that are not provided helmets and turnout gear they can wear at motor vehicle accidents, car fires and fire scenes.

FirefighterCloseCalls.com referenced recent injuries sustained by firefighters from “projectiles” while working car fires. In one incident a firefighter was seriously injured when a hood strut “took off” and shot into his leg, thru his bunker gear. Upon arrival, the fire was confined to the engine compartment. While gaining access to the engine compartment, firefighters had just released the hood safety latch when the 18″ hood shock strut exploded and fired into the firefighter, striking him in his upper thigh and piercing completely through his bunker pants and leg.

In the most recent event, an Oakland (Calif.) firefighter was hospitalized with a broken leg Wednesday when the front bumper of a burning car turned into a projectile. The firefighter and her crew had responded and was successfully and appropriately protecting a residential exposure from the heat and flames from the car fire, but the front bumper of the car suddenly blew off and struck the firefighter’s left leg. She will be in the hospital several days and will require surgery.

These incidents remind EMS personnel to position themselves a safe distance away from hazard locations at fire and accident scenes, particularly if they aren’t protected by a helmet and bunker gear.

As you are aware, the front bumpers of most cars are attached to shocks that are filled with gas, under pressure with a metal housing…and when they get heated up-they expand and blow up. Hood struts function (and fail) in a similar manner when heated.

Be extra cautious around car fires. While hoselines may have to be positioned to protect exposures near a car fire, in most cases, working car fires are stand alone write offs. Even firefighters that are geared up will most often hit the fire from a hoseline positioned where they are out of harms way.

Struts, bumpers, air bags etc-all pose a significant danger to Firefighters.


1. http://www.firefighterclosecalls.com/downloads.php (Scroll down to “BEWARE THE STRUT!”)