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What to do if your car catches fire

Vehicle fires happen more frequently than you might think. And when they do, serious injuries and death can occur. The National Fire Protection Association notes that in 2015, there were more than 174,000 vehicle fires in the U.S., and these resulted in 445 deaths and 1,550 injuries.

Why is a vehicle fire so dangerous? One of the reasons is the incendiary and explosive potential of gasoline. Just one gallon of gas has as much explosive power as several sticks of dynamite. And just one drop of gasoline on a hot surface can spark a conflagration. In a split second, a car can become a blazing inferno.

Take these steps to avoid a tragedy

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has published an informative pamphlet about car fires. In case of a fire, it recommends following these procedures:

  • Get yourself and others out of the vehicle immediately.
  • If the vehicle is in a garage, don't try to back it out. Even if the fire is "small", your vehicle could be engulfed in a fireball at any second.
  • Flames can shoot out of a burning vehicle for a distance of 10 feet or more. After you leave the vehicle, stay a safe distance away.
  • Call 911 or emergency services and tell them the location of the fire.
  • Do not go back into a burning vehicle to retrieve personal items. They can always be replaced. Your life cannot.
  • If you have a fire extinguisher, use it from a safe distance. Make sure you have a path to get away from the vehicle should the fire erupt.
  • Use only a fire extinguisher approved for Class B and Class C fires.
  • Do not open the hood or trunk of a burning vehicle. This could cause a rush of air to enter it, causing the fire to grow.
  • Stay upwind from the fire. Motor vehicles contain many components, plastics, and liquids that can produce toxic gases and other hazardous substances when they burn.

If you have suffered serious injuries or a loved one has died in a vehicle fire, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Speak with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible.

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