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Highway vehicle fire data based on the experiences of US fire departments


Correspondence to: Marty Ahrens, NFPA, Quincy, MA, USA.



In 2003–2007, US fire departments responded to an average of 267 600 highway vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an average of 441 civilian deaths, 1326 civilian injuries, and $1.0bn (in US dollars) in direct property damage annually. Highway vehicles include cars, trucks, and other vehicles designed for highway use; highway vehicle fires can occur anywhere, not just on a highway. While these fires and associated losses have been falling in recent years, highway vehicles fires accounted for 17% of reported US fires, 12% of US fire deaths, 8% of US civilian fire injuries, and 9% of the direct property damage from reported fires. Data from the US Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System and the National Fire Protection Association's fire department survey were used to provide details about the circumstances of highway vehicle fires.

Mechanical or electrical failures caused roughly three-quarters of the highway vehicle fires but only 11% of the deaths. Collisions and overturns were factors contributing to the ignition in only 3% of the fires, but fires resulting from these incidents caused 58% of these vehicle fire deaths. The rate of bus fires per billion miles driven was 3.5 times that for highway vehicle fires overall. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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