Three decades after the pioneering development of sugarcane ethanol in Brazil, the arrival of the new century has seen a worldwide boom in the automotive biofuel industry. Although fire safety of biofuels has not been perceived so far as a potential barrier to sustainability of their development, very limited scientific work can be found on the matter. This paper is a first contribution to the discussion of these issues within the fire safety community. It aims at identifying research needs from an initial overview based on existing safety data pertaining to currently available biofuels for transport. The paper comprises a first analysis of fire risk typology presented by such biofuel technologies, including first lessons from recent accidents. At first sight, when considering aspects of fire safety from a technical point of view, it seems a simple problem, but analysis shows that from the point of view of safety of biofuels, it is not correct to summarize the regulatory position by simply saying that fuel ethanol is a flammable product, whereas biodiesel is not. Clearly, a more in-depth analysis of fire safety issues is needed that will also have to consider significant changes in biofuel technologies in the future. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.