Risk management

Fleet safety series

Vehicle fires

All of us are naturally afraid of fire—probably because we know too well what fire can do if it’s not controlled. Do you know what to do in the event of a fire involving your vehicle? 

Regardless of where the fire breaks out, the first order of business is to get the vehicle safely stopped well off the road as quickly as you can. 

Quickly call for police and fire department assistance, or get someone to call for you. If there is any danger at all that the cargo might explode, stop all traffic and clear the area for 2,000 feet. Leave the fire fighting to the fire department—opening cargo doors might result in a dangerous flare-up. 

Tire fires are usually the result of extreme heat build-up. If possible use plenty of water, thoroughly dousing the tire to cool it off. If water is not available, use your dry chemical extinguisher or dirt. Be on the alert for the fire starting up again. 

Fires in the engine compartment can result from electrical shorts or leaking fuel. Dry chemical is the best possible extinguishing agent. If possible, disconnect one of the battery cables to eliminate the possibility of further electrical involvement. 

Auto body fires can usually be easily controlled. If the fire was caused by a short, disconnect one battery cable. Use dry chemical or water to control the fire. If fire spreads, let the fire department handle it. 

If there’s any doubt at all about being able to control the fire, call the emergency services quickly. Especially when fire threatens a fuel tank, don’t take chances—stop traffic and clear the area. Vehicles are replaceable—people are not.


Insurance products and services are offered through Markel Specialty Commercial, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated, policies written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for coverage may vary by state.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.