Vehicle fires do not merit unnecessary risks

Why do we as a fire service place ourselves at substantial risk to save burning vehicles in the first place?

We've had a lot of discussion on the FireRescue1 website lately about proper PPE use in various fire scenarios.

This video certainly demonstrates the importance of wearing full Structural Firefighter Protective Clothing (SFPC) and SCBA (with facepiece in-place and breathing air) on vehicle fires, even seemingly "routine ones." (Also on the good news front, this crew has a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy.)

Just imagine the facial (and lung) injuries the nozzle firefighter could have sustained without SCBA and facepiece; although I'm completely perplexed that shortly after the firefighter on the line experiences the blow-up, another firefighter approaches the car without SCBA?

But to me, that's not the central question in this video. The bigger question is why we (as a service, and I've done it too) place ourselves at substantial risk to save burning vehicles in the first place?

How much was this car worth before the fire? How much was it worth at the point firefighters arrived? My guess is that the insurance company would have ruled it a total loss with or without fire department intervention. Moreover, do you think the owner will be happy or sad to get that check in the mail?

Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little, risk nothing to save nothing. Is your life worth a couple thousand bucks for a car?

Just a question...answer for yourself, or your family.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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