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Wayne Parsons
Wayne Parsons
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Fire safety in the home and cars prevents injury and death.

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Two news stories reminded me of the perils of fire in our homes and cars. A truck caught fire on the H-1 Freeway at the Kaneohe and Aiea off ramp heading east at 7:40 am on Friday, August 12, 2011, and the Fire Department is investigating a house fire in Ewa Beach. Both stories were reported in Hawaii News Now. Luckily no one was hurt in either fire but I have seen the results of fires where the occupants were not as fortunate. Fire safety is one of the most important priorities for all of us. Fire injuries are always horrific.

The Motor Vehicle Fire Research Institute (MVFRI) is an independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences organization specializing in automobile fire safety research. The Institute uses multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving including real-world data analysis, computational models, component testing, and full-scale vehicle tests. MVFRI performs objective research to support the safety needs of consumers, industry, and government. Their website is great resource for concerned consumers. The problem of car fires is serious according to statistics from Marty Ahrens of the National Fire Protection Association:

"Size of the Problem: 1999-2001
♦ Annual average of
♦ 266,000 highway vehicle fires
♦ 350 civilian fire deaths
♦ Trauma deaths excluded
♦ 1,230 civilian fire injuries
♦ $959 million in direct property damage"

An average toll of over 250,000 vehicle fires and 350 civilian deaths from fire, is a huge toll of ruined families. One of every 28 collision fires results in death. That is a frightening statistic. A spark from a short in a wire is often the ignition source.

Recently I wrote about plastic gas cans the lack a little device called a "flame arrester" that costs pennys: Do you have an exploding gas can?, August 7,2011. Get rid of any gas can the does not have a "flame arrester" installed. Gas water heaters are also dangerous. They have a flame at the bottom and if any fumes of gas are in the enclosed area, the heavy fumes will sink to the floor and be ignited by the flame causing a horrific explosion. The explosions, throw unburned fuel on the bystanders, which then ignites on the clothing and skin. Burn victims can do nothing to protect themselves. However a gas water heater that is properly installed on an elevated stand will not cause an explosion.

In car crashes the vehicle can be contorted so much that the fuel leaks out the gas lines and fuel tank and then can be ignited by a spark of hot engines or even wheels. In an all-to-common scenario, a rear-end collision crushes the car so the doors cannot open. If a fire ensues, the entire vehicle can be engulfed in flames within seconds. I have seen a real situation where a child fell to the floor in the backseat and when the parents escaped with the other kids they though the youngest boy had gotten out first. In a few seconds they realized that he was still in the car which was blazing. They got him out but not before he suffered the worst possible burns over his entire body. In talking to automotive engineers and crash investigators, I was informed that some collisions are so violent that nothing can be done to make the car withstand those forces. Parents should have a plan for how to get everyone out of the car immediately if a collision occurs. The first thought should be to get the car off the road and exit the vehicle.

Luckily the truck driver in the hawaii crash and fire is safe and home with his family. Let that good news trigger all of us to be alert to fire safety and prevent injuries should a fire occur.