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Fire.....Then What!
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fixedgear
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Joined: November 09, 2006
Posts: 300
Location: Clear Lake, Manitoba, Canada
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:25 am    Post subject: Fire.....Then What! Reply with quote

I am prepared to get scalded for adding a new thread immediately after the shocking thread on seat belt cutters:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=546624

But after searching I have not found any threads on fire protocol.

I am trying to envision the sequence of events that happen in various scenarios where fire may occur. Some of conditions pertaining to this may be:

1-travelling solo or with co-pilot
2-children and infants and pets in the back
3-Busy traffic-you have to weave right across multiple lanes to get to the shoulder.
4-Following motorist who may flash lights or alternatively drive up on the left side to notify that smoke is coming out the back. Smoke, of course, is not coming into the cab to the extent that it would with a front engine vehicle.

Senerio#1-You are in the middle lane of a freeway at night with one child, one infant, one pet in the back at night, travelling about 70mph. You notice flashing lights behind. You think you may see smoke from behind, and you think you can smell the burn. The elder child has not been instructed previously about what to do in this eventuality. He does not think he is authorized to press the belt release button, or to assist the sister in the car seat to release her belt restraint. You put the right turn signal on and weave across traffic to reach the shoulder. Fire now is secondary to getting kids and pets out. They do not know where the inside slider handle is or how to reach it in the dark. You slide open the side door, get the pets and kids out. Now, it is night, the kids have not been instructed what to do, where to go, and what not to do. You get them to move away from the oncoming traffic, and the elder one is told to look after the younger one and to control the pet. Now, you attend to the fire. Assuming the fire has been going on for one to two minutes before you were notified, after dealing with priority #1, we are now into five minutes or so of fire with 2 gallons of propane underneath, and 12 gallons of gas. Your one fire extinguisher was positioned behind the driver's seat. You race back to get it. You are not wearing gloves-we are six minutes into the fire. You get to the back and the license plate trap door is red hot. You flick it down and try to position the extinguisher inside, but you cannot hold the door open and it slams back up closed. You burn yourself in trying this a second time and finally start to address the well established fire. You are lucky in that the extinguisher has a large capacity and you are able to quench the 6 minute fire before it gets to the propane tank or the gas tank.

I don't think this scenario is farfetched. Assuming that logical thinking will be the first casualty when disaster strikes, I think these situations call for a preventative protocol. Some of these may be:

1-Children of age should be taught that on a certain verbal cue, they are allowed to press the belt release button, and to assist the younger ones to the same effect.

2-They have to be well acquainted with how the sliding door handle works, and how to find it possible in the dark (fluorescent strip)?

3-They have to be told in advance where they should immediately go to off the shoulder to stay away from a potential bomb, as well as oncoming traffic.

4-The seat belt cutter has to be at hand in case a collision has caused the fire to ignite.

5-Some pre-thought should be given to how the license plate door is going to stay open. A second overflow coolant tank cap or oil filler cap:
http://www.van-cafe.com/home/van/page_274_677/reservoir_cap_-_for_overflow_bottle.html
should be accompanied by a heavy set of gloves in a small lunch bag somewhere near the fire extinguisher. The overflow tank cap is ribbed and is perfect for holding the door open, and will give suitable time before it starts to melt.

6-There should be perhaps 2 fire extinguishers. When travelling with kids in the back, if they are mature enough to have handled duties with respect to caring for younger ones and pets, they may be called to release the second extinguisher from its mount, and bring it to you when called, so you don't suffer the "almost out" effect.

7-A second belt cutter near the slider in the back.

Maybe the lucky escape ( only due to great foresight on posterís part-he earned his luck ) prevented a great tragedy. I think it is a good time to do some envisioning of dark scenarios before they happen. Remember "Just because your not paranoid does not mean someone is not out to get you." Shocked
I would like to hear from those who have attacked a Vanagon engine fire as to whether this makes sense.
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dobryan
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Joined: March 24, 2006
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Location: Brookeville, MD
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:56 am    Post subject: Re: Fire.....Then What! Reply with quote

fixedgear wrote:

Senerio#1-You are in the middle lane of a freeway at night with one child, one infant, one pet in the back at night, travelling about 70mph. You notice flashing lights behind. You think you may see smoke from behind, and you think you can smell the burn. The elder child has not been instructed previously about what to do in this eventuality. He does not think he is authorized to press the belt release button, or to assist the sister in the car seat to release her belt restraint. You put the right turn signal on and weave across traffic to reach the shoulder. Fire now is secondary to getting kids and pets out. They do not know where the inside slider handle is or how to reach it in the dark. You slide open the side door, get the pets and kids out. Now, it is night, the kids have not been instructed what to do, where to go, and what not to do. You get them to move away from the oncoming traffic, and the elder one is told to look after the younger one and to control the pet. Now, you attend to the fire. Assuming the fire has been going on for one to two minutes before you were notified, after dealing with priority #1, we are now into five minutes or so of fire with 2 gallons of propane underneath, and 12 gallons of gas. Your one fire extinguisher was positioned behind the driver's seat. You race back to get it. You are not wearing gloves-we are six minutes into the fire. You get to the back and the license plate trap door is red hot. You flick it down and try to position the extinguisher inside, but you cannot hold the door open and it slams back up closed. You burn yourself in trying this a second time and finally start to address the well established fire. You are lucky in that the extinguisher has a large capacity and you are able to quench the 6 minute fire before it gets to the propane tank or the gas tank.

I don't think this scenario is farfetched. Assuming that logical thinking will be the first casualty when disaster strikes,.


BTDT, personal experience from 4 summers ago. Driving back from a long weekend at the beach. '87 Westy w/ Subaru conversion. A/C stops blowing cold and go to only luke cold, a few minutes later smoke is pouring out the back of the bus, none inside. I pull off and kill the engine. Wife and friends child in back bail out the sliding door, me and my son bail out of the front seats. Fire well under way in the engine compartment and flaming gas dripping onto the shoulder.

I only had a small stock size extinguisher to use. Opened the engine compartment cover and almost put out the fire before I ran out of extinguisher charge. Watched the entire bus get burnt to a crisp before the fire department arrived.

Lessons learned:

1) Even though the fire was well developed we really had plenty of time to get out before it was entering the interior of the bus. Definitely a panic situation but did not need to be. Need to stay calm...

2) I now carry a big MF extinguisher for an engine fire and the stock size one is really for a kitchen fire. I also have one of the automatic extinguishers like joseph928 uses and it is to be installed this spring.

3) DON'T OPEN ANYTHING TO THE ENGINE AREA. This only allowed air to feed the fire and accelerated it. I should have fought the fire from the sides down low where I could have sprayed onto the top of the engine area. This would have slowed down the fire and maybe I wouldn't have lost everything. Especially with a large extinguisher I could have kept it knocked down a long time. There is also no danger of burning yourself since you do not need to touch the vehicle anywhere.

4) Have a way to kill the power. I think the fire started from the A/C compressor overheating and compromising the wiring harness which shorted and then compromised the fuel lines...but this is only a WAG and I'll never really know. What I did notice is that while I was trying to put out the fire the wiring harness was grounding on the engine and sparking which did a nice job of reigniting any gas. I now have a battery cut-off switch (like the racers use) in easy reach of the drivers seat. (This also comes in very handy when I am doing any electrical work).

5) The propane tank nor the gas tank blew up. The propane tank vented the propane through one of the fittings and became a nice blow torch, but no explosion. The gas tank created a nice 30 foot tall fire and burned all 15 gallons without ever exploding. YMMV.

6) Seat belt cutters are a great idea. I have the GW ones on the way.

7) The bus is just a thing and can be replaced. Don't do anything stupid to save it. Keep yourself and your family safe... obviously.

8 ) Six year olds say the most perceptive things. As we watched the bus burn into a charred metal shell he said in a sad voice "Dad, all that work.". My reply was "Yep, but we can get another one and make it just like what we want". And that is what we have done.

9) Be safe out there. I won't ever know what caused that fire and won't speculate too much because it is not possible to ever know for sure. I just make sure I am ready if it ever happens again.

See this thread for my extinguisher setup...

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?p=6547716#6547716
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Dave O
'87 Westy w/ 2002 Subaru EJ25 and Peloquin TBD

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." Robert Louis Stevenson

Join the Vanagon Rescue Squad on the VanAlert app.
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https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=620646

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https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=695371


Last edited by dobryan on Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:51 am; edited 2 times in total
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dhaavers
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen a post where someone mounted a simple hardware-store hinge
so that it flips down by gravity to lock the license plate open. Lift it back up
& she closes up as normal. A simple mod I plan to do this spring & ties right
into this issue. You could even open it with your foot if you've got good balance...???

Good thinking here - & I was just shopping for Halon fire extinguishers...

Idea

<EDIT>
found it...
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


...from here: http://www.pbase.com/spacecommander/westfalia_vanagon_mods
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<EDITED TO PROTECT INNOCENT PIXELS>
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Noblecr
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally a topic i know something about....

I have never had a van burn up on me...but in 13 yrs have gone to dozens of vehicle fires. The causes vary....electrical to leaky fuel lines to mice with matches... Prevention is your best defence. Change those fuel lines!

End of the day its a van, and can be replaced, family can`t. Get to the side of the road and as far over as possible. last thing you want is to get hit as well...

Once everyone is out, then depending on the size of the fire, your comfort level with fire, and smoke...grab your extinguisher and try. Extinguishers are taught using the PASS system...Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the trigger, and Sweep back and forth.

If you can access your engine compartment via the license plate access great...limits oxygen to the fire, will keep the dry chem in the engine comparment instead of blowing all over the van and road. You will have to cover the entire engine compartment. If you can hit it from underneath also, a sweap underneath will help with dripping fuel. A 5lbs extinguisher will put out a engine fire....you have one chance to get it out.

Things to keep in mind....the smoke it toxic!!! Stay out of it. In 13 yrs I have never seen a vehicle explode from a fire....BUT the gas shocks and struts do shoot off. Tires pop with a big bang, and if it gets hot enough then yes the propane is a big concern, as is all the camping supplies in the van...those little desposible propane bottles will become projectiles

Safety first!! Stay calm, get out of the van. Get out of the way of traffic. have someone call 911 asap. Try to make the quick knock down..if it works GREAT...if not get out of harms way. Let the fire department know about the propane tank underneath. No one needs to get hurt over a vehicle fire.

Just my 2 cents worth.
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joseph928
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:57 am    Post subject: automatic fire extinguisher Reply with quote

Blue Bay Bus Well if you had one of these, like I have on all my vans then all your worries would go away! Very Happy http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5...er+install
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devesvws
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

being a trucker the puny ass fire extinguisher required in the cab by the dot is a joke. use the correct type regardles of size but bigger is better i'm sure.
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