Cars fires are scary — and happen more often than you think

Posted at 7:49 PM, Dec 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-05 19:49:36-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- After a week that saw three car fires in Central Virginia, experts are revealing what is most often responsible for sparking the blazes which happen much more often than many people realize.

Flames inside a car can be terrifying.

"They can spread extremely fast," Lt. Jason Elmore with the Chesterfield County Fire Department said.

Tiffany Cole's car burst into flames on I-95 this week shocking the young driver from Richmond.

"When I got over I noticed the front end of my car was on fire," Cole said.

But just how widespread are flaming vehicles?

Tammy Arnette with AAA Mid-Atlantic paints a startling picture.

"Over a billion dollars was reported in property damage," Arnette said. "Car fires happen more often than we think."


According to the National Fire Protection Association, ar fires comprise 10  percent of all fires in the U.S., killing an average of 200 plus people each year. Across the nation, about 17 auto fires are reported every hour, which breaks down to about 152,000 annually.

Lt. Jason Elmore said flaming cars keeps his colleagues busy.

"We get quite a few vehicle fires here in Chesterfield. Just in 2014, the first eleven month through November we've had more than 150 vehicle fires," he said.

Experts recommend always have a small extinguisher in your car, but to not store it in the trunk behind golf clubs or bags where you can't reach it in a pinch.


Wally Hudson with Goodfellas Automotive said one of the biggest culprit of car fires is a lack of maintenance like leaking oil or gas.

"If it gets to the source you're going to have a big problem on your hand," Hudson said. "If you have any of the joints or lines that are leaking they will leak gas the gas will fume up an enough heat under the hood you will have fire. So maintenance very, very important."

Lt. Elmore said if you smell smoke while driving your car you should pull over and get out and call 911. It is advice that could help save your life when you are on the road this holiday season.