Vehicle Fires

R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer
Several years ago, a busy turnpike service structure sustained substantial fire damage. Fire investigators suspected the fire originated within a turnpike service vehicle parked nearby. Separately, but soon thereafter, another turnpike service van sustained extensive fire damage while responding to a road-side emergency call. Mindful of the coincidence, the turnpike authority commissioned an engineering investigation of the root cause of each loss.
An evaluation of the physical evidence remaining at the structure fire revealed patterns and fire effects confirming the fire originated within the turnpike service vehicle. Containment of fire to the second vehicle was self-evident. Based on these observations, both vehicles were closely examined revealing evidence of electrical system malfunctions. Although each fire was caused by different malfunctions, both were related to aftermarket adaptations to the vehicle’s electrical systems. Further, an engineering analysis revealed that the workmanship, not the aftermarket components, was the root cause of the malfunctions. Based on these findings, the turnpike commission extended the investigation to its entire fleet of road-side emergency vehicles. Continue reading “Vehicle Fires”