Vehicle fire

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A dash camera video of a truck on fire in Estonia, fire truck and police driving, later transportation
A car engine fire on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
A car on fire in Vallejo, California

A vehicle fire is an undesired conflagration (uncontrolled burning) involving a motor vehicle. Also termed car fire or a carbecue, it is one of the most common causes of fire-related property damage.


Aftermath of a car fire in Silver Spring, Maryland.

A motor vehicle contains many types of flammable materials, including flammable liquids like gasoline and oil as well as solid combustibles such as hose. Fuel leaks from ruptured fuel lines also can rapidly ignite, especially in petrol fuelled cars where sparks are possible in the engine compartment. Fires with casualties have been caused by ozone cracking of nitrile rubber fuel lines for example.

Vehicles house multiple potential sources of ignition including electrical devices that may short circuit, hot exhaust systems, and modern car devices such as air bag detonators.

In the UK, accidental car fires are declining[2] but deliberate car fires (arson) are increasing. There are approximately the same number of deliberate car fires as there are accidental car fires in the UK. It is common for joyriders to set fire to stolen cars: abandoned cars are commonly set on fire by vandals. Around two cars out of every thousand registered in the UK catch fire each year.[3][4]

It is often the case in accidental auto fires that the bulk of the fire is (at least initially) contained in the engine compartment of the vehicle. In most vehicles, the passenger compartment is protected from engine compartment fire by a firewall. However, in case of arson, the fire does not always start in the interior or spread there. It is mandatory to carry an in-car fire extinguisher in some countries, such as Belgium, Bulgaria and Poland.[5]

From 2003 to 2007 in the United States, there were 280,000 car fires per year, which caused 480 deaths.[6]


Cars in Hackney, Greater London after arson during the 2011 England riots

While some cases of deliberate car fires are isolated incidents, committed clandestinely, the practice is publicly performed by either rioters and revelers, with little to no retribution. Some tragic vehicle fires have received wide publicity, some evidently due to accident or mechanical or electrical problems, and other due to crimes.


  • French riots. Over a three-week span in October and November, 8,973 cars were set ablaze in multiple cities, including suburbs of Paris.
  • Wilmer, Texas bus disaster. On September 23, in the small town of Wilmer, a bus evacuating elderly residents burned after a tire caught fire due to lack of lubrication. Twenty-three passengers died, 2 were seriously injured, and 19 other passengers and the bus's driver sustained minor injuries [7]


  • New Year's Eve in France, 1,147 cars set ablaze
  • June 5 Chengdu bus fire was a mass murder-suicide in Sichuan, China. killing 27 and injuring 76. There were similar fires in Shenzhen on June 13, in Wuhai on June 15 and in Zhoushan, Zhejiang on June 16. There was no evidence initially of any terrorist connection, and no passengers were killed in the three other bus fires.
  • October 22 Christopher Monfort is suspected of firebombing police cars in Seattle as part of a campaign of terrorism against the police that included murdering a police officer.[8]


  • New Year's Eve in France, 1,137 cars set ablaze, 17 set ablaze in The Hague.



  • New Year's Eve in France, 1,193 cars set ablaze


  • May 4, Five women were killed in a limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge over the San Francisco Bay. The driver believed the fire was caused by an electrical problem.[9] It was later linked to a failure of the air springs which caused scraping against the road, causing the fire.
  • May 13, In Summercourt England a fire destroyed 35 buses - one-third of Western Greyhound's fleet - at a bus depot. Investigators determined the fire was probably arson.[10][11]
  • May 25, A school bus in Pakistan burst into flame, killing 16 children and a teacher. It is believed to be an accident caused by a short-circuit next to a leaking gas tank and occurred about 120 miles from Islamabad[12]
  • June 7, In Xiamen China, an unemployed and impoverished Chen Shuizong left a suicide note explaining why he set off an explosion that engulfed a bus in flames and killed 47 people.[13]


  • Around the 2015 French National Day, 721 vehicles were burned in France.[14]
  • 2015 Tianjin explosions. Thousands of cars, including new vehicles on shipping lots, were destroyed in large scale fires started by several massive explosions at a nearby logistics company.[15]



  • During the evenings 13 and 14 July, around the French National Day celebrations in France, 897 cars were burned by undisclosed people. 631 were set afire and a further 266 caught fire in the conflagrations.[18][19]
  • In August 2017, several vehicles were set afire around Malmö including a garage complex where 15 vehicles were destroyed.[20]



  • June 17, Östberga, Sweden: between 10-20 vehicles destroyed in an arson attack on a garage.[28]


  • January 7, Sola, Norway: between 200-300 vehicles destroyed in a parking garage on Sola airport, due to a spontaneous fire in an Opel Zafira. No lives were lost. [29]

Listed by number of casualties[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " Statistikdatabasen -> Räddningstjänstens insatser -> Bränder i fordon". Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Fire and rescue incident statistics: England, year ending September 2017" (PDF).
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Department for Transport" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Do you need to carry a fire extinguisher in your car?".
  6. ^ "NFPA report - Vehicle fire trends and patterns". National Fire Protection Association. 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ "Monfort charged in 'one-man war' against Seattle police force By KOMO Staff Published: Nov 12, 2009".
  9. ^ [1] NBC news May 5, 2013 "5 women killed in limousine fire on Bay Area bridge"
  10. ^ "Bus depot fire destroys 35 vehicles". 13 May 2013 – via
  11. ^ "VIDEO: Arson suspected as fire destroys Western Greyhound buses".
  12. ^ Agencies (25 May 2013). "Pakistan school bus fire kills 16 children". the Guardian.
  13. ^ Wong, Edward. "Chinese Link Bus Blast That Killed 47 to Jobless Man's Suicide".
  14. ^ "14 juillet: 721 voitures ont été brûlées et 603 personnes placées en garde à vue". Le Huffington Post (in French). 2015-07-16. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  15. ^ "Thousands of vehicles burned in fatal blast at China port". Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  16. ^ "Malmö's wave of car burnings continues". 2016-08-12. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  17. ^ "Malmö sees spike in summer car burnings". 2016-08-10. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  18. ^ "897 voitures brûlées durant les festivités du 14 juillet". (in French). Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  19. ^ BFMTV. "897 voitures brûlées lors des soirées des 13 et 14 juillet". BFMTV (in French). Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  20. ^ "Police arrest one after Malmö hit by 'extensive' car fires". 2017-08-27. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  21. ^ a b "Två anhållna efter bränder i Göteborg". Göteborgs-Posten (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  22. ^ WELT (2018-08-14). "Schweden: Jugendliche zünden in mehreren Städten über 90 Autos an". DIE WELT. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  23. ^ "Swedish roaming gangs set 80 cars on fire". BBC News. 2018-08-14. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  24. ^ Nyheter, SVT (2018-08-14). "Efter bilbränderna – polisen samtalar med föräldrar". SVT Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  25. ^ "Över 80 bilar förstörda efter bränder i Göteborg". Göteborgs-Posten (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  26. ^ "Fem bilbränder i Västsverige under natten". Göteborgs-Posten (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  27. ^ "En person gripen i Turkiet". Göteborgs-Posten (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  28. ^ Koskelainen, Adam (2019-06-16). "Ett tiotal bilar i brand på parkering i Östberga" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  29. ^
  30. ^ "China bus fire".