I am quite certain that readers of this blog must surely have read the case whereby two petrol attendants of a BP station whose decision to disallow fire extinguishers from their station to be borrowed finally resulted in the loss of a young girl’s life.
Hardly two or 3 days after the above tragic incident occurred, a similar incident took place. While taking my wife to her dancing class one evening, she inquired of me why so many cars seem to be breaking out into fire these days.
Incidents such as these, in which cars of today so easily catch fire and burst out into flames, makes us wonder and ask “Is there a reason for such unwarranted incidents happening today?”
In this article, I am attempting to concentrate on the reason why cars of today seem to be proned to catching fire so easily. And if possible, the article will also provide a few ways and means drivers can take to prevent such things from happening.
First and foremost, every time I read about cases of cars catching fire, I’m reminded of my late father, a lorry driver during the time of the Japanese occupation period, his lorry overturned and burst into flames.
My father was pinned under his 7 ton Bedford lorry. He suffered major burns to his entire body and remained in hospital for months. The above incident left serious burn marks on his arms and legs. He was indeed very lucky to be alive.
In the second incident involving a vehicle which caught fire, the Star newspaper dated 7th June 2010 reported “Siblings die in toll plaza crash”. In the above incident, 2 brothers and a sister were reported to have been burnt to death after their vehicle hit a retaining wall at a toll plaza near Butterworth.
Why are today’s cars so susceptible to break out into flames as compared to vehicles of yesteryears?
I have been driving for more than 40 years and can only make assumptions based upon my vast experience. Amongst some of the causes for a vehicle to be able to burst out into flames are:
1) Car batteries nowadays seldom covered up with rubber mattings.
Compared to former times, where a good mechanic covers up battery terminals of a vehicle, mechanics of today, unfortunately fail to do this.
Batteries, I observe, are only simply fitted into the engine compartment most of the time. This allows batteries to be easily ignited should an accident occur. I am not implying that all mechanics are guilty of such reckless performance of their duty, but it cannot be denied, some mechanics are at fault.
2) Many vehicles do not have fire extinguishers.
Two brothers, friends of mine, and attached formerly to the Fire Department at Sungai Pinang, Klang, Aziz Torji and Tahir Torzi, used to advise me that it takes only but 3 minutes for a fire to fully engulfed and destroy a car.
Think about what I am saying. I’m certain that you from hence will rush to the nearest accessory shop to secure your portable fire extinguisher.
3) The question of fuel and its dangers.
The public as a whole should be taught the dangers of fuel in cars. Vehicles today are fueled with petrol, diesel and of late, Liquefied Petrol Gas (LPG). The octane of our gas used in our cars has gone up. I am not an expert on such chemical things, but it is possible that the fuel used on our vehicles are far more combustible then fuel used in the yesteryears.
LPG, which is normally used for cooking purposes seem very likely to burst into flames fairly easily. The more so for drivers of today’s LPG or NGV powered vehicles to have fire extinguishers in their vehicles.
4) Strict precautions should be adhered to by drivers when filling up at petrol stations.
Young people below the age of 12 are not allowed to fill up petrol for their parents’ vehicles. Neither are you allowed to continue smoking while you fill up petrol for your vehicles. Hand phones should not be used while filling up petrol for your cars.
Most petrol stations, I observed, have fire extinguishers placed beside petrol pumps. The fire extinguishers are easily available in case of emergency fires. Of course, do not expect petrol station owners and workers not take these fire extinguishers into their premises for safe keeping when the station closes for the day.
And in an eventuality or when a fire should break out during an accident, do not blame the station authorities should they refuse to lend you the equipment that you need. After all, they are not responsible to fend for your safety.
5) Commercial vehicles not having fire extinguishers.
In Malaysia, the law demands that it is mandatory for all commercial vehicles to have fire extinguishers. A driver of such vehicles, if stopped by the police or J.P.J. officers will obviously be summoned for failure to have such equipment.
But as I said although there is a law for it, unfortunately the enforcement of these laws seems to be lacking leading to unfortunate incidents taking place. Florina Joseph, 27, a college student from Sarawak who was burnt to death when her car burnt into flames in a 3 am fire along Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, would be alive today if only fire extinguishers were available in her car that night.
6) No fire extinguishers in private cars.
Authorities should make it compulsory for all vehicles to possess fire extinguishers before the issuance of road taxes. If, according to the Road Transport Act 1987, it is mandatory to have at least 3rd party insurance before a driver can obtain a vehicle road tax.
Why is it so difficult for the Road Transport Department to make it compulsory for vehicle owners to bring along a fire extinguisher to the JPJ upon renewal of their vehicles’ road taxes?
Such actions, I believe would at least be able to save some valuable lives in the future. But some may tend to argue that it is inconvenient. But think about it carefully. This idea suggested in reality may save a lot of lives eventually.
The authorities should contemplate about is seriously!
As singer Elvis Presley said, “It’s now or never!” Implement this requirement immediately. Make possession of fire extinguishers in vehicles mandatory.
However, the introduction of such a law has to be implemented strictly. It would be of no purpose if those responsible for legislating this law, namely the police are incapable of carrying out their duties truthfully. In the end, good laws will become useless. It will be the public who will suffer eventually.