Why some cars catch fire during snow storms

(WBAY)

With all that heavy wet snow that fell this week, hundreds of cars quickly got stuck during and after the storm.

We first showed you Tuesday several cars left running in the snow actually caught fire.

We wanted to know what causes this and how to prevent it, so we asked the experts.

Melted plastic, charred seats and the smell of smoke — that’s all that’s left of one of several cars in our area that burned up during this week’s big storm.

“The amount, the sheer amount of snow we got was definitely a contributing factor,” says Green Bay Metro Fire Lt. Nick Craig.

Green Bay Metro reports three vehicle fires, plus one in De Pere and one more in Appleton, all while the snow was falling fast.

“The vehicles that we responded to, they were stuck. The vehicles were idling for a long time, and people were working very diligently to get them unstuck, so rocking them back and forth, revving the engines, and the snow being packed underneath them just reflected that heat back up toward the vehicle,” explains Craig.

Those parts simply got too hot. And with nowhere for that heat to go, they caught fire.

“There’s lots of plastic in vehicles, and plastic burns very hot and very quickly, so yes, they’re very hot, fast moving fires,” says Craig.

Firefighters even conduct special training to deal with car fires, because they often involve leaking fuel and the potential for an explosion.

They battle them year-round, but firefighters say there are almost always more during very big snow storms.

And it usually happens to older cars or ones with repair issues.

“You may have leaking fluids that are very close to those heated parts that could catch fire,” explains Craig.

So how do you avoid it?

He says your best help is a shovel.

“If, after a couple of brief attempts, you’re not able to get your vehicle unstuck, turn your vehicle off, clear out as much snow as possible and try again to let that heat go somewhere,” advises Craig.

Depending on where the fire starts, firefighters say you could get a warning on the dashboard that the car’s getting too hot, but that’s not always the case.

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