Vehicular fire cases fell last year to one every 2 days

There were fewer vehicular fires last year, but the number still worked out to be one every two days.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said there were 195 such fires last year, a drop of 11.8 per cent from 221 in 2018. The number for last year was among the lowest in a decade.

Reasons for the fall are unclear, although public education programmes were launched after incidents spiked in 2018. Observers said the population mix of vehicles had also changed, with older diesel taxis giving way to new petrol-electric hybrids, and compressed natural gas vehicles all but gone.

The SCDF said that to prevent fires, vehicle owners should maintain and service their vehicles regularly, and checks should be made on the vehicle's electrical, engine and fuel systems to ensure they are in proper working order. It added that owners should also look out for fluid leaks in between regular servicing.

The SCDF said most fires occur when the vehicle is on the move. It advises motorists to pull over to the road shoulder in the event of a fire, switch off the ignition and vacate the vehicle. And if the fire is small, try to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher if one is on hand.

Motorist Kenneth Tan had such an encounter on Friday last week with his Volvo V60. The 50-year-old IT manager was on his way to work when the car, which is turning five this year, stalled as he was turning into a carpark.

"All the alarms on the dashboard started flashing, and the wipers and horn came on," he recalled, adding that a colleague walking by waved him to get out of the car, which was starting to emit smoke from under the bonnet.

"A passer-by ran to a guardhouse nearby and came back with an extinguisher to put out the fire."

Mr Tan said he was "shocked" by the incident, as he had taken his car regularly for servicing at the authorised agent, with the last one completed on Jan 20. He added that he has never taken his car to any other workshop or made any modifications to it.

 
 

A spokesman for Wearnes, the authorised agent for Volvo cars, said the case is being investigated. It has provided Mr Tan with a courtesy car.

The main causes of vehicle fires are related to engine overheating and electrical faults within the engine compartment, said the SCDF.

It also indicated that modifications could increase the chances of fire. "Vehicle owners are advised against any unauthorised additions or modifications to their vehicles," it added.

Transport consultant Gopinath Menon said: "A vehicle fire on an open road is dangerous only to the occupants but a fire in a closed space, like our road tunnels, is dangerous to all motorists."

He reckons that fire incidents should decrease with the wider use of electric vehicles as such vehicles have far less combustible fluids than petrol or diesel ones.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline 'Vehicular fire cases fell last year to one every 2 days'. Print Edition | Subscribe