The latest fatal collision involving a fire occurred July 8, 2020 on Highbury Ave just north of London, Ontario. Nothing meaningful has been provided to inform the public about the relevance of the fire to the traffic death. (Photo provided by OPPĀ  on Twitter)

Do vehicle fires represent a growing safety problem when vehicles collide? Not only is an answer unavailable but the question is not being asked. This despite an alarming number of vehicle fires that keep occurring during collisions.

The most recent vehicle fire occurred when a transport truck and SUV collided on Highbury Ave just north of Eight Mile Road, just north of the city limits of London, Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) made the first report of the incident via their Twitter account, informing drivers that they should stay away from the area. They also provided two photos, one shown above, and the other shown below.

Second of two photos provided by the OPP showing the aftermath of a vehicle fire in which one driver was killed. No other information was provided.

While it is early in the investigation and therefore it may be understandable that little information would be available, the pattern from many previous fire incidents is that no meaningful information is likely to be disclosed to the public about the relevance the fire to the death of one of the drivers. The claim is often made that the public does not need to know this information or that it needs to be kept from the public’s knowledge to protect the sensitivities of the families involved. Many safety problems of the past have existed for years because information that could have triggered an revelation and correction of the problem was kept from the public’s knowledge.

With respect to vehicle fires they should not be accepted as an inevitable outcome. Government standards exist that require a minimum level of protection with respect to design and manufacture so that the potential is kept to a minimum. Obviously the effectiveness of advanced safety systems that have populated modern vehicles is non-existent when a fire engulfs a vehicle and traps occupants inside. The source of a vehicle fire needs to be thoroughly investigated by persons who are competent in identifying the source. No investigation can be deemed appropriate when it is performed by a person not qualified in detecting the fire source. Ultimately information about any vehicle fire should be filed with Transport Canada or NHTSA in the U.S. so that trends can be identified. It should not be left unknown whether such procedures have been followed by police investigators. At present there is little information in any official, public documentations of collisions as to the prevalence of fires and if they are becoming more common.

Modern vehicles have an increased need for electronics and more powerful electronic circuits and batteries. When those circuits are damaged they can be the “match that lights the flame”. It is therefore extremely important to maintain vigilance whether such sources are becoming more prevalent. There appear to be more incidents of vehicles catching fire even when they are not involved in collision but are simply sitting in a parking lot or being driven on a roadway. These incidents continue to be ignored by police and news media when no injuries have occurred. Yet they can be the canariesĀ  the coal mine that could lead to preventing a future fatality.

As shown in the above photos a vehicle fire can spread to other vehicles leading to potential large scale dangers. This further indicates the very important need to understand how and why a fire was initiated.