Is It Time to Change Our Training Yet? Part 4: Magnesium Fires
A small piece of magnesium in the stearing column reacts to water in Delray Beach, Florida. (Photo: Lee Junkins)
Lee Junkins, Midsouth Rescue Technologies
Remember the Golden Rule of Vehicle Fires! If you see flames showing upon arrival, that vehicle is already a total loss.
Today’s vehicles are built to absorb impact in a crash. They have small indentions in the body panels that allow them to bend in certain places, these are called crumple zones. Once these panels are exposed to heat, the thin metal will warp, distorting these crumple zones and in turn making the vehicle unsafe, should it be involved in a crash. Therefore the insurance companies consider them a total loss.
Do not risk your life or safety for a $50 pile of scrap iron!
Our biggest danger of magnesium splatter is the engine compartment, with as high as 45% of its components being magnesium. We should never open the hood of the vehicle until the fire is totally knocked down.
We have always had a firefighter open the hood with a halligan bar and put the fire out. Today this would be a sure way to get both him and the nozzle man splattered. Consider sliding the ads end of the halligan bar between the hood and fender, bend it up about three inches and shoot a small amount of water into the engine compartment. This would stop any spatter from hitting the firefighter. Also, steam conversion is the very best tool we have to fight vehicle fires, if you push the hood back down holding the steam in, most all of the fire will be put out. Then as we raise the hood we can see what we have.