Allianz Study Shows First Minutes Are Crucial in Vehicle Fires

April 2, 2002

A research study by the Allianz Center for Technology (ACT) has shown that in the first few minutes after a fire breaks out car occupants can be rescued, generally without danger for the rescuers, as long as the fire does not reach the car’s interior.

“Our tests have shown that the temperature and gas concentration only reach critical levels after around six minutes, when the flames break through into the passenger compartment,” stated Dieter Anselm, head of ACT.

He indicated that the main cause of vehicle fires are technical defects, and that the spectacular scenes in the movies where cars crash, or hurtle down embankments, and turn into a blazing inferno within seconds are only possible with fire accelerator or explosives. “They have nothing to do with the reality of a normal accident,” explained Anselm.

He also pointed out that improved safety standards have made just as much of a contribution to the clear decrease in vehicle fires as the replacement of carburetors by fuel injection systems. The main cause of fires are technical defects.

“Allianz statistics show that two thirds of all fire damage is attributable to cars that are at least six years old. And three quarters of all fires are restricted to just one part of the vehicle. An analysis of 204 severe freeway accidents conducted by the Association of German Insurers in 1994 revealed that 29 of the vehicles involved caught fire. Of the 16 people killed, only one died as a result of fire, the report stated. “All the others,” Anselm indicated, “were killed by the sheer force of the collision and were thus already dead when the fire broke out.”

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