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Discussion Starter #1
2006 Lotus Elise
VIN: SCCPC11126HL31173
Date of incident: Aug 21, 2017
Miles: approx 63k miles (didn't note the exact milage. plus or minus 1k-2k)

Driving up hwy 17 in upstate NY, my car [which I call Toothless] caught fire. Fire Forensic Inspector believes a pin hole developed in an oil line, spraying atomized oil over hot parts in the engine compartment. At that point, it was a ticking time bomb as other parts melted/caught fire. I, thankfully, just got out in time, safely before it completely fireballed. Scary stuff. It sounded like a flame thrower went off as I was running from the car.

The car burned for about 15 minutes before the fire dept was able to arrive and put it out.

car fire from a safe (far) distance:



post fire car carnage:




Hoping this post helps someone in the future, should this car resurface in the salvage market (I kind of hope it doesn't), also, happy to talk to people about fire safety. Having been through some safety drills at track days probably saved my life.
 

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Sold my Exige S
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Seriously, you get the safe driver award for pulling the E-brake to prevent that fireball from rolling down the hill!!!

Good on you for getting out of there so fast. That could have turned much worse.

Since this was in August, have you settled on a replacement?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Seriously, you get the safe driver award for pulling the E-brake to prevent that fireball from rolling down the hill!!!

Good on you for getting out of there so fast. That could have turned much worse.

Since this was in August, have you settled on a replacement?
undo seatbelt/harness - e-brake - key out - RUN. NEVER go back in for anything (smoke inhalation can knock you out quick)

Anyway, I have replacement thoughts, but with a newborn at home (born Oct 18th) and winter coming, I'll probably wait until spring to replace her.
 

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Nein Kinder
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The pictures definitely show a scary situation. Glad you made it out unharmed.

My wife is a forensic scientist, so we both follow changes in the field pretty closely. As you may know, fire investigation has a big black eye for having perpetuated junk science for many decades. So although your investigator’s conclusions may be valid, I wouldn’t put a lot of energy into it - if that makes any sense.

...also, happy to talk to people about fire safety. Having been through some safety drills at track days probably saved my life.
I’m interested to hear more about that. I have Halotron fire extinguishers in all my vehicles but have some doubts that I’d be able to use them in an engine fire situation ... just getting the hood/bonnet/cover open without getting burned might be a challenge. Anyway, interested in the actions you took in this situation and your general comments.

Glen
 

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I'm sorry for your loss, that's a bad fire.

I've often wondered how effective my small floor mounted handheld fire extinguisher will be in an engine fire.

Has anyone used a small handheld fire extinguisher on an actual fire?

Has anyone deployed a mechanically activated remote engine compartment fire suppressing system during a fire?

Did they work well?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The pictures definitely show a scary situation. Glad you made it out unharmed.

My wife is a forensic scientist, so we both follow changes in the field pretty closely. As you may know, fire investigation has a big black eye for having perpetuated junk science for many decades. So although your investigator’s conclusions may be valid, I wouldn’t put a lot of energy into it - if that makes any sense.



I’m interested to hear more about that. I have Halotron fire extinguishers in all my vehicles but have some doubts that I’d be able to use them in an engine fire situation ... just getting the hood/bonnet/cover open without getting burned might be a challenge. Anyway, interested in the actions you took in this situation and your general comments.

Glen
Hmm, British cars have leaked oil for the better part of a century, it is usually fuel that set them alight.

First off, thank you. I was lucky to get out, as the situation escalated rapidly.

You are both right, I don't put much trust into the investigator's conclusion, but I left it in the post because people always ask "so, what caused the fire." Truth is, I don't know. I'm not sure I agree or disagree with the findings. By the time I saw it, everything was a melted mess. What I do know is that fiberglass is considered an accelerant, and the smell of oil, metal, plastic, fiberglass burning will never come out of the clothes I was in that day. If that's the total amount of my loss (a car and some clothing/supplies) I count myself lucky.

REGARDING THE COMMENTS I MAKE BELOW: I AM NOT AN EXPERT, I AM NOT LIABLE FOR ANYONE READING THIS AND ASSUMING THIS IS, AT ALL, THE MOST ACCURATE/SAFEST/ETC. I'M SPEAKING FROM LIMITED EXPERIENCE AND LESSONS FROM A FEW DIFFERENT DE EVENTS. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH PLEASE.

As for your fire safety questions. DO NOT OPEN THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT, that may introduce a lot more oxygen in. Here's some things I've learned, but I do not pretend to be an expert. There are great articles online about all of this.

1- GET OUT SAFELY: This means stop the car, and get out. But things to think about IF YOU HAVE TIME, are: e-brake & nuetral and pulling the key (or cutting power) so your not pouring in more fuel. (EFI, etc if left on can cause bigger fires)
2- call 9-1-1 or track support
3- Run - it could fireball, or "pop" and you want to be far away from shooting flames or debris
4- NEVER GO BACK IN FOR STUFF - the FD at the scene told me they rarely see dead people in the seat of a car, mostly it's someone reaching back in, knocked out by a lungful of black smoke, and dead from inhalation.
5- If you have an extinguisher, and the fire is still small, AND YOU ALREADY TOOK IT OUT OF THE CAR shoot it through open gaps, never open a compartment. On an elise, this can mean the grills of the engine lid, or similar.
6- Run towards traffic (but safely off the road), so that others know you are out of the car, and don't attempt a dangerous rescue. Or, if you need help, you can flag it down quickly.

Here's where things get interesting. You want to be in your seatbelt/harness while the car is moving. But if you are on fire, there's a risk that the belt or mechanism will melt, or otherwise become inoperable, and pinning you in the fiery car. I subscribe to the school of, "if the brakes are working, undo the belt." But that's not advise for anyone/everyone. In my case, I hit the brakes, as I slowed under 20, I pulled the ebrake, and unharnessed as my car came to a stop. So once stopped, it was just key out, and run.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm sorry for your loss, that's a bad fire.

I've often wondered how effective my small floor mounted handheld fire extinguisher will be in an engine fire.

Has anyone used a small handheld fire extinguisher on an actual fire?

Has anyone deployed a mechanically activated remote engine compartment fire suppressing system during a fire?

Did they work well?
I've worked an AutoX where a WRX caught fire. We went through 4 extinguishers without success. This was due to the driver not cutting power before jumping out. Once power was cut, it took about half an extinguisher to put out the flames.

So, yes, they work, in the right situation.

As for plumbed systems with remote activation. I F-ing hope they work!! And I truly think they do. There's a reason why both the electric cut off, and fire suppression trigger have to be externally accessible on cars in most race series. This car was a street car with some DE/AutoX use, so didn't have it.
 

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Less is Better
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I’m interested to hear more about that. I have Halotron fire extinguishers in all my vehicles but have some doubts that I’d be able to use them in an engine fire situation ... just getting the hood/bonnet/cover open without getting burned might be a challenge. Anyway, interested in the actions you took in this situation and your general comments.

Glen
I've wondered the same thing. Because the rear hatch requires that you place your hand over it to open, I'm not sure there's any point to even having an extinguisher. Although you could get partial coverage by just spraying into the vents.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I've wondered the same thing. Because the rear hatch requires that you place your hand over it to open, I'm not sure there's any point to even having an extinguisher. Although you could get partial coverage by just spraying into the vents.
Even if you could open it... I've been told you shouldn't. Every safety lesson I've received relating to car fires states to spray through the vents/grills, etc but leave NOT to open the compartment until the fire is out.
 

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Wow so sorry to hear! A black #528 Elise? I remember racing at Lime Rock for PCA with this car right before the incident. Glad to know that you're OK. I am the Silver #108 Cayman owner that parked next to you. I seemed to be passing most people in green group but I never passed you! I'm glad you made it out all okay and I hope you can find another Elise so that I can see you out there again!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Wow so sorry to hear! A black #528 Elise? I remember racing at Lime Rock for PCA with this car right before the incident. Glad to know that you're OK. I am the Silver #108 Cayman owner that parked next to you. I seemed to be passing most people in green group but I never passed you! I'm glad you made it out all okay and I hope you can find another Elise so that I can see you out there again!
That was me at the PCA HPDE event at LimeRock (picture below). It was a fun day. My first time with that club, seemed like a great group. Did a lot of passing that day... only saw you in the paddock though :)

 

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Acme Super Moderator ** The Enforcer **
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It is in the end just a car that can be replaced. Sounds like you didn't have a lot of time to spare before it would have injured you, so you're extremely lucky.

I am surprised nobody said "most of that will buff right out".

San
 

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Glad no one was injured.

I saw a Corvette catch fire at an autocross once. It was practically brand new, not sure the guy even had 1000 miles on it. While many here are advising not to open the panel to access the fire, we all attempted to do so... so perhaps it was fate protecting us that caused the hood latch to melt. Someone pried on it a bit as another used a fire extinguisher and managed to get it put out. I didn't hear him say this, but someone later recounted that the car owner said, "Hey you bent the hood!" and the guy said, "Hey your CAR WAS ON FIRE and I put it out."

I think GM ended up paying for the car. Insurance company argued that it was a defect and they weren't liable, something like that.

Oh, and most of that will probably buff out...
 

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-eek- Wow! Glad you are safe. While a loss, it can be replaced. :crying: It was great that you enjoyed the car so thoroughly on track and off. :clap: Hope you get into another Lotus soon. :UK:
 
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