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Fire Entrapments



Previous Studies of Vehicle Burnovers


Test Procedures and Methods

Test Results



About the Author

Appendix A - Vehicle Entrapment Study Plan

Appendix B - Characterizing Gases Generated in Vehicles and Fire Shelters

Appendix C - Insulated Boxes for Protecting Video Cameras

Also read about engine entrapment incidents:


Fire Entrapments
Comparing Conditions Inside
Vehicles and Fire Shelters


The Missoula Technology and Development Center depended heavily on the cooperation of wildland fire agencies, locally and across the country, to conduct a study of this complexity and scope.

The availability of engines that could be destroyed when subjecting them to the full effects of direct flame was critically important. In response to requests over the Internet, personal contacts, and interagency contacts throughout the wildland fire community, surplus engines were identified at the Florida Division of Forestry, Los Angeles County Fire Department, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. These engines enabled MTDC to fully implement the test plan as designed, with the engines and fire shelters exposed to a flaming front of fire for varying durations in a variety of fuel types.

Once engines were available, suitable sites had to be found where prescribed burns could be ignited under conditions similar to an engine burnover without damaging the site. Several of the agencies that contributed engines to this study also offered areas where burns could be conducted that met all of the criteria: where engines could be easily accessed and observed, where fire could impact both engines and shelters simultaneously, and where the risk of fire escape was minimal. The Florida Division of Forestry (Figure 6) and the Los Angeles County Fire Department offered burn sites that met these criteria. Both agencies had surplus engines available nearby. In Florida, lands of the Lake Butler Forest Unit of the Georgia-Pacific Corporation were selected. In Montana, the Beaverhead National Forest offered a site where we could to test the engines from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Figure 6-Cooperators provided vehicles used in the tests, such as this engine and pickup provided by the Florida Division of Forestry.

Because the purpose of this study was to quantify the effects of flame and heat on the engines and fire shelters, scientific procedures had to be used when measuring:

  • Air temperature outside and inside the engines and the shelters
  • Radiant heat levels on the burn site
  • Potential off-gassing from the various materials in the engines and shelters.

Dr. Bret Butler of the Forest Service's Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula provided valuable expertise gathering and processing much of the data discussed throughout this report.

Preparing all the equipment, vehicles, and instrumentation for the test burns was labor intensive. Several smokejumpers from the Forest Service's Aerial Fire Depot in Missoula, MT (detailed to MTDC), helped complete these tests. In addition, the MTDC employees who helped implement the test plan were: Jim Kautz (photography), Lynn Weger (gas chemistry), Loren DeLand and Dave Gasvoda (instrumentation), and Ted Putnam and Bob Hensler (fire shelters and PPE).

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