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Engine Compartment Fire Suppression Disclosure Number: IPCOM000176202D
Publication Date: 2008-Nov-08

Publishing Venue

The Prior Art Database


Vehicle engine fires top the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Car Safety Concern list. To solve this problem, a system and methods for vehicle fire suppression are provided. The provided automotive fire suppression system redirects vehicle engine coolant from the radiator to an onboard fire extinguishing agent disbursement apparatus.

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Engine Compartment Fire Suppression

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2005, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of one highway vehicle fire every two minutes. In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration's (USFA) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) estimates that an average of 325,000 vehicle fires was reported to U.S. fire departments annually in the years 1999 through 2003. These fires reportedly caused an average of 440 civilian deaths, 1,500 civilian injuries and $1.2 billion in direct property damage. Incredibly, more people died as a result of vehicle fires during this time period than in apartment fires.

As shown in Figure 1, the NFPA sites mechanical failure or malfunction as the cause of such fires forty-eight percent of the time, electrical failure or malfunction twenty-three percent of the time and by an act of malice intent fifteen percent of the time.

NFPA vehicle fire data indicates that the number of annual vehicle fires declined by thirty percent over a twenty-two year period from 1980 to 2002. The reduction in vehicle fires during this period is most likely attributable to improved engine components and the transition from open air carburetors to fuel injection. Thus, the reduction in fires is ultimately due to a lower probability of ignition, rather than the inclusion of preventative measures and/or countermeasures to prevent or combat fire.



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Fig. 1

Data provided by the NFPA and NFIRS in Fig. 2 illustrate the devastating toll of vehicle fires in terms of dollars lost to property damage and the loss of human lives. During this twenty-two year period the 421,100 average annual vehicle fires parlayed into a loss of more than $1.3 billion dollars annually-- totaling more than $31 billion dollars for the period. Perhaps the most alarming statistic is the toll on human lives. On average 656 civilian lives were lost yearly for an inexcusable total of 15,085 men, women, and children-- dead because their automobile caught fire. Adding insult to injury is the unnecessary consequence to people's financial situation as dollars are lost to inflated insurance prices, medical care expenses and city and federal tax dollars spent restoring property and infrastructure damaged in the wake of vehicle fire incidents. The question that arises given this data is: Why hasn't there been a concerted effort by the automotive industry to reduce the vehicle fire and occupant death rates through innovation directed at prevention, detection, and suppression of fire?


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U.S. Vehicle Fires

By Year: 1980 - 2002

Fig. 2


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Summary of Problem

During the last decade the automobile industry has dazzled the public with phenomenal...