Flames and smoke aren’t the only dangers Sacramento firefighters face when fighting automobile fires. Fire officials are now warning area car owners to protect themselves against in the event of a vehicle fire.
A surge in accidents involving gas-filled struts is prompting safety advisories for the public and a fresh look at how fire crews handle flames or overheating in vehicle accident situations.
Struts are hydraulic supports used to help hold up car hoods and hatchbacks. While they may seem innocuous enough, the seemingly simple mechanism was at the center of a potentially deadly accident in Sacramento.
Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department firefighter Chris Marsh (shown above) was nearly killed January 24 after a super-heated strut under the hood of a burning car exploded, blasting a one-inch cylinder through the vehicle’s body and cleanly through Marsh’s leg before coming to rest more than 50 feet away.
“I moved to the passenger side of the vehicle and started to extinguish the fire through the front grill when all of a sudden, we heard a large explosion,” said Marsh. The strut was so hot it actually cauterized Marsh’s wound, just missing the 27-year-old’s femur before exited through the back of his leg.
“It could have been a career-ending injury, even life-threatening,” said Marsh, “so I just got lucky.”
Marsh is recovering well from the accident and expects to be back at work next week, but the accident is causing Sacramento firefighters to re-evaluate the danger posed by gas-filled struts.
“If these [struts] are pointed in the wrong direction, you obviously don’t want to be anywhere near them,” said Fire Captain Pat Ellis. “You want to be off to the side.”
Current policy calls for Sacramento firefighters to approach burning vehicles from a 45-degree angle to minimize the danger of explosions, but Ellis said the latest accident could prompt further procedural changes.