Explained: Why do vehicles keep bursting into flames?
Fire chiefs have warned drivers that leaving e-cigarettes and vaping devices in a vehicle could lead to a fire as temperatures rise in summer.
Smoking devices and other battery-powered gadgets can be extremely susceptible to heat, causing them to melt and burst into flames.
In the first three months of this year, Dubai's emergency services responded to 94 reports of blazes involving cars, buses and lorries. Some of these were the result of crashes, while other fires were linked to fuel leaks, engines overheating and other factors.
Everyday household items such as lighters, batteries, power banks, e-scooters, electric cigarettes, perfume bottles and gas cans can start fires if left in cars.
“When temperatures rise, make sure these items are not left in your car because all of them could explode,” said a social media post by the UAE's General Command of Civil Defence.
As the mercury rises, heat becomes trapped inside parked vehicles, and can be much worse than the temperature outside.
Lithium-ion batteries can catch fire as they are extremely sensitive to high temperatures and are found in many common devices such as mobile phones, e-scooters and power banks. They degrade much faster than ordinary batteries due to heat.
“Authorities warn against keeping all objects that have the ability to ignite such as the items mentioned,” Thomas Edelman, managing director of Road Safety UAE, told The National.
“This is the reason why airlines are very cautious about these items.
“Imagine how much warmer batteries can get when left inside cars during the hotter weather. They can react and potentially explode which poses great danger.
“When temperatures rise, gases can form more easily and a spark can basically ignite those gases and lead to a fire.”
The National tests how hot a parked car can get in the heat of a UAE summer
According to official data, 12 people were killed in 1,098 car fires last year. It was not made clear how many such incidents were caused by flammable objects left in the vehicle.
In 2021, there were 314 car fires in Abu Dhabi and 276 in Dubai.
There were 182 such incidents in Sharjah, 137 in Ras Al Khaimah, 90 in Ajman, 74 in Fujairah and 25 in Umm Al Quwain.
More than 46 per cent of these incidents happened during the summer, between May and September.
The number was slightly lower in 2020 — there were 1,043 vehicle fires, which caused eight deaths.
Ajman Civil Defence said car fires have been increasing in the past few years because of poor service, lack of regular maintenance, faulty wires and items left in vehicles that contain flammable materials.
In September last year, an electrical fault sparked a large fire that destroyed 60 vehicles in a Dubai showroom complex.
Experts said unauthorised modifications that do not meet approved specifications and using counterfeit parts that are not compatible with the electrical system of the vehicle made the problem worse.
To reduce fire risks, authorities called on motorists to ensure they have regular checks on their cars carried out by reputable repair shops and technicians.
Motorists should monitor vehicles’ fluid levels and keep fire extinguishers and first-aid kits with them at all times.