Yesterday I was on my way home from a lunch meeting in Culver City. As I was heading North on the 405, I saw a Jaguar on the side of the road with smoke coming from the engine. As I passed the smoke turned from whitish to brownish and I knew it was catching on fire. There was the usual bumper to bumper traffic, but I fought my way to the breakdown lane and pulled my 5lb extinguisher out of me FJ. Running down to the Jag the owner who was an elderly gentleman was just standing there looking at the car and another driver who was holding an extinguisher in his hand was on the phone to 911 reporting the car fire.
From the passenger door side of the car furthest away from the roadway I could see flames under the hood between the windshield and the body, I gave it a shot from my extinguisher, but the flames rose again within seconds. I told the owner to pop the hood, which he did for me but the metal was already too hot and I couldn’t get the hood open, so I went back to the passenger side and unloaded the whole extinguisher into the engine bay through the small gap between the body and the windshield. I knew it would do little, but I had already pulled the pin and I’d have to have my extinguisher recharged so I figured it couldn’t hurt.
If the guy had popped his hood as soon as he had pulled over, I may have had a chance to get the fire out before it caused a total loss. The lesson is, if you think your car is catching on fire in the engine bay get off the road ASAP and get that hood open, other wise there’s no way to extinguish that fire. It’s like the fire is in it’s own little secure vault with plenty of heat, accelerant, and oxygen. It’s the perfect combination of combustion.