Ready or Not #128: Car Kit Fire Extinguishers

There was a bad car accident near American Fork the other day.  A semi-truck hit an overpass with some large tanks.  The tanks fell off and hit a couple of vehicles that were following the truck and made a big mess.  Fortunately everyone got out alive, even the people in the car that caught on fire.

I was involved in a car fire.  It was horrible.  Actually the whole circumstance that led up to the fire was horrible.  Everyone in my family was going to meet at Lake Powell for some fun-in-the-sun.  My sister, my friend and I decided to drive down in my car.  My dad and brother and other sister had left the day before, and my mother and three Japanese girls (who didn’t speak English) where going to follow us after Mom got off work.  When we drove into Gunnison, my car broke down.  This was pre-cell phone days and when I tried to call my mom, from a local store, I found that she had left and was already headed our way.

I was young and inexperienced and I didn’t have an emergency kit or water in my car to help us, but I did have a lot of really cute beachwear – priorities.  The only option that we had was to stand out on the road about the time we thought my mom would be passing through and try to flag her down.  Fortunately it worked and she picked us up.  She was in a mini-truck and the only way that all of us could fit was for three of us to sit up front and four us to ride in the open back.  We took turns, but it was miserable.

When we were only about an hour out of Kanab, a deer jumped out from nowhere and without a lot of inspiration and quick thinking on my mother’s part, we would have all been maimed or dead.  Fortunately, and miraculously, none of us were hurt.  The truck was a complete and total loss.  Nobody was on the road and we didn’t know how we were going to get help.  To make matters worse, we didn’t have water or an emergency kit in my mom’s truck either.  The first vehicle that came by refused to help us.  The next vehicle was filled with college students from Germany that were vacationing in America.  They stopped.

They couldn’t take anyone with them to get help because their car was packed so full that they couldn’t fit one more souvenir in without having to leave someone behind.  They decided to load us back up in the truck and tow us down the canyon.  Good idea –except that it wasn’t a good idea.  My mom had to press really hard on the brakes all the way down the canyon because she was afraid of hitting their car.  The brakes overheated and started on fire.  Everyone piled out of the cars, and the guys helping us unhooked the truck to get their car to safety.  Flames starting shooting all around the engine and in my mind’s eye I could see a Hollywood style car fire blowing up, and our truck, and really cute beachwear, flying everywhere.

Fortunately, again, a trucker happened along and saw what was happening and he jumped out of his truck and grabbed his fire extinguisher to put the fire out.  What a relief – except that the fire extinguisher didn’t work.  The trucker hadn’t kept it charged properly and all that it was good for was a doorstop.  I know – a long, weird, but true story.  The truck did not blow up, we did get help, and we had an equally horrendous time at Lake Powell – after we finally got there.

The moral behind this story is one of preparedness – on many levels.  Maintain your vehicles.  It cost less to have it checked by professionals than to wait until it is beyond hope. The saying, “A stitch in time saves nine” comes to mind.

Next, now you know one of the reasons that I stress having water and a good car kit in your vehicle all the time.  We were all dehydrated and none of us were wearing good walking shoes – sensible shoes were just not cute enough.

And last, but not least, have working fire extinguishers in your homes, and in your cars, and keep them in good working condition.  If you don’t know how to properly maintain them, then find out how, or just have a professional maintain them and make sure that they are properly charged each year.

The trucker that stopped to help us was the nicest guy in the world, but he was so frustrated that he couldn’t save our truck (it wasn’t salvageable even before the fire).  We forgave him for valiantly trying to save us, but I’ll bet that he will never let his fire extinguisher let him down again.

Next week I am going to talk a little more about fire extinguishers and what you need, where to put them, and how to use them.

…and get your water stored!

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