Vehicle, plant & machinery fires

With over 30,000 vehicle fires in the UK each year, the trauma caused to owners and the financial cost to insurers is significant. Likewise, fire damage to plant and machinery can be significant and the potential cost to the owner or insurer very high. Our role is to establish the source of the fire damage and investigate the likely causes so either owner or insurer can assess the issues of liability and take the necessary steps in replacement and future prevention. In many cases, the origin and cause of the fire can be determined and the possibility of financial recovery or repudiation fully evaluated.

At Hawkins, we have the expertise and experience to assist with any fire investigation. Investigating a fire involving vehicles or agricultural, industrial or commercial plant and machinery requires specialist skills and experience. Hawkins has both the mechanical and engineering skills to understand the issues relating to such fires as well as the necessary forensic investigative knowledge. Types of fires we investigate include:

  • Vehicles, including classic and agreed value vehicles
  • Agricultural vehicles and machinery
  • Construction-based plant and machinery
  • Industrial equipment and machinery
  • Investigating a vehicle fire

Our role as forensic fire investigators is to examine the damaged vehicle, and independently establish the origin and cause of the fire. The process of forensically examining a vehicle fire is a detailed and highly structured process that requires the attention of not just a fire investigator, but one with specialist automotive engineering knowledge.

In summary, we typically take the following steps:

  • Interview the vehicle owner/driver (where appropriate) and check the recent service history.
  • Conduct a detailed examination of the vehicle at the scene or at a secure location (e.g. a salvage agent).
  • Document and photograph all relevant aspects of the investigation, including an assessment of the standard of maintenance where appropriate.
  • Cross-check the nature of the damage in relation to known manufacturer or component faults.
  • Check with VOSA for any outstanding vehicle recalls in respect of a risk of fire.
  • Submit a detailed report of our findings.
  • Classic and agreed value vehicles

We have vast experience of dealing with fires in valuable classic vehicles – and not so classic vehicles that have high agreed values. With the fluctuations in the second-hand market, we have investigated various instances of arson for the purpose of making a fraudulent claim.

We are also experienced with expensive restoration work that is, on occasion, poorly carried out, and on the use of inappropriate materials and methods. With high insured values, often based only upon inspection of photographs, we are the ones to assist you not only in establishing the cause of the fire, but also advise on pre-fire condition.

Though many vehicle and car fires do not need to be examined at the scene, we always work swiftly to conduct our investigation. Our aim is to document our findings quickly, but without compromising the level of detail and accuracy we pride ourselves upon. The nature of car fires also means we are able to conduct investigations into incidents that took place months and even years previously. In these cases, a combination of on-site and desk-based investigation work can be used to determine the origin and cause of the fire or any other fire related aspects that may be at issue.

Hawkins are experts in fire investigations. For immediate assistance please contact us by telephone or email.

A real world example from our files

During a complete mechanical restoration of a classic car, the conversion of the engine to use unleaded fuel was included. Shortly after being returned to the road, a fire occurred following a leakage of petrol. Our investigation showed that the fuel hoses had not been changed to modern, unleaded resistant ones and this was confirmed by examination of the new parts list incorporated into the restoration invoices. Result – the company that carried out the restoration were liable.

Though many vehicle and car fires do not need to be examined at the scene, we always work swiftly to conduct our investigation.

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