Vehicle SQ in flames: the heat of the exhaust can cause a fire

Véhicule de la SQ en flammes: la chaleur d’un échappement peut déclencher un incendie

The police officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) for which the vehicle was ablaze on Thursday, on highway 40 to county of Portneuf, may well have caused his own misfortune since the exhaust system of the car may have set fire to the brush, a theory which unites two experts.

At 14h on Thursday, a vehicle of the SQ stationed at km 262 of interstate 40 eastbound, near the viaduct of the Chemin neuf, has suddenly caught fire. The vehicle, stopped for a operation radar, was parked in the grass at more than 2 m from the edge of the shoulder of the road.

The firemen had to intervene to extinguish the fire that had spread to the surrounding vegetation.

Originally, the version released to the media was that the intense heat of the day yesterday had caused a fire of brushwood which was then set ablaze the police vehicle.

“A catalytic converter can become extremely hot, over 500 degrees Celsius, and the rest of the exhaust system also,” says Jesse Caron, an expert automotive at CAA-Quebec.

A catalytic converter burns off the hydrocarbons which have not been by the internal combustion engine, to reduce emissions, the result of a reaction with the products that it contains, and which generates additional heat.


“To minimize emissions, manufacturers are warming up the catalyst very quickly, because this is when it is hot that it is effective […] The owner’s manuals always warn against this heat,” says Jesse Caron.

It was impossible to know exactly the model year of the vehicle involved, a Dodge charger. However, the SQ has Load for years 2016 and 2017, and the model is unchanged since.

The owner’s manual of Dodge charger 2017 is clear about the dangers.

“If you park your vehicle over combustible materials so that your exhaust system is hot, you may cause a fire. It can be grass or leaves coming into contact with your exhaust system. Do not park your vehicle and do not drive where your exhaust system may come in contact with combustible materials.”

“This is a situation very, very rare. It takes a combination of factors. Is it that the vehicle was running?”, to question Jesse Caron.

“A patrol car in feature uses a lot of electricity. It is very likely that the engine is running even if the vehicle is stopped,” agrees Benedict Richard, communications coordinator of the SQ. The need to operate the air conditioning yesterday, also calls for an engine that was spinning.

Already seen

“It is very likely [that the heat from the vehicle is the cause of the fire],” says for its part, Stéphane Caron, coordinator for prevention and communications to the SOPFEU.

“We see it more with all-terrain vehicles [ATVS] out in the forest. We advise people to clean up the hot parts of the engine since it can also stick to brush that can take fire and fall on the ground. And in conditions like now, it can ignite easily,” he says.

“With the ATV, when the danger is extreme, as in this moment, we advise you to use paths rather than off-piste. And it is necessary to park the vehicle on a surface free of brush, over a surface of clay or rocky.”

“With cars, it is more rare because, typically, they walk not in the brush, but it is the same principle”, analysis Stéphane Caron.


“The idea at the base when one of our cars must stop on the edge of the road, this is to ensure that you clear the way for traffic. A car on the shoulder of the road will force those who circulate to settle for abide by a security corridor. It creates another problem,” explains Benoît Richard of the SQ.

“It could also be someone who went a little before and who threw a cigarette. All sorts of things can cause a fire. But it does not rule out that this is the vehicle that caused it. It’s going to be a part of the things that we will check over the next few days. And it is important that if it is an element of the vehicle that cause the fire, let it be known. Not just because it is a police vehicle, but for the safety of all users. And that this is also verbalized to the police in the choice of the site where they stop,” concludes Richard.

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