Fire Investigation at Truck Terminal

Background

A fire originated in the engine compartment of a tractor trailer parked at a trucking terminal.  The fire spread quickly and ultimately destroyed five tractor trailers and two personal cars.  Resultant fuel spills threatened a nearby wetland area, initiating action from the state environmental authority.  

Services Provided

Rimkus was retained to determine the origin and cause of the fire within the subject tractor.  Early investigation established that only hours before the fire erupted, a driver had returned the subject truck to the terminal with mysterious electrical problems, such as rhythmic blinking of all exterior marker lights.  

Recognizing the need for preservation pending notification of potential responsible parties, Rimkus securely packaged the entire vehicle for future examination.  Rimkus then supervised the use of a heavy lift crane and appropriate vehicles to transport the vehicle remains to secure storage.  All remaining debris was shoveled into totes identified with documented grid locations.  

Rimkus later hosted multiple days of joint examinations where hundreds of artifacts from the vehicle remains were exhaustively cleaned, identified, and reconstructed to develop a definite fire origin within the engine compartment.  Ultimately, a failed electrical module was identified in the area of fire origin.  Further research showed that the subject module had been the subject of a prior recall.  It was noted that prior module failures had created similar symptoms, including rhythmic blinking of the exterior marker lighting. 

National Practice Leaders

Samuel L. Sharpless

P.E., C.F.E.I.

Vice President, Electrical Division