Seized brake causes tire to catch fire and explode

Safety Alert Type: 
Heavy Equipment
Holberg Forest Operation (northern Vancouver Island)
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
Western Forest Products Inc.
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

A lowbed arrived to pick up a contractor’s Cat 330 and noticed that the right front trailer brake was a little warm. The driver backed off the brake, discovered it was slightly hung up or seized but managed to obtain a gap between the shoe and the brake drum and assumed it was safe to use.

The machine was loaded onto the lowbed and the driver headed out. It was very dusty and the driver couldn’t see that his tires were smoking until he reached a hardpan section of the road. He stopped immediately when he saw the smoke, applied the truck brakes, picked up a fire extinguisher and attempted to extinguish the fire unsuccessfully. The lowbed driver then called the WFP office, who in turn notified their fire department. A second worker arrived with fire extinguishers, but to no avail. Other people arrived to help. When the contractor arrived, he made sure everyone stayed back.

The tire exploded approximately 15 minutes after the lowbed had stopped. The fire department arrived shortly thereafter and extinguished the burning tires from a distance. The tire that still contained air had been compromised in its ability to hold pressure and continued to pose a potential hazard.

The unpredictable nature of a burning tire must be respected. The hazard of an explosion in any direction at any time is real. The consequences of this potentially deadly release of energy include unpredictable timing of an explosion, extreme noise and erratic direction of flying burning rubber, rock and debris.

The danger zone around a compromised tire (as in this case, burnt but still inflated tires) needs to be controlled until a qualified person can remotely assess and deflate the tire.

(See attached pdf for pictures)

Learnings and Suggestions: 

• Ensure Safe Work Procedures (SWP’s) identify the actions to take when a brake is determined to be malfunctioning

• Ensure the appropriate SWP’s state that until he is relieved by a qualified supervisor, the driver of the vehicle is responsible for keeping the site safe and people away from a tire that is on fire

• Keep all people in vehicles or behind appropriate cover, to the side of the burning wheel (not facing the front or back of the wheel) and in the clear of the potential debris path of the explosion.

• Do not approach with a fire extinguisher

• Call for fire suppression immediately

For more information on this submitted alert: 

Clint Cadwallader, Western Forest Products 250-288-3362 Ext. 301

File attachments
Seized brake causes tire to catch fire and explode.pdf
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