This Has Happened Before…UTV Floorboard Fire.

By Travis Dotson

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OK – super simple deal here. Go look under your UTV, specifically look between the skid plate and the floorboard.  Chances are there is a bunch of grass and sticks and stuff packed in that little space. It’s probably all dried out and primed to ignite – all it needs is a heat source – and we drive these things around in one big heat source.

Don’t think it’s possible? Tell that to the folks who have had it happen to them. Thankfully, some of those folks took pictures and wrote up the event and shared it with us here at the Lessons Learned Center – now we can tell you to go clean your UTV up so it doesn’t catch on fire while you’re driving it!

Here are some quotes from the reports:

“…vegetation lodged between skid plate and underbody ignited, burning a hole through floorboard…”

“Firefighter noticed flames protruding through the floorboard. A shovel with sand and the UTV fire extinguisher were used to suppress the flames.”

“Described as looking ‘like a hay bale,’ the material—packed in tightly—completely filled the compartment.”

“While using a 2016 Polaris 6×6 UTV on a prescribed fire, an accumulation of fine fuels located in an enclosed compartment under the UTV’s floorboard and above the skid plate ignited.”

“This fire melted a four-foot hole in the skid plate and floorboard and caused extensive damage to wiring and the gear selector cable.”

You get the picture – now go check your UTV.


UTV Floorboard Fire RLS 2017

UTV Flammable Debris RLS 2014


Emerging Lessons – 2016

We just published another episode of our Podcast, you can listen here:


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We talk about some of the “numbers” from this season.  Things like four cases of early season Physical Training Rhabdomyolysis in four days (May 4-5) and nine instances of “equipment burn damage”  (vehicles, chainsaws, camp equipment, etc).  Are those “trends”?  I don’t know for sure but I tend to resist using the term “trend” because I feel like it’s been thrown around way too loosely in our business.

How many safety officers have you heard get up at briefing and admonish the crowd about some “growing trend” we all need to look out for.  In many cases I feel like those “trends” were actually two personal observations or even repetitious rumors taken as gospel.  Thats annoying because it can add to the fog of misinformation and firecamp falsehoods.

All that to say we have some numbers, in addition to those numbers we have a few lessons.  The lessons typically come from the reports themselves, meaning they are based on a single event – advice those involved in that particular incident would pass along to others.  Sometimes we are able to extract additional lessons by looking at multiple events and identifying similarities (trends).  Here are just a few from this year.

Beware of early season physical training.  We had multiple instances of medical emergencies during the first several days of “critical training”.  When the crew comes on for the first week – be very mindful of how the week is structured.  If you are going to get started right off the bat with a “test” type of PT – what is the emergency plan and do you have emergency contact info for everyone…especially the new folks?  Think about it.

Oregon PT Heat Stroke    Day One PT Rhabdomyolysis    Black Hills NF Rhabdomyolysis

Take the time to make sure the black is cold before you park.  Yes, several vehicles caught fire this season.  Yes it takes time, but think about that sick feeling you get in your stomach when you see black smoke coming from the area you parked in…and then the radio crackles to life and you know exactly whats coming.  Not only parking, but anytime you stage equipment of any kind…fire surprises all of us so stay humble.

Erskine Dozer Transports    RX ATV/UTV Burn     Deer Creek Engine Burn

Do some homework on your tires.  How old are they?  How many miles do they have on them?  Are they on a recall list?  Better to look into this stuff than find out after a blowout and multi lane swerve…just saying.

Crew Carrier Tire Failure    AZ Tire Blowout


Your call.