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Fire Safety

Marshall M.

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The following link is something I’ve posted in the past as a FYI regarding the dangers of fire.




As you may or may not know, One of our TX American Iron competetitors, Jim Strader, was involved in a fire during Saturday morning qualifying at COTA this past weekend (27-May-17).



Jim’s car had an oil cooler line fitting fail (Aeroquip push-lock) which oiled down the complete underside of the car. The fire ignited on the exhaust and the heat from the undercar air feeding the fire was enough to breach the FuelSafe FIA FT-3 rated fuel cell.


Thankfully the fire systems, yes, two of them, were activated to suppress the fire both in and under the car before the car came to a stop (driver’s left) on the uphill front straight leading into turn 1.


Unfortunately, even with the car in 4th gear, the grade was extensive enough for the car to start rolling down/across the track as Jim was egressing the car. He was hung up in the door and was drug 70 feet across the track before finally falling free in the middle of the track as his car continued to roll off course (driver’s right). This all happened in less than 10 seconds…


The COTA safety personnel was thankfully positioned almost directly across the track from where Jim originally stopped the car and they were rolling before race control could even radio for their assistance. Their safety vehicle flanked both Jim and his car to provide a barrier to the other racers while Jim was working himself free of the car.


When you watch the video, look at the intensity of the flames prior to Jim hitting the fire suppression system… It’s amazing how easily the fire vaporizes CCR legal “fire tape” which were covering only a few holes in the tub. Even the riveted aluminum patches showed signs of fire intrusion.

Jim’s personal safety gear held up very well, but the right side of his suit was singed, cool suit lines melted where it went into his suit, right glove was singed.


So, a few questions you need to ask yourself..

1. Can you egress your car quickly enough without being hung on any part of the car in an emergency situation?

2. When was the last time you practiced an emergency egress?

3. Do you race with the bare minimum CCR safety equipment? Should you add a head sock and fire retardant underwear to your already legal 3 layer suit? Are your gloves multi-layer or just the CCR minimum?

4. Do you have a CCR minimum 2.5lb hand-held fire extinguisher, or a fire suppression system? (Just a note, if you think you could do ANY good with a hand-held extinguisher in this type of a situation, then you are kidding yourself)

5. Do you have any open holes in the firewall or tub of your racecar? Are the holes covered with aluminum foil tape, aluminum patch panels ???


A good suggestion that has been made is to use a fire retardant adhesive to seal the riveted sheet metal patch panels.



Here are a few pics of the damage to Jim's car.





**Ballast holes that were covered with aluminum foil tape. The tape vaporized**





**Holes sealed with dynamat type material on both sides (under car and inside car) did not breach)**



**Holes with riveted aluminum panel still had fire breach from underneath. Suggestion would be to seal the patch with a fire resistant “chimney” sealer**



**Small pin holes with aluminum foil tape vaporized and shot flames into the cockpit**











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On this page we will offer some safety recommendation, however you should do all your own research as Hyper Racing is not responsible for any accidents that occur as a result of reading this page.


Fire Suits: educating yourself about fire suits can go a long way toward protecting your life. Keep in mind that a fire suit is an investment in your personal well-being, you’re not going to get a second chance.


Safety Apparel Basics:


Fire safety apparel is designed to fight fire from the outside in.

Heat and steam are as important as fire. Steam burns can be caused by perspiration or other moisture.

Quilting is very advantageous in a suit, because it bonds the layers together creating small air pockets, slowing down the fire.

What you’re NOT wearing can sometimes be as important as what you are wearing. Polyester, nylon, and spandex apparel should be avoided while in the race car. Use of CarbonX® or Nomex® underwear should be worn underneath the fire suit because of the improvement of Thermal Protection Performance (TPP).Underwear will give you an additional three seconds in a fire. Other acceptable undergarment materials include 100% cotton, 100% wool or silk, but flame resistant materials offer greater protection.

While it might be tempting to soak the suit with water on a hot day to stay cool, should fire occur, you would be much more susceptible to steam burns.

Another tendency is to keep the suit on during the night/day, while working on the car, waiting, etc. Taking it off during down time will prevent extra perspiration from getting into the fabric, as well as grease or other fluids that can feed the fire. Design 500 recommends putting the suit on about 20 minutes before the event to allow time for the body to acclimate.

Don’t forget about your feet and hands. Shoes, socks and gloves are important. Most people who have been burned in racing accidents sustained burns on the extremities. Check SFI Ratings on these items too.

SFI/5 is the standard for CART, IRL, TransAm, and many other leagues. This is usually achievable in a 2-layer suit. LANCO does not require this, but this is a good starting point if you are considering a new suit. Protect yourself further by adding SFI rated underwear, shoes, socks, gloves, etc.


SFI Rating System

SFI Ratings are simple to understand. The SFI Foundation, Inc. (SFI) is a non-profit organization established to issue and administer standards for specialty/performance automotive and racing equipment.


The driver suit spec 3.2A tests a garment's fire retardant capabilities. The spec contains a rating system based on the garment's capability to provide Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) in the presence of both direct flame and radiant heat. The purpose of the TPP is to measure the length of time the person wearing the garment can be exposed to a heat source before incurring a second degree, or skin blistering, burn.


The TPP rating is the product of exposure heat flux and exposure time. The TPP results can be converted to the time before a second degree burn occurs. The higher the garment rating, the more time before a second degree burn. Here are the SFI ratings with the corresponding TPP values and times to a second degree burn:


SFI Rating TPP Value Time to 2nd Degree Burn

3.2A/1 6 3 Seconds

3.2A/3 14 7 Seconds

3.2A/5 19 10 Seconds

3.2A/10 38 19 Seconds

3.2A/15 60 30 Seconds

3.2A/20 80 40 Seconds


Other tests required by Spec 3.2A include after-flame, flammability, thread heat resistance, zipper heat resistance, and multiple layer thermal shrinkage resistance.


A common misunderstanding about SFI ratings is that they represent the number of fabric layers in the garment. It is actually possible for driver suits with various numbers of layers to have the same performance rating. This is due to the wide range of materials used by manufacturers today.

The radiant heat portion of the spec is significant because the majority of racer burns are caused by heat transfer rather than direct flame. Insulation is the best way to prevent this kind of burn. Using multiple layers of fabric helps keep the heat source away from the skin longer because each layer creates air gaps that have to heat up. The extra seconds gained with each layer are precious to a driver trying to escape from a burning car.


Another way to obtain extra air gaps is to wear racing underwear.

Nomex underwear should be worn with every type of driver suit, especially single layer suits because it will double the protection time (+3 seconds). The 3.2A rating does not include underwear. It is certified through SFI Spec 3.3 for Driver Accessories and undergoes the same TPP and flammability tests as the driver suit outerwear.


A garment's insulation capability is also affected by the fit of the suit. A suit worn too tight will compress the air gaps and allow heat to reach the skin faster. There are other things you can do besides finding a correct fit to optimize the protection performance of your driver suit. For maintaining the quality of your suit, it is absolutely essential to read the care tag on the garment and closely follow the manufacturer's instructions. Fire proof fabrics such as Nomex and CarbonX do not lose their effectiveness no matter how many times they are washed


Avoid wearing your suit while working on the car. Not only would you be ruining an expensive piece of equipment, but you would essentially be inviting a fire to burn you. Grease, fuel, oil, and even cleaning fluids can soak into the fabric and support the flames of a fire, causing high heat. Fluids soaked into a suit also produce steam when exposed to heat and cause liquid vaporization burns.


If you are ever involved in a fire, contact the suit manufacturer about how to best repair the problem. Some manufacturers will service what they sell, or send you fabric and thread to have it repaired.

Even the smallest singe is a weak spot in the material and can cause a problem if exposed to fire again. Proper maintenance of a driver suit will help extend its useful life and provide you with years of protection.


What NOT to Wear:

Spandex/Polyester or Polyester Products worn under Firesuits Spandex/polyester-blended or polyester products have become increasingly popular with a large number of athletes because of comfort and moisture wicking abilities. (Ladies, note that your bras and some underwear fall into this category! See sources at the end of

article.) The use of polyester, nylon or spandex blends underneath fire suits or other flame resistant protective apparel is not recommended. These materials do not require direct flame exposure to cause melting or sticking to unprotected skin. The National Fire Protection Association, NFPA, recently issued guidelines around materials worn under turnout gear. They should be made of materials that do not melt, drip, separate, or burn when exposed to high temperatures. Polyester, nylon, and spandex blends would not pass and can increase severity of burn injuries. When exposed directly to flame, spandex/ polyester can become a fuel source and will not self extinguish. The “stop-drop-and-roll” method to extinguish the fire may cause the melted beads of polyester to imbed into the skin.


Surgical intervention is usually required to remove polymers that have solidified on the skin (with accompanying skin grafts to follow).

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