ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 12, 2005 — -- AAA and the National Fire Protection Association will issue a warning tomorrow about car fires, ABC News has learned. Last year, 266,000 car fires resulted in 520 deaths, the organizations say.
"It was a horrible explosion," said car fire victim Bob Aymar, who, in less than a minute, suffered third degree burns on his face, hand and arm. He was sprayed by a gasoline fireball during a violent traffic accident on a Southern California freeway.
"The Bronco behind me was hit so hard that it ruptured the gas tank," said Aymar, who, after seven surgeries, was finally able to play the piano again.
He is just one of more than 1,300 car fire victims every year. According to the NFPA, cars catch fire on American highways once every two minutes.
"The risk of a car or vehicle fire is even greater than the risk of an apartment fire. More people die in vehicle fires than in apartment fires each year in the United States," said AAA President Robert Darblenet.
Surprisingly, 75 percent of those car fires are caused not by an accident, but by bad maintenance.
Twenty years ago, Mary Alonso, who was a student at the time, couldn't afford routine car maintenance.
"I never took care of my car," she said. "Never did oil changes or maintenance or anything."
One day while driving, she says, the muffler erupted in flames, leaving Alonso with burns over 30 percent of her body.
"Take care of your car now, so you won't have to pay the price later like I did," she said.
At least six flammable fluids under a car's hood can leak onto hot surfaces and start a fire. So AAA suggests fluid lines, hoses, caps and filters be inspected and maintained to prevent leaks.
If the car catches fire, experts say, most injuries and deaths can be prevented by moving 100 feet away.
Firefighters advise never opening the hood to fight the inferno yourself because it only feeds oxygen to the flames, making a car fire even more dangerous.
ABC News' Jim Avila filed this report for "World News Tonight."
In the event of a car fire, Fire Chief Otto Drozd of the Hialeah, Fla., fire department recommends the following:
To reduce the risk of a vehicle fire, AAA makes these recommendations:
Source: AAA and NFPA Press Release