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What We Can Learn From The Jeep Fire Video

On September 16, an overland YouTube channel called Coyote Works published a video titled Jeep Wrangler Catches Fire & Burns—Overland Car Camping Trip Ends in Disaster. As you can imagine, it generated a bit of a stir. The video begins innocently enough with the owner, Casey Kaiser, on a jaunt through the Oregon desert while describing the area around him. Later in the day, he stops to open a gate, at which time smoke begins to pour out from under the Jeep’s hood. Unfortunately, there is no video of the next few moments, but Casey claims that he used both the fire extinguisher and several jugs of water attempting to put out the flames. Whatever he did, the efforts were unsuccessful, and the flames returned strong as ever. The remainder of the video is somewhere between odd and depressing, as you watch his JK burn to the ground while he calmly talks through the situation like it’s a training video.

Although many people have been quick to criticize him, or even claim insurance fraud, we aren’t here to speculate. Instead, we want to take a moment to look at what he did right, what he could have done better, and what we can all learn from the situation. Feel free to watch the video below first, or just skip down to the list of the lessons learned.

  1. Stay Calm – The quickest way for an emergency situation to go sideways is panic. Taking a deep breath and a few seconds to think can be the difference between a good decision and a potentially life-threatening one, so don’t be rash. Consider the entire situation based on the time you have and then act, much like Casey did in this video.
  2. Carry a Fire Extinguisher and Medical Kit– Accidents happen, and it’s vital to keep a fire extinguisher (appropriate to the size of the vehicle and fuel load) and medical kit close by in an easy to access spot. Additionally, use an automotive model extinguisher when possible, as they are designed to deal with the chemicals and fluids used in vehicles. Casey did a great job of having a fire extinguisher on hand when he needed it most, although we aren’t sure if it was intended specifically for vehicles, a factor that could have played a role in his Jeep’s demise.
  3. Keep Your Own Safety Top of Mind – It’s easy to become overly focused on solving the emergency itself, but you need to be continuously re-evaluating the situation with your own safety in mind. When Casey failed to put out the fire for a second time, he had the forethought to change tactics from saving the vehicle to saving himself. Instead of dumping his remaining water on the flames, he saved it for drinking while pulling out other gear and food necessary for survival. Should he have been forced to remain there, he could have had supplies for several days.
  4. Have a Bug-out Bag – At the risk of sounding like preppers, we highly recommend keeping a bug-out bag in your vehicle. This would contain water, food, medical supplies, shelter, insulative clothing layers, and several forms of emergency communications (satellite and ham). Casey had all the supplies he needed in the Jeep, but if he had only been granted moments to grab something instead of minutes, he could have been in big trouble.
  5. Carry Emergency Comms – We always encourage people to carry an emergency satellite phone and/or messaging device with them. If Casey hadn’t been lucky enough to find a cellular signal, a SPOT device or inReach would have allowed him to send a distress message to first responders or would have been able to simply message his loved ones to tell them he needed a ride.
  6. Pay Attention to Your Environment – Emergency situations are always changing. A threat may dissipate allowing you to take a less risky course of action, or it may worsen forcing you to abandon your efforts or change your strategy. Although his Jeep was burning, and he still had no idea how he would get home, Casey had the presence of mind to watch the flames spreading to surrounding brush. He was able to create a fire line before it became a forest fire that would not only threaten the land but his life.
  7. Always Tell Someone Where You Are Going and When You Will Return – This is one of the oldest rules in the book when it comes to remote travel. If no one knows where you are, or when you’ll be back, you likely won’t be missed until it is too late. Make sure someone is waiting to hear from you, and they know where to start looking should you not return.

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.

20 Comments

  • richard labat

    September 28th, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Looks like a grass fire started by the jeeps catalytic converter. We have had this happen in California – luckily we had a water truck on site to put the fire out.

    Reply
    • Dave s

      November 16th, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      Have you ever done camping like this? I have. So sad that you have to be so negative about someone’s misfortune. I have followed this mans adventures and he is a decent man who has shown me areas I would like to explore when I retire. You, Mr Gross, with your comments shows us how poor of a human being you are to misjudge Casey’s misfortune. Courous would like to know what you camping background you have to instruct Casey and rest of us what he did wrong and how he could have prevented his tragic fire. I will look forward to your response though I don’t expect a response.

      Reply
  • Dale

    September 30th, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Incredible video! I have learned a lot from this man’s experience and will incorporate a number of these in my preparation for next season’s adventures. After over 40 years of “overlanding” I thought I knew it all. I don’t. Thank goodness he survived this situation, kept his head, and shared his experience with all of us.

    Several of things I’ll be working on immediately are: 1) Update my fire extinguisher, 2) use simple, sturdy quick release mechanisms for all my critical gear (bug-out bag, cooler, food storage, clothing, etc.), so that they can be pulled out of my vehicle quickly and safely, and 3) train anyone with me how to use this stuff in case of an emergency.

    Thanks so much for posting this. I doubt if I would have discovered it on my own.

    Dale

    Reply
  • Joris

    September 30th, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    A fire that keeps returning after being extinguished makes me think of an electrical issue. A switch to cut off electrical power – especially when a secondary system has been added – might be a lifesaver.

    Reply
  • Sean Steede

    October 1st, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I’ve been watching this fellow on youtube for a while. I really don’t think this is suspicious at all. He’s pretty mellow in some other sticky situations and is clear headed and well prepared. He does handle this particularly well, though I’m sure off camera there were a few f-bombs!

    Reply
    • Coyote Works

      October 19th, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Thanks my friend. Yes, it’s not the first “sticky” situation I’ve been in out there. I always say if you spend enough time in the remote back country exploring you ARE going to have some things go wrong eventually. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when and how bad they are going to turn out. And how bad they turn out has a lot to do with how well prepared you are to deal with them.

      And you are very intuitive… There may have been a few expletives shouted off camera 😉

      Reply
  • Bikerjosh

    October 2nd, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Bummer, all of a sudden my 2 fire extinguishers don’t seem so full proof. Thanks for posting. Next time I pack my truck for a trip, I’ll be more mindful of where I put stuff in case I need to access things quickly. Guy stayed incredibly calm from what I saw on the video; though he never employed my first tactic of running around in circles screaming and flailing my arms overhead. JK

    Reply
  • trent miller

    October 3rd, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    I watched this and it made me rethink where my risks are. Electrical is a big area. I try to use the right sized fuse to protect anything I wire (light, radio ect). I have also seen a battery go Chernobyl from vibration (Internal short circuit) In that incident we buried the battery with shovels full of dirt…It was a good reminder to me that even when you have good equipment and do things right—- things still can wrong.

    Reply
  • Chris Gage

    October 18th, 2018 at 10:16 am

    This article talks about how to respond to a fire…. I was hoping for some information on how to prevent it from starting; I honestly think that is the more important lesson to learn here.
    What was the cause of the fire?
    A new JK like that is very unlikely to have a failure of an OE component to cause something like this.
    Without any evidence, I would be suspicious that it could be an improperly installed electrical accessory “upgrade”. That is a very common cause for car fires, as people installing things like Stereos often hook them up with either undersize wire, or no fuse protection near the battery. All it takes is under rating the wire, or bad routing where the wire’s insulation is compromised, and boom…. fire.

    Reply
  • BobF

    October 18th, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I’d like to know what insurance you had, and did it cover all those expensive add-ons, like the overhead tent, etc? Also, the credit card may have some built-in insurance too.
    Really want to know !

    Reply
  • Robert Eddleman

    October 18th, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Basically shows what a city-slicker is like in the country. He doesn’t say anything about getting permission to travel that country. While it is probably BLM, there was also some deeded in that country, especially where the homestead was. I grew up on a ranch and I would have been hard pressed not to want to kick his ass. Hell he didn’t even know it was sagebrush.

    Reply
    • Dave Schrader

      November 19th, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      A lot of speculation about where Casey was traveling and then a threat by an idiot to “kick his ass”. Really? Sure you would.
      And you think that people will tolerate your shit and violence upon them. Miserable and jealous haters out there.

      Reply
  • R290

    October 18th, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    ABC fire extinguishers work on all fire types, but not very well!
    I carry an AB extinguisher. It’s water with fireaid. 2 litters in size, 175 psi and works on fuel and tire fires.
    I’ve seen a fuel fire in that location before, we used about 10 abc extinguishers without success. Fire department used foam, but it was a carbbq by then.

    Reply
  • justin

    October 18th, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks for making the video. Hope you follow up with this in more detail on how things worked out, insurance, what if you had to walk out, etc….

    Reply
  • Kevin

    October 19th, 2018 at 2:50 am

    Last year we were passing through Death Valley toward the hot springs. We saw what turned out to be a burned out Jeep Cherokee on the trail. The owner later contacted us for help. He said his vehicle randomly caught fire. We thought it was an electrical fire caused by excessive vibrations from the trail. He probably did not have an AMG battery.

    Reply
  • HENK

    October 19th, 2018 at 5:57 am

    Standard procedure in Africa when travelling on jeep tracks through savanna fields: Check for grass clogging around your exhaust clamps or cat convertor every few kilometres. Especially when you stop because the hot exhaust will ignite any grass stuck underneath your vehicle immediately. When stopping do so on an open area so that the hot exhaust cannot start a fire to the surrounding grass. Also, don’t open the hood as it creates ventilation for the fire to spread rapidly. Try to extinguish the fire from underneath the vehicle (where it started in the first place) and remove all dry grass caught up in the exhaust clamps and suspension parts.
    All sorts of vehicles and many safaris in Africa have ended in tears because of lack of basic knowledge of the area you are driving through and how to deal with situations like this.

    Reply

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