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Old 09-10-2019, 10:56 PM
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Attention, directors: Cars do not explode when they crash


We've all driven past wrecks. How many looked like the aftermath of an explosion/fireball? At most you'll see some flames coming out of the engine.
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Old 09-10-2019, 11:53 PM
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Sister and BIL rolled their car, ran away about twenty feet away, then had this conversation: "So, how far away should we be?" "Y'mean, if it blows up?" "Wouldn't it have blown up by now if it was going to? I mean..." "Yeah, we only had about three gallons of gas in the tank." "Well, THAT won't be much of a fireball..." They genuinely felt let down that their car didn't explode.

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Old 09-11-2019, 12:02 AM
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I don't see as many explosions in car chase scenes anymore. They tend to go for spectacular spinning wrecks that fly through the air and narrowly miss as they skim past their heads.
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Old 09-11-2019, 06:56 AM
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We've all driven past wrecks. How many looked like the aftermath of an explosion/fireball? At most you'll see some flames coming out of the engine.
Fuel tanks do occasionally rupture. Over the past few years the evening news has shown cell phone or body-cam video of rescuers quickly extracting trapped/incapacitated drivers from burning cars. But you're right, these are just fires, not explosions, and they're a minority of crashes.

The canal chase scene from Terminator II has always bothered me, specifically this part.. T-1000 crashes the big tow truck, diesel fuel leaks out, and a spark triggers a massive explosion. Gasoline might light off and burn vigorously with a spark, but diesel is stubborn stuff. You have to soak some kind of wick (rag, stick, whatever) and then hold a flame to that wick for several seconds to convince it to stay lit.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:22 AM
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A locomotive derailed, flipped over, and the diesel fuel exploded spectacularly in Unstoppable, but then, the whole film was a spectacular mess. Reality and that film were like intersecting train tracks - they didn't actually touch.

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 09-11-2019 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:25 AM
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We've all driven past wrecks. How many looked like the aftermath of an explosion/fireball? At most you'll see some flames coming out of the engine.
Attention viewers: The Directors know that you know or should know that cars don't generally explode (well except vintage Pintos). But it sells dammit.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:32 AM
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Well, we action movie fans allow for an ample amount of "movie magic" because we love to look at the spectacular effects. I mean, there are many more things that happen on screen that also vary from the improbable to the downright impossible. If these kinds of things really bother you, you are probably watching the wrong kind of movies in terms of enjoyment and taste.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:32 AM
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Fuel tanks do occasionally rupture. Over the past few years the evening news has shown cell phone or body-cam video of rescuers quickly extracting trapped/incapacitated drivers from burning cars. But you're right, these are just fires, not explosions, and they're a minority of crashes.

The canal chase scene from Terminator II has always bothered me, specifically this part.. T-1000 crashes the big tow truck, diesel fuel leaks out, and a spark triggers a massive explosion. Gasoline might light off and burn vigorously with a spark, but diesel is stubborn stuff. You have to soak some kind of wick (rag, stick, whatever) and then hold a flame to that wick for several seconds to convince it to stay lit.
True, but at least in this case the movie actually gives a rationale for the truck bursting into flame -- sparks from the wiring. Cameron did something similar in the first Terminator movie, where the car Reese is shooting at bursts into flame because of the sparks created by his bullets ricocheting.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:40 AM
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I saw one once on a police dashcam.

Cruiser pulls over a motorcyclist. Once stopped, the motorcyclist decides to flee and pulls a u-turn. As soon as he is broadside in the lane he is nailed by a car coming up behind him. The motorcycle is sent across the centerline into opposing traffic where it is struck and overridden by a large pickup. As the pickup overrides it, the undercarriage tears the motorcycle's gas tank apart and it ignites in a fireball. Because the truck is ramping over the motorcycle, as this happens it's wheels come off the ground (albiet briefly).

Closest thing to a CHiPs episode I've ever seen IRL.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:49 AM
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Cracked: The 5 Most Baffling Explosions in Movie History
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:39 AM
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Believe it or not, George Lucas (of all people) got it (mostly) right in, "American Graffiti," when Harrison Ford's jalopy turns over and burns.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:57 AM
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I have been driving in California for 35 years.

They may not have exploded, but I have seen more than a few single cars crashed, upside down and engulfed in flames on the highway.
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:21 PM
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A locomotive derailed, flipped over, and the diesel fuel exploded spectacularly in Unstoppable, but then, the whole film was a spectacular mess. Reality and that film were like intersecting train tracks - they didn't actually touch.
Diesel fuel can explode in a train crash - happened in the Ladbroke Grove (Paddington) rail crash.

The impact was such that the fuel tank was destroyed and sprayed fuel into the air which led to the ignition.

https://www.jesip.org.uk/uploads/med...20Part%201.pdf


Section 4.10 will be of interest to you, and also from 4.30 which deals specifically with the fire, section 4.31 notes the damage and pressurisation of one of the fuel tanks and subsequent fireball - furthermore the actual development of the fireball is described in some detail, which expanded laterally some 70 metres - which would be pretty spectacular and probably larger than that in Terminator
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:47 PM
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I have been driving in California for 35 years.

They may not have exploded, but I have seen more than a few single cars crashed, upside down and engulfed in flames on the highway.
In 45 years of driving I have never seen something like that. More than a few engine fires that totaled the vehicle, and once I was rear-ended at a traffic light and the car behind me caught fire, but crashed in flames, never.
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:05 PM
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The other thing to note is that in the movies, late model cars don't deploy airbags when they crash.
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:24 PM
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Attention viewers: The Directors know that you know or should know that cars don't generally explode (well except vintage Pintos). But it sells dammit.
So you are saying this scene is not realistic?
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:53 PM
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Victims of car crashes in the movies appear to be psychic. If the care is going to explode, they get out and run as fast as they can. If it is not going to explode, they just sit there looking dazed.

(paraphrased from an observation by Roger Ebert.)
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:29 PM
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Yes, cars don't explode when they crash.

So? What's the big deal if they're portrayed that way? Who gets hurt if it's shown that way?
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:31 PM
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Every person who is dragged from an accident by bystanders who are afraid the car is going to explode, that's who.
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:56 PM
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In 45 years of driving I have never seen something like that. More than a few engine fires that totaled the vehicle, and once I was rear-ended at a traffic light and the car behind me caught fire, but crashed in flames, never.
It happens.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&sour...68317782342063
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&sour...68317782342063
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&sour...68317782342063

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&sour...68317782342063
https://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/30-...geles-61914390
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Old 09-11-2019, 03:23 PM
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So you are saying this scene is not realistic?


This scene was even funny in Germany where nobody knew about a Ford "Pinto", let alone the whole exploding tanks debacle, but just because of the existing general trope.
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Old 09-11-2019, 06:15 PM
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'Splosions are cool.
It depends on the overall tone of the particular film, but I generally don't mind a little gratuitous blowin' up for entertainment's sake. If everything in movies were completely realistic, I'd just watch reality instead.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:09 PM
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So you are saying this scene is not realistic?
No, but the "FIND HIM AND KILL HIM" rubber stamp was totally IRL!
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:27 PM
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The other thing to note is that in the movies, late model cars don't deploy airbags when they crash.
Except in Last Action Hero.

And Falfa's 55 Chevy was NOT a jalopy!
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:22 PM
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Attention viewers: The Directors know that you know or should know that cars don't generally explode (well except vintage Pintos). But it sells dammit.
I feel cheated if the car doesn't explode on the way down the steep cliff, and if it doesn't turn into a giant fireball when it comes to rest I demand my money back.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:45 PM
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Also, anyone who crashes through a plate glass window IRL will be lucky to survive the blood loss.

Which would actually be a cooler way to portray it on-screen than the way it usually is done.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:20 PM
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Except in Last Action Hero.

And Falfa's 55 Chevy was NOT a jalopy!
No offense meant; it's been probably 40 years since I've seen that flick and us old people get confused.

Besides, my Dad had one of those and when he sees this, he will be kicking my butt a lot harder than you ever could.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:03 PM
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No offense meant; it's been probably 40 years since I've seen that flick and us old people get confused.

Besides, my Dad had one of those and when he sees this, he will be kicking my butt a lot harder than you ever could.


eta: the same car was the primary vehicle in the cult film Two Lane Blacktop. In real life, it had a big block, but they didn't exist in 1962, so the car was "ACTING!" as a small block.

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 09-12-2019 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:30 PM
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A locomotive derailed, flipped over, and the diesel fuel exploded spectacularly in Unstoppable, but then, the whole film was a spectacular mess. Reality and that film were like intersecting train tracks - they didn't actually touch.
Actually, they kinda did. That movie was based on a real incident with only slightly less drama.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:44 PM
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Cars don't explode when struck, however they are very much flammable. I've passed cars on the shoulder full-on on fire way more often than one would think is normal.
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Old 09-12-2019, 05:46 PM
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This scene was even funny in Germany where nobody knew about a Ford "Pinto", let alone the whole exploding tanks debacle, but just because of the existing general trope.
Yes, I first saw this when I was still in South Africa and had no cultural awareness of the Pinto issues (or even an awareness of Pintos at all). I remember it being funny, and would have assumed at the time it was just making fun of ridiculously explosive cars in action movies.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:47 PM
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So you are saying this scene is not realistic?
Heh. I loved that scene. I owned a Pinto. It was great - no one tailgated me.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:56 PM
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my pet peeve in movies and tv is when they have someone playing an xbox 360 with a sega genesis controller and the sounds are from atari 2600s Pacman ......
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:42 AM
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So you are saying this scene is not realistic?
What about this one?
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b2w97JHBfEM
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Old 09-13-2019, 10:54 AM
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Sometimes you can see a small explosion inside the car before it even hits the ground, followed by the crash and huge fireball. It's as if the car sees its fate and decides not to delay the inevitable. It always cracks me up. I presume it's something the pyrotechnics guys have to do to ensure it will explode into an impressive fireball after it hits the ground. I saw this a week or two ago in an episode of the original Magnum, P.I., "Limbo" (1987). I seem to recall it happening quite a few times on the 1970s TV series Cannon but I don't remember which episodes.
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Old 09-13-2019, 10:59 AM
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I saw this a week or two ago in an episode of the original Magnum, P.I., "Limbo" (1987). I seem to recall it happening quite a few times on the 1970s TV series Cannon but I don't remember which episodes.
Not that long ago I bought the complete Magnum PI series from iTunes; it was on sale for like $20. Anyways, transferred from film and viewed on an HD TV you can see all of the special effects stuff they didn't bother to cover up back in the day because nobody was going to see it on their crappy CRT TVs. Those little pre-explosions, wires, ramps, etc., it's all painfully obvious in HD.

Still a good show.
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Old 09-13-2019, 12:07 PM
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I think this site might be of interest to readers of this thread: http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics/
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Old 09-13-2019, 12:51 PM
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My brothers and I used to watch CHiPs when we were kids, and we'd be disappointed if there wasn't at least one explosion per episode.
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Old 09-13-2019, 01:00 PM
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It happens.

There was a accident on the highway about a mile from me. A full-sized pickup with a scissor-lift on a trailer was hit head on by a full-sized pickup with an overloaded cattle trailer. The three guys in the first truck may well have been dead already, but it ignited within a few seconds and burned the whole mess beyond recognition.

The cattle trailer broke free and went over the embankment, and bust open. They were rounding up stray cows long after the three burnt corpses were recovered and hauled off. I got to watch it all.
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Old 09-14-2019, 03:55 AM
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Lac-Megantic Irving Oil train explosion that leveled the town and the deadly Montreal Metropolitan gas truck explosion are fairly recent memories in Quebec, so though I might not yank an accident victim out of a car if I didn't smell fumes, I'd move like mad away from any vehicles carrying petroleum products or even a milk tanker anywhere near a road accident if I wasn't 100% sure.
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Old 09-14-2019, 12:02 PM
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You know what does explode quite nicely when it crashes? Rocket boosters that fail their landing attempts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvim4rsNHkQ

Apparently, in hollywood every car is actually built like a rocket booster.
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Old 09-14-2019, 01:56 PM
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Nothing explodes like it does in Hollywood. War is very disappointing in that way.
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Old 09-14-2019, 02:29 PM
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Nothing explodes like it does in Hollywood. War is very disappointing in that way.
Check the video in the post above. Rocket boosters explode at least as well as Hollywood would portray it.
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Old 09-14-2019, 03:06 PM
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Check the video in the post above. Rocket boosters explode at least as well as Hollywood would portray it.
Yes thatís fuel. You need fuel to make a fireball. A hand grenade makes a bang and a small puff of smoke. A pound of C4 makes a disappointingly small boom. Hollywood explosions all include a large amount of fuel to make an impressive fireball.
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Old 09-14-2019, 04:27 PM
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Except in Last Action Hero.

And Falfa's 55 Chevy was NOT a jalopy!
speaking of Last Action Hero, apparently cars explode simply from driving past them.

(criminally underrated movie)
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Old 09-14-2019, 04:32 PM
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Yes thatís fuel. You need fuel to make a fireball. A hand grenade makes a bang and a small puff of smoke. A pound of C4 makes a disappointingly small boom. Hollywood explosions all include a large amount of fuel to make an impressive fireball.
not only fuel, but a slug of concentrated oxygen to go with it.
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Old 09-14-2019, 05:01 PM
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speaking of Last Action Hero, apparently cars explode simply from driving past them.
Well actually (shrill nerd voice), as you can see from the clip, the bad guys are throwing explosives. Later in the clip the explosives are shown as a pack of lit dynamite. So apparently each time they throw a pack of dynamite and miss, it causes the car they hit instead to explode violently as if it were filled with hundreds of gallons of gasoline.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:38 PM
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Yes thatís fuel. You need fuel to make a fireball. A hand grenade makes a bang and a small puff of smoke. A pound of C4 makes a disappointingly small boom. Hollywood explosions all include a large amount of fuel to make an impressive fireball.
When you hear gunfire on the news, somehow it never sounds real! It just sounds like corn popping!
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Old 09-17-2019, 06:22 AM
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You know what does explode quite nicely when it crashes? Rocket boosters that fail their landing attempts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvim4rsNHkQ

Apparently, in hollywood every car is actually built like a rocket booster.
A few differences between the Falcon 9 rocket and cars:

It has a pressurized tank of LOX at its upper end that undergoes a BLEVE when ruptured; that's the nice white cloud that precedes the main-tank rupture/fireball by a fraction of a second.

The tank of RP-1 (basically kerosene) at its lower end is also pressurized. Between the pressure and the sloshing action during tipping, the fuel atomizes quite nicely when the tank ruptures on impact.

RP-1 has a flash point somewhere between that of diesel and gasoline, so if you atomize it (see previous paragraph), it's not hard to light it off.

A tipped-over rocket generally has a fantastic ignition source right there in the engine. Not just a stray static spark, but a big hot plume of super-hot rocket exhaust and engine parts.
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