Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-07-2019, 12:29 PM
Hermione is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 721

What could make a parked car burst into flames in the dead of night?


So.

I live in a condo complex. We all have our own designated parking spots.

This morning, just before four, I was awakened by a car horn. I thought it was a car alarm, but it was droning, as if someone were leaning on it. It stopped after a minute or so.

Moments later, I heard a "whoosh" or "bang". I got up and went to the window.

The front end of the SUV/truck two spaces down from my car (with nothing in the intervening space) was ablaze.

I immediately called 911, but someone had already called it in. At first I stayed put because I thought that was safest, but a few minutes later the police rang my bell and asked me to come outside, along with the other neighbors in my building (eight condos a building) in case an ember landed on the roof or something. So I came out in my thick robe but barefoot . They told us to get farther behind the building in case it blew...that was the danger, that it would reach the gas tank and it would blow up. A few minutes later, the firemen arrived and started putting it out--no explosion. I told them and the fire investigator everything I just told you guys.

Nobody was hurt--the most important thing. My car had nothing worse than soot (just took it to the car wash), but the car right next to it suffered serious heat damage. But the funny thing is...I don't think the owner of the SUV or the owner of the car next to it were around. At least, no one was out there yelling, "Jesus Christ, my car!!!" and the heat-damaged one was still there this morning--no sign of insurance photographers or anything that I could see before I left for work. Then again, I don't know my neighbors well--I'm out and about so much with my caregiving duties for my mother and other things that I'm afraid I don't have much time to talk to them. Except for the new-ish downstairs neighbors, a middle-aged couple...they helped me when some kids took the Amazon package off my front step (twice!) and flung it out into the parking lot by taking it in until I got home and looked for it. I've talked to them quite a few times and they're nice. (They weren't home and it wasn't their car.)

But what in God's name could cause a parked car, not turned on, to catch fire in the middle of the night? I've been reading some reports of parked BMWs catching fire, but I don't know if this was a BMW. One of my co-workers suggests that maybe a squirrel/cat/raccoon/what-have-you got into it and chewed on the wires. Then, of course, there's always the possibility of foul play...

So what do you guys think?
__________________
We are of the spirit,
Truly of the spirit,
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around.
--Harry Belafonte (with the Muppets)
  #2  
Old 11-07-2019, 12:36 PM
carnivorousplant is offline
KB not found. Press any key
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Central Arkansas
Posts: 59,254
I'm familiar with a car catching fire because the carburetor leaked. I presume gas came into contact with the hot engine.
__________________
You callous bastard! More of my illusions have just been shattered!!-G0sp3l
  #3  
Old 11-07-2019, 12:38 PM
Hermione is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 721
Quote:
Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
I'm familiar with a car catching fire because the carburetor leaked. I presume gas came into contact with the hot engine.
Well, that's the thing...would it still be hot if the car had been turned off all night? I'm no mechanic... Then again, I didn't notice if it the car had been there when I came home from work after 9 PM.
__________________
We are of the spirit,
Truly of the spirit,
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around.
--Harry Belafonte (with the Muppets)

Last edited by Hermione; 11-07-2019 at 12:39 PM.
  #4  
Old 11-07-2019, 12:43 PM
snfaulkner's Avatar
snfaulkner is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2015
Location: 123 Fake Street
Posts: 8,238
Short circuit can cause a lot of heat and or sparks which can cause fires. Especially if there is a gas leak as well.
__________________
It may be because I'm a drooling simpleton with the attention span of a demented gnat, but would you mind explaining everything in words of one syllable. 140 chars max.
  #5  
Old 11-07-2019, 12:47 PM
Spiderman's Avatar
Spiderman is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: somewhere East of there
Posts: 11,136
This time of year a hot engine parked over dry leaves can cause them to catch fire. Are you sure all of your neighbors came out? Maybe they got home late, were extremely tired, immediately fell asleep & didn't hear the cops knocking?

OTOH, if the car was parked for some time & was cool I'd think vandalism.
  #6  
Old 11-07-2019, 12:55 PM
Hermione is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 721
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spiderman View Post
This time of year a hot engine parked over dry leaves can cause them to catch fire. Are you sure all of your neighbors came out? Maybe they got home late, were extremely tired, immediately fell asleep & didn't hear the cops knocking?

OTOH, if the car was parked for some time & was cool I'd think vandalism.
My cousin on Facebook mentioned the possibility of leaves, but I don't think there were any. As for what you say about the neighbors, the cops were pretty thorough, but there's always the possibility. I believe the car was parked for most of the night, but then again, as I said, it may or may not have been there when I got home...it's just one of those things you don't really register.
__________________
We are of the spirit,
Truly of the spirit,
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around.
--Harry Belafonte (with the Muppets)
  #7  
Old 11-07-2019, 01:06 PM
Hermione is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 721
Quote:
Originally Posted by snfaulkner View Post
Short circuit can cause a lot of heat and or sparks which can cause fires. Especially if there is a gas leak as well.
I wonder if the car horn I first heard was due to a short circuit...
__________________
We are of the spirit,
Truly of the spirit,
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around.
--Harry Belafonte (with the Muppets)
  #8  
Old 11-07-2019, 01:09 PM
Folly's Avatar
Folly is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Chicago! (no more burbs)
Posts: 2,330
*looks at username*

Incendio?
  #9  
Old 11-07-2019, 01:09 PM
Hermione is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 721
Quote:
Originally Posted by Folly View Post
*looks at username*

Incendio?
__________________
We are of the spirit,
Truly of the spirit,
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around.
--Harry Belafonte (with the Muppets)
  #10  
Old 11-07-2019, 01:24 PM
kayaker's Avatar
kayaker is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Rural Western PA
Posts: 33,080

What could make a parked car burst into flames in the dead of night?


Debt collection.
  #11  
Old 11-07-2019, 04:26 PM
lingyi is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 2,096
There was a thread about a car suddenly bursting into flames while parked outside a restaurant. Many of the posters guessed a short either at the battery itself or wiring.

Also, whether the car was there or not when you came home is irrelevant. The owner could have gone out and come back minutes before it caught fire. Not everyone has a 9-5 job and 10pm bedtime. At one point, I used to get home from work about 6pm, then get called to go to the bar at 10pm and stay till the 2am closing. Rinse and repeat several times a week.

Last edited by lingyi; 11-07-2019 at 04:31 PM.
  #12  
Old 11-07-2019, 04:51 PM
bobsmom101 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermione View Post
So.



I live in a condo complex. We all have our own designated parking spots.



This morning, just before four, I was awakened by a car horn. I thought it was a car alarm, but it was droning, as if someone were leaning on it. It stopped after a minute or so.



Moments later, I heard a "whoosh" or "bang". I got up and went to the window.



The front end of the SUV/truck two spaces down from my car (with nothing in the intervening space) was ablaze.



I immediately called 911, but someone had already called it in. At first I stayed put because I thought that was safest, but a few minutes later the police rang my bell and asked me to come outside, along with the other neighbors in my building (eight condos a building) in case an ember landed on the roof or something. So I came out in my thick robe but barefoot . They told us to get farther behind the building in case it blew...that was the danger, that it would reach the gas tank and it would blow up. A few minutes later, the firemen arrived and started putting it out--no explosion. I told them and the fire investigator everything I just told you guys.



Nobody was hurt--the most important thing. My car had nothing worse than soot (just took it to the car wash), but the car right next to it suffered serious heat damage. But the funny thing is...I don't think the owner of the SUV or the owner of the car next to it were around. At least, no one was out there yelling, "Jesus Christ, my car!!!" and the heat-damaged one was still there this morning--no sign of insurance photographers or anything that I could see before I left for work. Then again, I don't know my neighbors well--I'm out and about so much with my caregiving duties for my mother and other things that I'm afraid I don't have much time to talk to them. Except for the new-ish downstairs neighbors, a middle-aged couple...they helped me when some kids took the Amazon package off my front step (twice!) and flung it out into the parking lot by taking it in until I got home and looked for it. I've talked to them quite a few times and they're nice. (They weren't home and it wasn't their car.)



But what in God's name could cause a parked car, not turned on, to catch fire in the middle of the night? I've been reading some reports of parked BMWs catching fire, but I don't know if this was a BMW. One of my co-workers suggests that maybe a squirrel/cat/raccoon/what-have-you got into it and chewed on the wires. Then, of course, there's always the possibility of foul play...



So what do you guys think?
I wonder whether the owner had left his/her cell phone charging and the Li battery started the fire?

Sent from my SM-T350 using Tapatalk
  #13  
Old 11-07-2019, 05:03 PM
Gatopescado is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: on your last raw nerve
Posts: 22,655
Quote:
Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
Debt collection.
Insurance fraud is a fun game, too.
  #14  
Old 11-07-2019, 05:05 PM
mixdenny is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Cleveland suburbs
Posts: 2,032
Somebody overfilled the tank on a hot day...

Dennis
  #15  
Old 11-07-2019, 08:58 PM
Rocketeer is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 7,219
Was it a Ford? https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news...ve_recall.html
  #16  
Old 11-08-2019, 12:55 AM
slash2k is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 2,467
or GM? https://money.cnn.com/2015/10/27/autos/gm-recall-fire/
  #17  
Old 11-08-2019, 01:10 AM
Sunny Daze's Avatar
Sunny Daze is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Bay Area Urban Sprawl
Posts: 13,001
Quote:
Originally Posted by mixdenny View Post
Somebody overfilled the tank on a hot day...

Dennis
  #18  
Old 11-08-2019, 10:19 AM
ASGuy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: far N. coastal california
Posts: 502
While perhaps thrown out in jest, "debt collection" and "insurance fraud" are real possibilities. About two years ago I woke up at 2 a.m. to a car on fire across the street. After calling 911 I went out to see if anyone needed help. No. The fire department arrived and got things under control. The vehicle owner, whom I know, was there and we were talking. The lead firefighter came over and asked how it started. My neighbor said he didn't know. The vehicle had been there for several hours and he and his wife were awoken by the light from the flames.

I case it's not coming across: I thought this really suspicious.

I have no idea what happened after this. I figured it wasn't my business to ask my neighbor any follow-up questions.
  #19  
Old 11-08-2019, 11:18 AM
jz78817 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Under Oveur & over Unger
Posts: 12,490
Quote:
Originally Posted by slash2k View Post
Or a Hyundai?
https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a2...dai-kia-fires/

Or a BMW?

https://abcnews.go.com/US/bmw-recall...ry?id=50922136
  #20  
Old 11-08-2019, 11:20 AM
Gyrate is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Greater Croydonia
Posts: 23,975
I have seen this happen to a parked car as well - in this case, due to a battery short circuit. The car had been parked for ages and then suddenly - foosh! - smoke and flame from under the hood. Don't remember the make and model, but no one had been near the car.
  #21  
Old 11-08-2019, 12:14 PM
PlumBob is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Michigan, Metro Detroit
Posts: 197
I've seen a positive battery cable's insulation wear through from rubbing on the starter. Lots of sparks, just short of a fire. (pun intended) It was an older car, I think they route wires better now days.
  #22  
Old 11-08-2019, 12:45 PM
jaycat is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 1,526
I don't know about you guys, but I just raked up all the leaves in the driveway.
  #23  
Old 11-08-2019, 12:48 PM
Gyrate is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Greater Croydonia
Posts: 23,975
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
I don't know about you guys, but I just raked up all the leaves in the driveway.
Rake the forest too. I hear it prevents all kinds of fire.
  #24  
Old 11-08-2019, 01:04 PM
control-z is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Virginia
Posts: 13,002
There are lots of ways from what I understand. On mid 1990s F-150 pickups, the cruise control servo was powered all the time for some reason, even when the vehicle was off. That wouldn't be a problem normally, but on the F-150 the cruise control happened to be below the brake fluid reservoir. If brake fluid dripped onto the powered servo, it could start a fire, and Ford issued a recall for that.
  #25  
Old 11-08-2019, 03:33 PM
Bear_Nenno's Avatar
Bear_Nenno is offline
Endowment Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Bavaria
Posts: 9,072
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermione View Post
But what in God's name could cause a parked car, not turned on, to catch fire in the middle of the night? I've been reading some reports of parked BMWs catching fire, but I don't know if this was a BMW. One of my co-workers suggests that maybe a squirrel/cat/raccoon/what-have-you got into it and chewed on the wires.
So what do you guys think?
Was it a newer model BMW? Newer cars are using soy-based wiring insulation that little rodents love to eat. The consensus around here seems to be that they find BMW's formula especially tasty. My first guess would be that a rodent shorted out a wire and caused some sparks which started the fire.
  #26  
Old 11-08-2019, 03:40 PM
Dallas Jones is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Orygun forest
Posts: 4,987
Quote:
Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
Debt collection.
Recent ex-wife or girlfriend.
  #27  
Old 11-08-2019, 04:51 PM
Shoeless's Avatar
Shoeless is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: The Sunflower State
Posts: 6,909
Was it a 64 Chevy Malibu? It might have been the heat from the dead aliens in the trunk.
__________________
I'm not black, but there's a whole lotsa times I wish I could say I'm not white. -- FZ
  #28  
Old 11-08-2019, 04:51 PM
Broomstick's Avatar
Broomstick is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: NW Indiana
Posts: 29,190
... or ex-husband or boyfriend.
  #29  
Old 11-08-2019, 04:52 PM
kayaker's Avatar
kayaker is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Rural Western PA
Posts: 33,080
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dallas Jones View Post
Recent ex-wife or girlfriend.
Or even one of each.
  #30  
Old 11-09-2019, 05:07 AM
Melbourne is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 5,382
cigarette fires typically start around an hour after the cigarette is dropped. I mention this not to suggest that it was a cigarette fire, but because its the nature of smoldering fires that they get noticed, and put out, or don't get noticed, and go out naturally, or don't get noticed, and burst into flames some time later.
  #31  
Old 11-09-2019, 08:04 AM
don't ask is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Australia
Posts: 18,348
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno View Post
Was it a newer model BMW? Newer cars are using soy-based wiring insulation that little rodents love to eat. The consensus around here seems to be that they find BMW's formula especially tasty. My first guess would be that a rodent shorted out a wire and caused some sparks which started the fire.
My mother told me, decades ago, about a doctor's BMW which burst into flames while parked outside the hospital. I can't imagine how, but the insurance company worked out that a leak had caused a short.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:41 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017