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SUV Catches on Fire as Driver Travels Down Howard Street, Leading to Smoky Scene in Downtown Boone

By Greg Hince

Photo courtesy of Katie Casella

Aug. 6, 2012. A 1989 Jeep Cherokee combusted into flames as the driver was traveling down Howard Street in downtown Boone shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday night.

Nobody was hurt, and the Boone Fire Department contained the blaze within a matter of minutes, but the scene drew a number of onlookers and police and fire personnel. It is estimated that the vehicle was left unsalvageable.

The driver, who is unnamed in reports from the fire department, stated that he noticed a glow under the passenger seat area of his vehicle while driving down Howard Street He then pulled off into a parking lot at the intersection of Howard and Depot streets, across from Footsloggers, and attempted to put out the rapidly growing fire before backing off and abandoning the car.

Upon arrival, firefighters were greeted to a two-door blue SUV burning from the inside out. The driver later stated that he had recently had electrical work done on the vehicle, but had no prior problems.

“We could see the smoke walking down Rivers Street,” witness Margaret Phipps said. “The windows were all down and once we got closer you could see the dashboard on fire.”

The fire department report listed the cause of the fire as “arcing electrical wire.” After taking three to four minutes to contain the flames, firefighters then had to wet down the area before having the car towed.

“Based on the scene, it wouldn’t make sense for the insurance company to salvage the vehicle,” Ryan Kissel Engineer Fire Prevention specialist said. “The damage was confined to the interior, but it was heavily damaged.”

A number of firefighters were dispatched to the scene, including Senior Engineer Lonnie Propst, Engineer Jimmy Ingold, Fire Chief Jimmy Isaacs, Firefighter David Guy and Engineer Shane Garland.

The Boone Police Department was on hand to help assess the situation, but a representative from the records department said no foul play was suspected and the department had no reason to inquire further into the incident.

“It was really crazy, because nobody there knew what was happening,” witness Katie Casella said. “We had no idea how it started, or if there was anything malicious going on, but it looked really bad for a while.”