I know the weather down here in San Antonio TX was a bit “warm” today, but my van thought it was really, really hot outside!
So hot, that it caught on fire! Literally!
Something apparently exploded under the hood on the passenger side and it would appear that perhaps gas sprayed out onto the street at the corner of Nacogdoches Rd & O’Conner Road (NE Side of San Antonio) and caught fire while I was stopped at the light. It was a smaller “pop” noise, sort of s like a gas powered lawnmower back-firing might sound, not a big bomb noise like in the movies.
The small explosion happened just as I was stepping the gas pedal as the light turned green. I was the first car in line in the right lane with lots of traffic stacked behind me and beside me.
Other drivers started honking their horns and yelling out their car windows at me, and I saw flames on the street next to my van. I thought oh !@&^%#@#\, not my van, I just had the motor rebuilt last week! Then flames started shooting up the front right quarter panel of the van on the oustide.
This was the driveway between the McDonald’s and the Chase Bank (the current / old Chase Branch, not the new one being buildt on the north side of McD’s), leading to the HEB shopping center. Photo at left, shows Google Map street level view of the driveway where I drove my flaming van. Guy standing on the right in photo, wasn’t there. Click photo for link to Google Map if interested.
I called 911 on my cell phone after bailing and running a short distance away from the van, and was told that “many other reports have already been received, so thank you for calling.” I quickly told the 911 operator that IT WAS MY VAN ON FIRE, that I wasn’t simply another report of the same van. I was then allowed to give the 911 operator more specific diretions as to my actual location, rather than “intersection of Nacogdoches & O’Conner Rd”.
After determining that my van wasn’t likely to immediately explode on me, while waiting for the fire truck to arrive, I unlocked all the doors ( except front passenger door) using the key (alarm had set off, the battery was melting, and my electric locks decided not to work) and started hauling my ham radio gear and anything else worth more than a few bucks, especially stuff not covered by my insurance. Maybe the sound of the alarm, plus the smoke from the van, helped the fire truck locate me faster?
Yes, I have full coverage insurance with Progressive Insurance, so we’ll see what happens. They already have a claim assigned, even sent me an email about it within 10 minutes of getting off the phone with the claims person. They have always treated me fairly in the past.
Over a dozen folks stopped in person while the van was in flames to make sure I had gotten out of it okay. Some had followed me off of Nacogdoches Road after seeing the flames under my van. I’m sure some of them were just stopping by and snapping photos with their cell phones, but I really didn’t care. One kind lady, in a small red SUV, even offered to give me a ride home after the tow truck came, but I declined gracefully by saying my wife would give me a ride home from the impound lot after the van was towed. I’m assuming she meant to give me a ride “back to my own home.” 🙂
I’m glad so many other persons cared enough to stop and offer help, or inquire about my safety. It was really reassuring that this world still has time for folks to care about other strangers in time of need. I’ve been helping out folks via my ham radio skills for many, many years, and the payback was very comforting to say the least.
After my wife, Pat, arrived on the scene to help move all my personal stuff from my van to her van, we both went inside McDonalds to cool off in their A/C with a cold drink, and waited for the tow truck to come get me. Temp outside was near 100 degrees with no clouds in the sky.
Alanis Wrecker Service towed the van to their impound lot at 1036 Culebra (off IH-10, near Zarzamora), which isn’t all that far from my neighborhood, perhaps less than 10 miles. Pat met me at the wrecker compound and then drove me home so I could blog about my experience. I’ll get with the assigned Progressive Insurance claims adjuster tomorrow and start the paperwork rolling.
Whatever happens, I’ll be driving something different the next time you see me.
Here’s some photos I took while the fireman were putting it out. I was too excited / panicked to take photos while the van was in flames, but I had to recover the digital camera from the front passenger seat before I could take photos, and I waitend until the firefighters had put out the flames before I tried reaching that far into the van.
If I had a passenger with me, they would not have been able to quickly and safely exit the vehicle on their side without exposure to the flames, but fortunately I was by myself.
Another happy coincidence, is that I had left my laptop computer at home, so it wasn’t at risk this time. But of course I have everything on the laptop backed up remotely anyway, since my company does that off-line backup stuff for other companies. I did have lots of ham radio gear in the van, but all that got rescued, including the dual band antenna on the front hood (after it cooled down). The mount was melted underneath, but the antenna was okay.