Explosions heard as Jeep catches fire in desert, ignites ammunition

The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Boyd Barney, St. George News

HURRICANE — A Jeep Cherokee caught fire twice Sunday morning, causing ammunition and the fuel tank to ignite at the bottom of a sandy ravine south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road.

The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Casey Lofthouse, St. George News
The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Casey Lofthouse, St. George News

Just before 8:30 a.m., Washington County Search and Rescue Commander Casey Lofthouse was driving his Jeep Cherokee with his dog on the back dirt roads south of Sand Hollow Reservoir. After climbing a sand dune and then descending down it, Lofthouse said his Jeep died.

Lofthouse stopped at the bottom of the sandy ravine and said he heard a boom sound from his engine.

“Snap of the fingers, boom, just like that, it went up in flames,” Lofthouse said. “I grabbed my phone and my rifle and jumped out. I opened the door and took a big hack of smoke and thought ‘forget this’ and ditched all my stuff.”

Smoke billowed from the Jeep and it became engulfed in flames.

Lofthouse used his Jeep for Search and Rescue volunteering and it contained rescue gear, 72 hour kits, ropes and tools. Lofthouse said the Jeep went up in flames so fast, he was unable to salvage any of it.

After the Jeep caught fire, boxes of ammunition in the glove box ignited and began to blow up and ricochet, he said.

The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Casey Lofthouse, St. George News
The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Casey Lofthouse, St. George News

Projectiles ignited outside of a firearm have significantly less velocity than ammunition being released by the pull of a trigger, Washington County Sheriff Sgt. Dave Crouse said. However, it was still capable of causing injury.

Lofthouse said he jumped out of the vehicle and backed away from the Jeep while the ammunition went off. He hiked to the top of a hill to get cell phone service and was able to call 911. While he was familiar with the back roads, the exact GPS coordinates were obtained by the dispatch operator via his cell phone.

Hurricane Police officers, Hurricane Fire Department and Washington County Sheriff deputies responded to the scene.

The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Boyd Barney, St. George News
The Jeep Cherokee on fire just south of the intersection of state Route 7 and Sand Hollow Road, Utah, Nov. 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Boyd Barney, St. George News

“There were all sorts of explosions,” Lofthouse said. ” I had a spare tire, a full-sized spare tire, that blew up — six tires blew up. I also had a bottle of starting fluid in there that exploded too.”

Because of the remote area where the Jeep sat, fire trucks were not able to make it to the location of the Jeep. Deputies let the initial fire burn out.

At approximately 9:11 a.m., the Jeep caught fire a second time and the gas tank ignited which caused a loud boom, Crouse said, and after the fire died out, firefighters hit the remaining hot spots with a fire extinguisher.

Life safety is priority number one, Crouse said, then once everyone is safe, the threat of the fire expanding becomes priority.

“I knew when it started it was going to burn,” Lofthouse said. “It happens fast. Be ready. When you play hard sometimes things go up in smoke.”

This report is based on preliminary information provided by responders on scene and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: astoddard@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

21 Comments

  • talldolldi November 2, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Sorry for the loss…Is your dog ok?

  • San November 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Thank God he was okay.

  • Bob November 2, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Weird ending but happy ending to the pilot. Can he pass the doctor exam even for a DL?

  • My Evil Twin November 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Sorry to see this. You guys do such a good job with your SAR that anything that hinders your response isn’t good. Glad that you were not hurt, Casey

  • MmmBacon November 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    any bacon inside?

  • PROTECT THE SHEEP November 2, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    LOL, I just ate a reeses mini and it had two wrappers on it.

  • me November 2, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Karma’s a …, every time my husband went in his shop he got one price, every time I went another. Like to say I’m sorry, but he had it coming. There’s a few more like him in town.
    Ed. ellipsis.

    • My Evil Twin November 3, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Gosh, I did not know that Casey worked on brooms! Ever stop to think that if you treated folks a little bit better, you might have an easier life? He probably gave your husband a better price because he felt sorry for the poor guy.

    • Mark Vinclio November 3, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      maybe because he didn’t want your welfare collecting butt to stiff him with the bill. you know right to refuse service

  • Zonkerb November 3, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Were any desert tortoises harmed.?

  • Not buying it November 3, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Self Arson?

    • Joe November 3, 2014 at 7:38 am

      Not arson. Jeep Cherokee’s are historically just a big POS. Never go out in the sticks in a Cherokee further than you would want to walk home.

      • Shawn November 3, 2014 at 11:17 am

        I had a Ford Bronco II do it on Riverside and 270 East about 2 year ago.

      • Casey November 3, 2014 at 11:28 am

        No Doubt!

      • MIKE January 11, 2015 at 10:19 pm

        The reason why you think that Cherokees are historically junk is because you have only seen the ones owned by POS owners that abuse them. Cars are only as good as their drivers are at taking care of them. It is a very single minded assumption to call a car a POS based on the car itself.

  • beerbelly November 3, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I had a Jeep Wrangler that burned to the ground. It is a traumatic experience, glad he is ok.
    Arson? I’m pretty sure he lost far more financially than the insurance will cover.

  • Bender November 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

    20+ year old car? Change those fuel lines.

  • Casey November 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Ya I burned up a jeep that had liability insurance. Then I can replace the brand news tires all my SAR gear,tools,radios,packs and my wallet. Not to mention a new jeep. Everything is good! It can all be replaced and at least nobody was hurt. Yes the dog is fine! Thanks everyone for your concern. Thanks to the fire and police who responded. Also my freinds who helped me clean up the mess and haul it out!

    • Dana November 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Casey, glad your dog is ok. …I know you are too cuz you da man.

  • Nate November 6, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Search and rescue personnel are usually fairly prepared and thoughtful individuals, so why no extinguisher? A vehicle is an assembly of flammable materials, electricity, and gasoline. May I recommend including a small fire extinguisher to keep in your next vehicle?

    • Intrigued November 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

      I’m no rocket scientist, but based off what has been reported, how would having a fire extinguisher (whether he had one or not) have been helpful in this case when all he had time to grab was what was immediately next to him? Assuming he was able to get to a fire extinguisher, ammunition was going off, making it unsafe to be near the vehicle. But I’m sure he’s very grateful for your suggestion and free advice for next time.

Leave a Reply