Man escapes injury when minivan catches fire on River Road

ST. GEORGE — A man escaped injury Friday after the minivan he was driving caught fire while on his way to work.

Minivan’s engine compartment is fully engulfed in flames when fire department arrives on South River Road, St. George, Utah, March 23, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Firefighters and officers were called to the scene at 4000 S. River Road and found a gray Hyandai minivan on fire in the parking lot with the driver who called 911.

“Our unit was paged and the initial report said it was a minivan where the engine compartment was heavily involved in fire,” St. George Fire Battalion Chief Darrell Imlay said.

The front of the minivan was fully engulfed in flames and extinguishing efforts began within seconds using water stored in Engine 28, so the initial attack was quick and effective in putting out the flames that were coming from under the hood and spreading to minivan’s tires.

Smoke billows from Hyundai minivan that caught fire while the driver was heading to work on River Road, St. George, Utah, March 23, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dylan Westover, St. George News

The active blaze was extinguished within minutes, while fire personnel cut through the hood where the release latch is located. Once the hood opened they began to douse the engine compartment, wheels and other areas that continued to burn and smolder.

Imlay said that in many fires that start in the engine compartment, the hood release latch typically burns quickly and remains in the locked position, making it impossible to open the hood.

In that event, fire personnel cut a “V” into the hood where the latch is located, which removes the latch, making it possible to open the hood and get to the fire still burning closer to the engine, as well as the undercarriage.

“Once that cable release is burned, the hood won’t open, so the best way to get to the fire is to cut and raise the hood,” Imlay said.

While speaking with the driver, Kualii Min, officers and fire personnel learned he was heading south on River Road when the minivan’s engine cut out and then died. The driver was able to navigate the disabled vehicle into an empty parking lot and once he was out of the minivan it caught fire and he called 911 for help.

The burned engine compartment and undercarriage of a minivan that caught on South River Road, St. George, Utah, March 23, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“He was able to roll down the road until he got into a fairly decent area before it caught fire,” Imlay said.

Min said he was on his way to work when his engine died, while at the same time passing motorists motioned to him and pointed at his vehicle, but he had no idea the minivan was on fire at that point, he said.

Min coasted along the street trying to find an empty parking lot to pull into, but only found lots that were full of vehicles until he got to an empty lot and pulled in just in time, he said.

Several bystanders told Min they had fire extinguishers in their vehicles, but by that time the minivan was completely engulfed in flames.

The driver added that he was unsure of the address when he called 911 and began listing the businesses that were near the parking lot. The dispatcher was able to quickly pinpoint the parking lot’s location and send help.

Min said he waited for the fire department while keeping a safe distance from the burning minivan, adding, “my life is worth more than any car,” he said.

The cause is undetermined at the writing of this report, and no injuries were reported.

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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