Vehicles DO sometimes spontaneously combust!

The story

On Tuesday morning we decided to hit the mall  - my daughter, my son, and I that is. My husband with the broken leg had to stay at home as walking up and down the mall on crutches would be akin to torture, not fun, for him!

But first we had to go "jump" the Ford Maverick that our son had left at his friend Sylwek's house. He had left the lights on and it was dead after several hours of sitting there with the lights on. We decided to just start it before we went to the mall.

So we all jumped in our newly fixed van (rebuilt engine) and motored on over to Sylwek's house.


We didn't make it that far. About 300 meters from our house, the van died. The oil light went on. The battery light went on. The brake light went on. Everything. Steam started coming out from under the hood. I was on a side street - not a busy one at all - but I wanted to get the van completely off the street. We coasted to a stop. Then as we looked at the the hood and amount of steam that was coming out from under the hood, my son took a second look and we decided that it must be burning as the smoke wasn't letting up, in fact, it was getting worse.

Well, these are the moments that actually are just seconds, but feel like minutes. In a flash, we were out of the van in a flash, grabbing our belongings and phones and on the sidewalk. When we started seeing fire, I started to panic a bit.

We opened the hood and yep, it was burning. I couldn't locate the fire extinguisher that all vehicles in Poland are required to have, but we ended up calling Mike and making sure it was in the van. Yes, it was. but I couldn't find it. (Maybe slightly panicking was part of the problem!)

Daniel found it under the driver's seat. I had closed the hood to the engine as the air had made the flames get bigger and bigger - but I should have just set it down lightly as it clicked shut and then it wouldn't be opened again. Hindsight is 20/20 they say.

I couldn't remember the number to the fire department - was it 999, 998, or 997? Which one? I'd never had to call anyone before - here in Poland we don't use 911 - it's different, depending on whether you need an ambulance, police or fire department.  A guy came up and asked if he could help - he worked just down the street from our now violently smoking vehicle!  Daniel had found the fire extinguisher and was trying to get the foam in between the metal hood and in the battery area. I was petrified something was going to blow up.

Lydia had gotten hold of Mike and had him on the phone. He had assured Lydia, who in turn assured me, that the van would not explode as it is diesel and they don't do that!

 Whew, I felt better! In fact, I felt so much better that I decided to try to video this madhouse. I wasn't good for much else anyway.

When I uploaded this video to vimeo they told me that I could make a better video if I had used different ratios or better resolution. Thanks, vimeo, but I'm not redoing it!

I'm a little fuzzy on everything, but that nice guy called the fire department and some neighbors came out and loaned us a bigger fire extinguisher as ours was all used up.


Eventually the fire truck got there. Another neighbor loaned a crow bar and they pried the hood open to better get to the fire. Smoke was bellowing out everywhere! The firefighters had capacities we didn't have to make sure it was out all the way.


We really appreciate how the neighbors pitched in and helped us.  Polish people are not normally an outgoing lot, but they do pull together in a time of trouble like this one.  We do appreciate their care and help!


Then, after my daughter and son left on foot with the jumper cables in tow to head to their friend's house (to jump the Maverick hoping to use Sylwek's mom's car instead of our now very dead van), I waited for a friend's friend to come and help us with roadside assistance. I was pretty close to home, but had no way to get it back home by myself. Eventually a young man came - after the fire department left.


The young man got the van loaded on the tow truck and I got in the front seat and he hauled the van home.

He unloaded it in our yard.  When I asked him how much it would be, he said, "50 zlotys".  That kind of made me smile, so I gave him 50 and 30 for a tip for a total of 80 zlotys - or just over $20. I know we were close, but just coming and taking the time seemed like it should have a minimum charge.  But I was grateful he wasn't trying to "make up a high price just because we are Americans!"

Back home.  We'll probably sell it for parts. We had just put in almost $1000 for a newly rebuilt engine.

Back home.  We'll probably sell it for parts. We had just put in almost $1000 for a newly rebuilt engine.

My hair smelled like smoke. My clothes smelled nasty. But I was in the house recuperating when Daniel and Lydia came home in the Maverick.  They left it in the yard running and I seriously considered cancelling our planned trip to the mall. However, I had noticed that the weather was supposed to get worse the next day AND we didn't have anything else penciled in. So, we decided to go ahead and go to the mall - about a 45 -55 min. drive from our house. And so we did.

Yes, it was scary.

No, I wasn't really in the mood to go to the mall, but I felt like we had to go. as the closer it is to Christmas that you wait, the worse the traffic is.

After Christmas, I hope to go with Lydia to a closer mall, and I think I'd like to just take public transportation there. I'm not that much of a big shopper anymore - don't really enjoy it at all now. I mean, it's nice to get out, but I really don't need much and I feel like I'm in a battle to "keep my money" against all the expert marketers who are trying their best to tempt me to spend MY money on something I didn't need or intend to buy in the first place. 


There are so many things to be thankful for about this incident - I can't really begin to name them all.  The Lord protected us and let it happen close to home and on a non busy street where we had people who were more knowledgeable than we were about this kind of thing.

So, what happened? Well, it was obviously an electrical fire. Yes, we had recently had the engine rebuilt. Obviously the mechanic's crew didn't do something right. I counted it up. It was the ninth time we had driven it anywhere since the repair job. 

And so now you know!  Vehicles can suddenly and without provocation, burst into fire!

I'm okay. My kids are okay. We're all okay! No one was hurt. No other vehicle or property was hurt. 

And that's the latest from here in Poland!

And be sure to check out what my sis has for you over in her store.  She's got lots of goodies. Be sure to check it out!



Becky Petersen3 Comments