SUV Burns In Dramatic Fireball on 101 Above Cortland


So far it it seems this was just a routine car fire, which means the occupants had time to escape before the vehicle engulfed itself in a dramatic fireball. But some Bernal residents definitely saw the dramatic fireball when a car caught fire on 101 south just above the Cortland overpass, and it was extremely dramatic.

Neighbor Rally brilliantly self-deputized himself as a reporter for the Bernalwood Action News Team, and he sprang into action with a live uplink from the scene:

HOLY CRAP is right.

But before long the fire department arrived, and the flames were extinguished:

Great reporting, Neighbor Rally! This seems a good time for a public service safety reminder.

Decades ago, during the Reign of Reagan, your Bernalwood editor watched helplessly as his first car immolated itself in a dramatic fireball on the side of a cold urban freeway.

Today, your Bernalwood editor always carries a small fire extinguisher inside the vehicle. Car fires typically start small, so they’re very easy to put out quickly — if you have a fire extinguisher handy. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher handy, you end up with a spectacle like this within about 3 minutes. (Important Life-Lesson I Learned: Big Gulp-sized fountain drinks DO NOT function well as a fire retardant.) Dramatic! Get a fire extinguisher.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Rally

10 thoughts on “SUV Burns In Dramatic Fireball on 101 Above Cortland

  1. Hey, whoa whoa whoa whoa there. If your car catches fire folks, think hard about whether or not you really want to save it. Back in the late 90’s I had a Porsche that I bought cheap from a friend because it had some “issues.” I was driving it across the country, when in Nebraska a coolant hose blew, followed quickly by the cylinder head cracking, oil spraying on the exhaust, and bam, fire. I pulled to the side of the road, popped the trunk, and doused the fire with some 2 liter bottles of high fructose corn syrup. That was the WORST decision I ever made. It was now a heap of crap with a mechanical problem, whereas if I had let it burn to the ground, it would have been a total loss insurance claim.

    Oh, and I saw the fire on my way home. Scary with the side of the hill so dry I was concerned it would spread straight up the dry grass.

    • i am very worried about that side of the hill and how dry it is, I wish they would put up a barrier of clean that up. I live on that side of the hill and its very concerning.

  2. Yeah, that was wild. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a car just go up in flames like that (except in the movies). As a sidenote, it’s pretty cool to think that my first thought was that bernalwood would be the best/quickest way for the locals to hear about this :).

  3. A fire extinguisher is a great thing to have on hand, but when in doubt, just get clear.

  4. I disagree with the fire extinguisher advice. If that was really a good idea, there’d be a place designed-into cars for carrying one. But other than in some campers there isn’t, for good reason.

    First of all, the car is utterly worthless compared to your life. The best thing to do is get away from the car and stay away from the car at first sign of fire. If you’re rummaging around for a fire extinguisher, and then getting near enough to use one, you are not only risking your life, you’re only reducing your insurance payout as mentioned above.

    Secondly, having a heavy metal canister filled with baking soda is not a good thing to have in the car, as it can dislodge during an accident and kill an occupant even in the absence of a fire. A cardboard box of baking soda is the same thing but far less dangerous if you ignore all this advice and still think you’re best off trying to put out a car fire.

    Just get everyone away from the car and let the thing burn until the authorities get there. Cars are disposable.

    • Oh please. Again, car fires usually start small. Very small. Since my car burned, I’ve used my extinguisher to put out two fires in other people’s cars. One was a small electrical short; the second was a leaking fuel line. In both cases the flames were 6 high at the time. No big deal.

      As for the metal canister, extinguishers usually come with these things called “brackets” which have been effectively used to holding things securely in place since the ninteteenth century — if not before.

  5. The way cars are made today I doubt that much is salvageable in a fire because so many of the parts and the body are made of plastic. Also, in the case of an electrical fire, if the fuse to the circuit causing the fire melted then there wouldn’t be a fire. The fact that the circuit is either unfused or too heavily fused means that the fire is going to continue whether you spray it with an extinguisher or not because the short circuit will still be there.

    A fire extinguisher is good to have with people who smoke and drop their cigarettes into the upholstery or on the carpet. But I don’t take those people as passengers.

    I’d say the best thing to do is stop immediately where safe, jump out of the car and run.

  6. Car fires occur pretty often, for various reasons: overheated brakes, overheated engine, oil leaks, electrical shorts, arson… You just don’t normally happen to see them, especially in a photogenic location.

    I hate to disagree with Bernalwood, since its heart is in the right place (be prepared and reasonably self-sufficient). But anything other than a small surface flame is beyond a small CO2 extinguisher. Your three saves are outlying data, not the norm. (Admirable, but unusual.)

    If you see flames, or smell smoke you should pull over, call 911 and move carefully upwind from the car and away from traffic. Then, if you decide to try your extinguisher and it works, great. If you fail, you’ll already have a tow truck, CHP or SFPD, and Fire Rigs on their way (in case the fire grows or spreads to the landscape). Car fires can flare up and engulf the vehicles quickly. The smoke is particularly nasty. Magnesium alloys aren’t easy to extinguish. Airbags can explode violently…

    There’s no reason not to call 911, and plenty of reasons you should.

    • Todd, please check with a fire fighting professional before giving advice. A great way to get badly burned is to see smoke from under your hood from a fire (be it oil, gas, electrical or other) and pull over, grab the extinguisher and open the hood, (only to have the extra oxygen that comes in from below as the heat rushes upwards creating a draft) and whoosh the flames burst out and if you are lucky you just get singed. Cars have LOTS of combustible & flammable components, it is dangerous to open the hood if there is a fire, you’ll notice firefighters don’t open the hood, they crack it a little and spray up under. Or they poke a hole in it with an axe.

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