Vehicle A Total Loss After Charcoal Placed Underneath It Leads To Fire

Incident Type
Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 12:37pm
Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 12:42pm
3700 Block Karstens Drive
Madison, WI

A man attempting to warm up his vehicle caused it to catch fire after placing a baking sheet full of hot charcoal underneath it.

Engine Company 10 responded to the fire, finding the vehicle in flames at a parking lot on Karstens Drive. The fire was not threatening other vehicles or buildings and was extinguished within 10 minutes. Damage extended to both front seats and into the rear of the vehicle.

The owner told firefighters his vehicle had been frozen for the past three days and wouldn’t start. To warm it up, he put charcoal on a baking pan and lit the charcoal. After the flames died down, he put the pan of charcoal under his vehicle in an attempt to thaw it. About five minutes later, he noticed flames in the engine compartment and called 911. He escaped the vehicle uninjured.

This incident comes two days after Engine Company 1 responded to a similar incident on Spring Street. There, firefighters met a man who had set two baking sheets of charcoal under his Chevy Express minivan for the same reason. Firefighters removed both pans and extinguished the charcoal, telling the vehicle’s owner this type of burning was both illegal and dangerous. The owner stated he “does it all the time,” and indicated he would simply buy more charcoal and defy the firefighters’ orders once they left. It's unknown whether he did so as firefighters were not called back to investigate illegal burning or a vehicle fire.

SAFETY TIP: Don't do this. The inconvenience of having a frozen vehicle during this historic polar vortex will pale in comparison to having no vehicle at all because it started on fire. With a significant weather shift expected in the next 24-48 hours, those having trouble with their vehicles are asked to simply wait it out and find alternative transportation in the meantime as necessary.

Posted 02/01/2019 - 7:48am

Cynthia Schuster (Public Information Officer)