The bang and the flash came out of nowhere as Mike Tennant manoeuvred his 2015 Hyundai Sonata into his driveway.
“A large flame came up over the hood and I jumped out of the car and ran to the door and said, ‘Patty, my car is on fire!’ I was shaking so bad I couldn’t dial 911,” he said.
It had only been about 15 minutes since the Cambridge, Ont., man picked up his car from the dealership after servicing.
His wife, Patty Atwell Tennant, called the fire department and started filming on her phone as the fire spread and engulfed the car.
Tennant says the images of his futile fight to bring the blaze under control — starting with a fire extinguisher, then a garden hose — are seared into his memory.
Eli Melnick — an electrical engineer, licensed mechanic and forensic investigator — says the fire has all the hallmarks of being fuelled by some kind of accelerant.
“I would say that gasoline is probably the most likely fuel that fed the fire in this case, judging by the intensity and height of the flames,” Melnick said.
Another key indicator, he says, is that it took approximately 15 minutes from picking up the car to when the fire ignited. That’s the time it typically takes for an engine to reach operating temperature. “And that’s hot enough to cause fire,” Melnick said.
… George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Agency, says the case is an example of a gap in the public safety system that reveals itself after many of the approximately 10,000 car fires that happen across Canada annually.
He says because automakers aren’t required to report such fires to Transport Canada, patterns pointing to safety defects could be missed, meaning investigations and recalls could be delayed, putting the public at risk.
Atwell Tennant immediately reported the fire to the dealership. When there was no resolution with Cambridge Hyundai, Tennant lodged a complaint with Hyundai Canada about seven months later.
Iny says it’s a problem no one is required to report these fires to the federal department.
The aftermath of Tennant’s fire was “business as usual,” he said.