Flames engulf SUV engine compartment in hotel parking lot

ST. GEORGE — An SUV’s engine compartment caught fire Friday night as its driver noticed smoke and pulled into a hotel parking lot in St. George.

A Toyota SUV is badly burned after its engine compartment started on fire, St. George, Utah, March 10, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

St. George Fire Department was paged at approximately 10 p.m. to respond to the fire at the Claridge Inn, 1187 S. Bluff St.

See video in the media player top of this report.

“We were sitting here playing cards in our room,” hotel guest and witness Stan Shaw said, “and my sister-in-law goes, ‘hey, that car’s on fire.’”

Shaw and his family were in town for a baseball tournament at Snow Canyon High School when they heard a car screech into the hotel’s parking lot.

“We looked out the window,” Shaw said, “and sure enough, sparks were coming out of this Toyota.”

Shaw’s wife called 911 to report the fire.

The driver of the red Toyota SUV obtained a fire extinguisher from hotel staff and attempted to put out the blaze.

“It wasn’t doing much,” Shaw said of the extinguisher.

A Toyota SUV is badly burned after its engine compartment started on fire, St. George, Utah, March 10, 2017 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

Within minutes, fire personnel arrived on scene and worked quickly to douse the flames, which by then had fully engulfed the engine compartment.

“Our first due crew was able to get the fire out pretty quick,” St George Fire Battalion Chief Robert Hooper said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation at the time this report was taken.

“He happened to be driving down the road, kind of had some clutch issues, saw some smoke so he pulled into the parking lot kind of out in the open,” Hooper said of the Toyota’s driver.

The Toyota’s front end was badly burned, appearing charred and blackened in places.

There were no injuries, and property damage was limited to the SUV.

Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a vehicle fire at the Claridge Inn parking lot, St. George, Utah, March 10, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“I would say if someone can safely extinguish a fire without delaying calling emergency services, without injuring themselves or harming other people, that’s why they have fire extinguishers and other things like that,” Hooper said when asked whether the driver’s initiative in attempting to put out the fire was appropriate.

However, the battalion chief cautioned that the first line of defense in the case of a fire is to call 911 immediately.

“This isn’t the case, but some instances we have where people try to put the fire out first then they call later when it gets too big,” Hooper said. “By that point either somebody gets injured or there’s extensive property damage.”

In addition to the nine personnel from St. George Fire, St. George Police and Gold Cross Ambulance also responded to the fire.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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