Eyes on the Street: Parked Car Sets House on Fire

Sometimes, internal combustion can become spontaneous combustion.

An SFFD fire truck arrives to put out a house fire started by a parked car. Photo: Aaron Bialick

On the night of May 17, the front of my neighbor’s house in the Inner Sunset caught on fire. Another neighbor said that the fire started in the engine of the car parked in their driveway. No one was hurt, and SFFD responded swiftly and effectively to put the fire out — Station 22 is just one block away, at 16th Avenue and Irving Street. I caught the scene in the video below.

The residents will incur an immense cost in both time and money to rebuild their home, and only because one car engine momentarily failed to control one in the endless series of pressurized explosions that it typically manages to deal with. The off chance of a runaway blaze now becomes yet another in the long list of hazards and nuisances that can result from nearby parked cars.

Given the ongoing debate with SFFD over street width, it was also interesting to watch firefighters in action on a typical Inner Sunset avenue. I’d estimate that the street has about 25 feet of clear space between the parked cars, plus some wiggle room in front of driveways and in unoccupied parking spots. In this case, the firefighters and their trucks appeared to have plenty of room to work with, though they didn’t have to stabilize their truck to set up a ladder and reach above the three-story house.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that it’s illegal to store a car in a “setback” like that, even though the SFMTA does not enforce that code.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

See the video after the jump.

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