WATCH ABOVE: A Hamilton family knows firsthand about the importance of never leaving a child alone in a car. As Sean O’Shea reports, they found out when their Jeep Cherokee mysteriously caught fire when the family went to pick up the mail.
A Hamilton family has escaped injury after their SUV caught fire as they stopped to pick up mail at the community postal box near their home.
“The flame was so intense,” said Chris Ratnasingham, describing Friday’s events in the rural community of Freelton.
With his wife, Annissa Maharaj, and their six-month-old son, Ratnasingham said he drove up the road to retrieve his mail. He said he turned off the ignition on his 2015 Jeep Cherokee, stepped out of the SUV, opened the mail box and examined the contents.
A minute later, he said his wife saw smoke billowing from under the hood. When Ratnasingham looked more closely, he saw fire.
“I opened the hood and there was a flame,” he said.
Ratnasingham’s first instinct was to get his wife and son out of the back seat where the boy was secured in a child safety carrier.
Within four minutes, he said the vehicle was engulfed in flames — and he wants to know why.
“You get an SUV thinking you’ll be safe. You don’t think the vehicle will cause you harm,” said Ratnasingham, adding he and his wife chose the Cherokee specifically because they believed it would be safe.
Jeep is manufactured by FCA Canada. In a written statement, the company said it was pleased there were no injuries in this case.
“The company is unaware of any similar incidents involving this make and model. Fires are highly complex events often caused by circumstances unrelated to vehicle design,” said a company spokesperson.
“We have not inspected this vehicle. However, we are prepared to investigate. We continually monitor the performance of our products in the field and respond accordingly.”
The couple said they intended to keep the vehicle for several more years.
As a result of the fire, they will receive much less from their insurer than what they paid for the vehicle. In addition, they are obligated to pay in insurance deductible even though the fire was not their fault.
A FCA Canada spokesperson said it would work with the couple to help them replace the vehicle, possibly at a reduced retail price.
The couple said they want to warn other families about the importance of never leaving their children unattended in their vehicle, even for a brief period.
“Don’t do it,” said Maharaj, who was able to quickly spirit her son from the car when the fire began.
“If I had been getting the mail, I don’t know if I could have gotten back in to save him.”
In 2016, there were 2,892 vehicle fires in Ontario, according to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Three people died in those fires.
Source: Global News