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No injuries from car fire on Kenai Peninsula, fire officials say

An SUV is engulfed in flames at South Beach in Kenai on Saturday afternoon.
An SUV is engulfed in flames at South Beach in Kenai on Saturday afternoon.(Courtesy of Chris McIntosh)
Published: Jul. 17, 2021 at 5:26 PM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2021 at 4:52 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - No one was injured by the car that caught fire after overheating on South Beach in Kenai Saturday afternoon, according to the Kenai Fire Department.

The agency is still investigating the cause of the fire that occurred near the mouth of the Kenai River, however, Captain Pete Coots said through email Sunday, that initial observations indicate the vehicle overheated after traveling more than a mile through the “deep, soft sand.”

“The owner reported the fire started in the engine compartment,” Coots said. “All occupants were able to self-extricate the vehicle prior to the fire spreading to the interior passenger compartment area.”

The fire department received the initial call at 2:07 p.m. that day and its units arrived 15 minutes later. Coots noted that the numerous dip netters and vehicles delayed their response time.

“Residents participating in the personal-use dip net fishery should always adequately yield to emergency apparatus,” Coots said, who noted that firefighters managed to get control of the fire in less than 30 minutes of the alarm.

Due to it being a remote area, water shuttles were required to fully extinguish the fire. Firefighters controlled and maintained the car fire until enough water arrived, according to Coots, who said the fire was extinguished at 3:30 p.m.

“Although, this was not a vehicle crash, Alaska residents should exercise good judgment in the vehicles they are using to access the dipnet area on North and South Beach personal use fisheries,” Coots said. “Many vehicles and trailers easily become stuck and disabled in the deep, soft beach sand which in turn inhibits emergency vehicle access.

“The North Beach access for the personal use dip netting fishery is better suited for non-offroad capable vehicles. Residents are able to drop off gear and equipment near an established road and walk to the personal use fishery area. Camping is also allowed at North Beach.”

Coots offered additional advice for those dip netting in the area:

“Drivers should be aware of large tidal swings, as many campsites and vehicles have been damaged during high tidal event.  It’s very common for drivers to not have the relevant off-road driving experience or appropriate 4 wheel drive configuration to access South Beach.”

Livestreamed footage of the Ford SUV engulfed in flames had also spread like wildfire on social media Saturday.

In the livestreamed video, people near the car fire seem unfazed by the raging flames and black smoke. Explosive sounds can be heard from across a body of water as well as first responder sirens from a distance.

The woman ended the 10-minute livestream after telling people to “be safe.”

Posted by Kaisyrh Ramos on Saturday, July 17, 2021

This is a developing story. Check in for updates.

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