SUV catches fire, burns while engine off - News, Weather & Sports

SUV catches fire, burns while engine off

The Keller's burned out Ford Escape The Keller's burned out Ford Escape
Tyler and Breslyn Keller Tyler and Breslyn Keller

GEORGETOWN, IN (WAVE) - A young couple says their Ford SUV burst into flames and burned to the ground sitting idle in their driveway. It happened six weeks after the automaker issued a recall on their Escape. But the vehicle sat in a charred heap outside the family's home until they called the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department for help. I went to work to find out what Ford planned to do, and whether other Escape's are in danger of catching fire.

Breslyn and Tyler Keller's 2002 Ford Escape could not escape a fiery end.

"It looks like rusted metal, a pile of rusted metal," Breslyn Keller said. "We got two back tires that's all we got left."

The Kellers said their Escape burned up in the middle of the night as it sat in the driveway of their Georgetown, Indiana home.

"So it caught on fire just parked, turned off," Breslyn said. "The keys weren't even in it."

The fire report listed the fire as having "no human contributing factors." By the time firefighters got to the home the flames were so big they were brushing against a fence 12 feet away and reaching to the top of a nearby tree.

"Everything is just gone," Tyler said, looking at the burned out shell of the Escape.

With repair no longer a possibility the Kellers said they ran into roadblocks trying to get Ford do anything about their Escape. It turns out Ford had notified the Keller's weeks earlier about a recall issued for 286,000 Ford Escapes covering their model year for an electrical short in the anti-lock braking system. The problem can cause a fire when the vehicle is off.

But the Kellers had just moved to Indiana from Ohio and the recall letter hadn't caught up with them in the Hoosier state until it was too late. They emailed the claims department the day after the fire and posted to the company's Facebook page a week later.

"Literally within 10 seconds it was deleted and we were blocked from their page we couldn't view their page anymore," Tyler said.

In response Ford sent letters to the Kellers asking for documentation. Tyler said Ford also warned the Kellers what would happen if they spoke with an attorney.

"Then they're going to drop contact with us," Tyler said. "But then all the letters they're sending to us are from their legal office."

In a statement Ford said, "Ford doesn't agree this is an accurate representation of our interaction with the customer. However, out of respect for the privacy of our customers, we do not make public the documented interactions or specifics behind each conversation."

The Kellers said they were eventually told it could be up to six months before Ford sent out an investigator to resolve their claim. They couldn't wait that long.

"Obviously me and Tyler both have jobs," Breslyn said,

So they called the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department to try and get Ford to accelerate the process.

"I want to feel like they actually care about people," Tyler said. "That they care about us, and they want to try and help."

I emailed pictures of the Keller's Escape to Ford corporate headquarters and asked them to take some action. Ford emailed back and said investigators were waiting on a copy of the vehicle title, bill of sale and registration to complete the evaluation and move things forward. The Kellers said they already sent that documentation to Ford once but agreed to give it to them again.

Less than two weeks later, the Kellers received a cash settlement from Ford. While legally required to keep the amount of the settlement under wraps, the Kellers said they were happy with the outcome and relieved things didn't turn out any worse.

"I almost lost everything," Breslyn said.

Ford says it is not aware of any accidents or injuries blamed on the recall. Here's the company's full statement.

"Ford issued a safety recall for 286,000 2001 and 2002 MY (model year) Ford Escapes equipped with anti-lock brakes due to the possibility of corrosion that can create a potential for an electrical short. An electrical short might cause an ABS malfunction that could illuminate the ABS warning light, and in some cases, the module may overheat resulting in a burning odor, smoke, and/or fire.

While the risk of fire is low, owners were advised of the safety risk and told to park their vehicle outdoors away from structures to prevent a potential fire from spreading until the recall was performed.

Ford is not aware of any accidents or injuries attributed to this condition. Ford has received a few reports of property damage beyond vehicle-only damage as a result of alleged vehicle fires. Less than 0.2 percent of the vehicles repaired under the recall reported any type of subsequent related damage."

To see if your vehicle is covered under this or other recalls, click here and type in your vehicle information.

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