WALLINGFORD – Firefighters believe an animal’s nest may have ignited a fire that consumed the engine of a Toyota SUV as its driver was picking up lunch at Chick-Fil-A Thursday afternoon.
A call reporting the fire came in shortly after 1 p.m. There were no reported injuries.
Fire Lt. Aaron Desjardins said the driver had pulled up to the drive-thru window of the restaurant at 1098 N. Colony Road, when a restaurant employee told her that she smelled smoke coming from the engine and thought it could be overheating.
The driver pulled the vehicle into the far side of the parking lot and a moment later the engine burst into flames. A tower of black smoke followed.
“The entire engine compartment was involved,” Desjardins said, of the scene firefighters found when they arrived.
“We were able to put it out pretty quickly,” Desjardins said, adding the driver was uninjured. No firefighters were injured during the effort to extinguish the blaze.
Meanwhile, the vehicle's engine compartment, which had been blackened, was still smoldering. Several of the vehicle's windows had been shattered, and its front tires flattened.
Desjardins said it is routine for firefighters to use tools, such as saws, to force open an engine hood in a fire.
“It looks like an animal may have gotten into it,” Desjardins said, explaining there appeared to be signs of a nest. The driver told firefighters that she had frequently seen squirrels near the vehicle.
Neither the restaurant nor the other businesses around it shut down as a result of the fire.
According to the website Doityourself.com, squirrels and other rodents, can be attracted by the warmth of a car engine “which creates a cozy place for them to nestle.”
To prevent possible damage, including potential engine fires, or to determine if a vehicle engine is being used as a nest, the website recommends making regular visual inspections, by popping open the hood after the engine has cooled.