Driver Escapes Injury When SUV Bursts Into Flames

Firefighters spray the inside of a burned-out Ford Explorer Wednesday afternoon. When Veroni...

Firefighters spray the inside of a burned-out Ford Explorer Wednesday afternoon.
When Veronica Alcarez asked a friend to borrow his SUV for a few minutes Wednesday, she had no idea what a wild ride it would be.

Alcarez, who lives in Lake Elsinore, was visiting her friend Richard Hirsch in the Lazy Creek community of Menifee around noon on Wednesday. Anticipating a quick trip to pick up some supplies, she asked Hirsch if she could borrow his 2003 Ford Explorer.

"My Prius is so small, so I just asked him, 'Can I borrow your truck for a few minutes?' " said Alcarez. "I just drove around the corner and I smelled smoke. It was building up inside the car, so I pulled over. When I opened up the back, there was fire on the driver's side."

Alcarez pulled to the curb on Oakbridge Drive, just south of Lazy Creek Road. Soon after Alcarez got out of the car, it was engulfed in flames.

Moments later, Hirsch received a surprise phone call. A couple blocks away, firefighters were hosing down his SUV, which had been destroyed by the fire. A crowd of neighbors gathered as Hirsch and Alcarez watched firefighters work on what was left of his vehicle.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but Hirsch said the air conditioner had recently gone out. Alcarez was the only one in the car at the time and was not injured.

"I'm just glad Veronica is OK," he said.

Flames were still shooting out from under the car as firefighters hosed down the vehicle.
(Photo by Neil Kristjansson)
Richard Hirsch (left of the tree) and Veronica Alcarez (right of tree) watch firefighters clean up after the car fire.

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