Fire official: Squirrel causes car to burst into flames

BEL AIR, Md. — Maryland fire officials say a squirrel is what forced a woman’s car to catch fire last week on the side of the road.

For Mike Conway, his rodent reminder is only a trash bin away.

“I know some homeowners are — they feel good about leaving peanuts or other foods out for squirrels or chipmunks because they’re cute…until they cause damage,” he said.

He and his wife run Complete Auto Repair Service, a small auto shop right off the Baltimore Pike, in Bel Air.

He says the tiny animals their makeshift habitats are forcing drivers to fork over loads of cash, more frequently as the seasons change.

“There’s a product in the plastic that insulates the wires tha they mistake for food. So they’ll gnaw at the insulation of these wires. Sometimes there’s voltage and they can potentially cause fires,” Conway said.

It happened to a woman last week in Bel Air.

The driver took her car out on a few errands and after a few minutes of driving — smoke and fire.

“She was in the car. She was driving down the road and pulled off to the side into a lot in the 1500 block of Rock Spring and that’s when the fire department arrived,” Rich Gardiner, a spokesman with the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company said.

Fire officials say the woman was ok.

They did find a nest and a dead squirrel inside.

“I’ve had people tell me they’ve opened the hood and the squirrel comes out, taking off after them,” Gardiner joked.

Conway says it can be hard to spot the damage until it’s too late, but if you sense something isn’t right, don’t rule out the rodents.