Jeep Cherokee destroyed in car fire by Big Bridge

The driver and his passenger smelled smoke just before the vehicle erupted in flames.

Fire fighters hose down a Jeep Cherokee that erupted into flames Friday. Photo by Nelson Sigelman

With State Beach crowded with beach goers, Oak Bluffs firefighters rushed to a car fire Friday afternoon by Big Bridge that sent thick clouds of black smoke billowing into the air and destroyed a 1996 Jeep Cherokee. There were no injuries.

Charlie Tucy of Vineyard Haven was driving along Beach Road by State Beach from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown on an errand with his friend Gary Murphy.

“My buddy says, ‘I think I smell smoke,’” Mr. Tucy said.

With cars parked all along the beach and no place to pull over he stopped the car in the road. Smoke was coming from beneath the car. Mr. Tucy sprayed the underside with a fire extinguisher. Assuming the fire was out and concerned about getting struck from behind he continued to drive.

The car continued to smoke but Mr. Tucy was not able to pull off the road until he reached a small parking area just before Big Bridge. He got out and emptied the fire extinguisher under his Jeep. The vehicle continued to smoke and then erupted in flames as stunned beachgoers watched.

Flames leapt from the car as police cruisers arrived. Explosions could be heard from inside the vehicle as distant sirens heralded the approaching fire engines. Once on the scene, fire fighters quickly extinguished the flames to the applause of a large crowd that had gathered to watch.

Oak Bluffs firefighters were hampered in their efforts to respond by heavy holiday weekend traffic. “It was a challenge for us to get here,” Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose said. “People not yielding to emergency vehicles made it tough to get here.”

As firefighters continued to spray down the smouldering, charred shell of his vehicle, Mr. Tucy, a maintenance man, took the situation in stride. “I’m just surprised I’m not really upset or bummed out,” he said. “I lost all my tools but I guess it was just my day. I think I’m still just a little bit in shock.”

Chief Rose told Mr. Tucy a wrecker would arrive soon to take his vehicle away. Mr. Tucy asked if he could check to see if he could find his house keys. Mr. Rose asked him to wait until firefighters had finished their work cooling down the burnt shell.

“It was an old Jeep,” Mr. Tucy said. “It had a good life.”

Bridge jumpers returned to the Big Bridge railing and resumed plunging into the Sengekontacket channel as the Fourth got under way on Martha’s Vineyard.