HUNTINGTON, New York, June 26
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Howard Jacobs knew he was close to home on Monday afternoon as he prepared to pass the Huntington Yacht Club on East Shore Road. What the man didn’t know, though, was that his Ford Focus was preparing to turn into a Ford hotbox.
“I got right to that mailbox [on East Shore Road] and I saw smoke – I smelled it,” Jacobs said of his car, which burst into flames. “I stopped at the stop sign, made the right [onto Kanes Lane], and the car just went ‘pop!’”
Among the first to discover Jacobs was Matthew DePace, of Elwood, who was traveling around Huntington Bay. DePace saw the flames and approached Jacobs, who was attempting to remove his belongings from the vehicle as owners of nearby homes tried to squash the flames with fire extinguishers.
“The fire really started to get much worse and I called the fire department as quickly as I could,” DePace said. “The owner did burn his hand while opening the hood, but luckily I had my first aid kit in my car to help him.”
Shortly after, the Halesite Fire Department – headed up by Fire Chief Dan McConnell – arrived on the scene to fight the blaze.
“The vehicle was fully involved when I pulled up,” McConnell said. “One of the challenging things, of course, is that we have overhead wires [above the vehicle] so we always want to be sensitive and put the fire out as quickly as possible.”
The cause of the fire remains unknown.
McConnell said that with the car engulfed while underneath a telephone pole and its accompanying electrical wires, there was a looming possibility that the flames could have caused the wires to melt and fray away from the pole.
But McConnell and his team were able to put out the flames before a bigger, “more severe” emergency unfolded. The fire crew was able to calm the blaze rather easily, he said.
With no major injuries, DePace saw the incident as a chance to learn.
“It’s a lesson for everyone,” DePace said. “First, make sure to have a first aid kit in your car because you’ll never know when you’ll need it. Second, if your car is ever on fire, just leave it; everything is replaceable – your life isn’t.”
After the smoke cleared, the crowd dispersed and Jacobs had a moment to breathe, McConnell approached the man and asked him one final question.
“I’m going to do my best to salvage items from the car. Is there anything you need?” the fire chief asked.
“Yeah, my lotto tickets are in the visor!” Jacobs jokingly responded.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander (Thursday, June 26, 2014; A3)