A massive fireball burned outside a Chesterfield Walmart, after an SUV caught fire, Saturday night. Investigators say a cigarette caused the blaze, in the parking lot of the Walmart on Walmart Way in Midlothian.
Courtney Tignor watched the fire rapidly take over the vehicle as she pulled into the Walmart for a late-night shopping trip.
"(The fire) looked like…a big fireplace...and then it just went quickly to the front...The windows busted out. The whole thing took off," described Tignor, as the SUV went into flames.
Tignor took video of the fireball on her cell phone and sent it to NBC12.
Lt. Jason Elmore of the Chesterfield Fire Department says two passengers were smoking in the back seat. A cigarette fell on the floor. The passengers scanned for ashes, but did not notice any. The group continued inside the store.
"They said they looked around briefly to see if there was anything left behind. They didn't believe so," said Elmore.
The easy-to-miss ash ignited in minutes. "It doesn't take much. Those cigarettes burn extremely hot," continued Elmore.
The inside of a car is more flammable than one might think. "Stuff that's inside our vehicle these days… the interior of the vehicle… the carpeting... is highly flammable," described Elmore.
Firefighters were on scene in minutes, but the SUV was already engulfed. Flames from the SUV were so intense that other cars nearby got scorched. Thankfully no one was hurt. However, the damage cigarettes can cause was made overwhelmingly clear again, this week.
Last Sunday, a Chesterfield home was ignited after cigarettes were left smoldering in a flower pot. One woman died; five others in the house were sent to the hospital.
It is a continual warning to make sure any hint of a fiery ash is completely out.
Firefighters advise that if you are smoking in a car, make sure the butts are fully extinguished in an ashtray, before leaving the vehicle. Do not flick them out the window either. A hot ash can cause a fire elsewhere, like in the brush along the road.
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