Dan Goure and his wife were sitting in the living room of their Arlington home Monday night watching “The O’Reilly Factor” when they heard thunder and then a loud explosion.
Goure got up from his leather armchair and went to the window, where he saw sparks in the street and a downed wire near his beloved silver convertible 2002 Mercedes 430 CLK.
Like a slow-burning fuse, Goure said, the fire crept toward his car — eventually torching it from front to back.
“It looked like something out of a car-bomb scene in Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Goure, who is a vice president at a think tank in Arlington.
Firefighters in Arlington County said an initial investigation shows that amid the severe thunderstorms that hit the region, a power line fell into the street and set the car on fire. No one was injured.
But Goure’s Mercedes was “burned to a crisp.”
“The tires melted. The roof came down. It burned to the floorboards,” Goure said.
No major incidents were reported during intense thunderstorms Monday night in the Washington region. About 3,000 electricity customers lost power during the storm.
The incident in Arlington began about 8:15 p.m. in the 2700 block of North Nelson Street. Goure’s car was parked on the street near a power line. Lightning apparently struck a power pole, causing about 60 feet of a line to fall into the street.
Arlington County fire officials said that when units arrived, there was a power line on the ground that was arcing next to the Mercedes, causing it to catch fire. Once power was shut off, firefighters tried to extinguish the fire with water, but there were 13 gallons of gasoline in the car and the efforts didn’t work, said Lt. Sarah-Maria Marchegiani, an Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman.
Foam, which typically is used to smother a gasoline-fueled fire, was not used, because firefighters were concerned it would get into a nearby storm-drain system, according to Marchegiani. Firefighters let the flames burn out and made sure they did not spread.
When the fire started, Goure said, he briefly considered going outside and moving his car but thought, “Downed power line, wet ground.”
“I figured it isn’t worth it,” he said.
He said that he and his wife were worried the car would blow up but that there was only a series of small explosions. At one point, the flames reached nearly 30 feet high. The fire burned for nearly two hours.
Goure said his car had about 78,000 miles on it.
“It was a nice car,” he said. “I’ll miss it.”
On Nelson Street, as Goure’s wife, Louise Vasilakos, retold the incident of her husband’s burning car, she said she was smiling.
“It was the most awful, scary thing, and nobody was hurt,” she said. “That’s a blessing.”
Their son’s collection of cars, which includes a Toyota MR2 from the late 1980s, was parked about 200 feet away from his dad’s Mercedes. It was spared.
“It burned right past the cheap, old MR2,” Goure said. “That survived. But the 2002 Mercedes was gutted.”
“Fate has a strange way,” Goure said.