Car Fire

When This Mass. Family's SUV Went Up in Flames, They Turned to Us to Get Help

"I have video of the moon roof shooting out, multiple explosions. This was within minutes of me getting out of the vehicle," Jodie Parisi said

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A family from Gloucester, Massachusetts, will never forget the September day their car started smoking and went up in flames.

"We loved the car. It was exactly what we wanted. We had planned a couple of trips to Maine over the summer and down to the Cape," Jodie Parisi said.

She was happy with the certified pre-owned 2018 Honda Pilot she bought in March. With a trade-in and some money down, she had an affordable car payment.
But within a few months, she was wondering if she had bought a lemon.

"The beginning of June, we were driving and the transmission light came on and it said transmission system problem," said Parisi. "We brought it in and they said it was a valve. Took a week to get that fixed. And then, no sooner we get it back a week later, and six days after that, it came on again."

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She said the vehicle was still under the manufacturer's warranty: "We have the Honda Certified pre-owned warranty, all of these guarantees that this car is going to be safe and up to par and be a quality vehicle to last us 10 years -- that's what we were hoping."

On a Saturday in September, Parisi said she was driving her wife and daughters home from soccer practice when they smelled burning and saw smoke.

"I didn't even wait five seconds, as soon as I saw the smoke coming out of the air vents, I pulled over," she said. " I just said, 'Get the kids out of the car.'"

When everyone was out and away from the vehicle, Parisi said she went back to move it out of the street and saw flames.

"There were flames bellowing out from underneath the glove compartment, like footlong flames, multiple," she recalled. "I ran out of the car, I ran up the driveway, I'm calling 911 and not even a minute later, the whole car is engulfed in flames. I have video of the moon roof shooting out, multiple explosions. This was within minutes of me getting out of the vehicle. To see this happening and unfolding in front of us, it was just, it was horrific."

The vehicle was destroyed. Parisi's insurance company found the cause of the fire to be inconclusive due to the extensive damage. The insurance money covered her car loan, but after replacing car seats, strollers, sports equipment and other items that were lost, she said, there wasn't much money left.

"We need another vehicle, and unfortunately, we just don't have the money right now to get anything that is comparable or even something that would be OK for us to drive with the needs that we have," she said. "It's been stressful."

She said she couldn't get help from Honda Corporate or her local dealership, so she called NBC10 Boston Responds for help.

"When it was deemed inconclusive, that's when they sort of said, 'Case closed. If you can get a letter saying that there is some proof saying that it was the transmission or it was Honda or it was a parts fault or negligence, let us know in a certified letter, otherwise, I'm sorry we can't help you any further,'" Parisi said.

We contacted Honda Corporate about the situation and a spokesperson told us:

Vehicle fires are uncommon but frightening events, and we are relieved to learn that no one was injured during this incident. Because vehicle fires can be caused by a wide variety of factors, they require careful investigation to determine the most likely source. We understand that the fire involving this Honda Pilot was investigated by the vehicle owner's insurance company. Honda has not received any information from the insurer or the customer regarding the specific cause of the fire, let alone information that establishes that a defect in the vehicle caused the fire. Thus, while we are sympathetic to the incomplete coverage of the total loss by the insurance company, Honda's limited warranties do not apply in this instance. Should Honda receive reliable information that supports a conclusion that the fire was caused by a vehicle defect, Honda will promptly evaluate and respond to that information.

Parisi said that, the day we contacted Honda, the local dealership reached out to her, eventually offering her a reduced price on a new 2021 pilot, with a monthly payment she could afford. She is happy with the outcome.

"You guys were the only ones who listened and were willing to help us out, so I really appreciate that," she says.

There were more than 2,000 motor vehicle fires in Massachusetts last year, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Here's what to do if you see smoke or flames or smell burning rubber or plastic in your car:

Pull over to the side of the road and stop as soon as possible. Put your car in park or, if you have a manual transmission, set the parking brake and put it in gear, then turn off the ignition. Get everyone out of the car and at least 100 feet away and call 911.
You never want to open the hood or trunk, because that could give a fire more oxygen.

If you have a consumer problem you need help with, reach out to us at nbcboston.com/consumer-form or give us a call at 1-888-521-NEWS. We will get back to you!

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