Move over, Daytona 500 |

Move over, Daytona 500

A burned car remains after its driver collided with a telephone junction box early Tuesday on Floyd Road in El Jebel. (Courtesy Cleve Williams/Basalt Fire Department)

EL JEBEL Rosemary Olson had a rude awakening early Tuesday morning when a car burst into flames in front of her El Jebel home.The sound of spinning tires woke the family as the driver tried to extricate himself from a snowbank on Floyd Street in the El Jebel Trailer Park.”He gunned it and went forward and hit the post,” Olson said. The horn sounded and stayed on as the red Dodge Stratus sedan burst into flames after striking a telephone utility box, she said.

“The flames were in the front of the car, and they quickly moved to the entire vehicle,” Olson said. She called the police, and her husband went outside to talk with the driver.”The guy just walked away from the car and disappeared between the other trailers,” Olson said. Two fire engines, one ambulance and 12 Basalt firefighters arrived shortly before 3 a.m., according to Jerry Peetz, assistant chief of the Basalt Fire Department.”By that time, the whole car was engulfed,” Olson said. A plume of smoke surrounded the three trailers nearby, and the heat was incredible, she said. Olson moved her car and woke a neighbor to move another.Exploding aerosol cans in the back seat of the burning car “put on a show,” Olson said, and one of the car’s tires exploded.

Olson became concerned when flames scorched a bush near a neighbor’s home.”These mobile homes are close, and if that had started we would have had a whole different situation on our hands,” she said.The jolt to the box knocked out area phone service until Tuesday afternoon, Olson said.According to Olson, the driver was a stocky Hispanic male about 5 feet, 7 inches tall.

“We didn’t get close enough to smell his breath or anything like that,” Olson said. “But from the tire tracks, he was obviously impaired somehow.”The owner of the car lives in the trailer park, Olson said. The driver is still at large.Most car fires are the result of malfunctions with the vehicles, Peetz said: “It’s not very often you have them crash and catch on fire.”The Colorado State Patrol is investigating the case.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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